Andrea della Robbia
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Andrea della Robbia made these glazed terracotta statues of the Annunciate Virgin and the Angel Gabriel to flank the high altar in the Osservanza in Siena. Andrea also created an altarpiece and two roundels of saints for the same church in these years. This basilica had been recently founded by the vicar-general of the Observant Franciscans, Pier Paolo Urgureri. Andrea;s luminous white works in the humble medium of clay were often used to express Observant Franciscan spirituality in these years, including at the sanctuary at La Verna. The young angel swivels his body towards Mary, but does not open his mouth or move his arms in rhetorical gestures used to convey an announcement -- his hands are in prayer, which would suggest the end of the Annunciation story, when Gabriel prays as Mary accepts her destiny. Mary, however, leans markedly away from Gabriel, clutching the side of her veil as if to cover herself, as if Gabriel has just entered. The overall white glaze, perhaps originally enriched with gold leaf, serves to abstract the figures, but such details as the buttons on Mary's sleeves make her more human. Andrea, in later Annunciation pairs, made Mary's proportions broader and her gesture more magisterial, less girlish nervousness and more Queen of Heaven. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.