Andrea della Robbia
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Dated around 1475, this is generally thought to be the earliest of the seven Della Robbia altarpieces made for the Franciscan sanctuary of La Verna. The main church was devastated by a fire in 1472, and Andrea della Robbia's glazed terracotta altarpieces were commissioned as part of a campaign to rebuild and redecorate this site of worship. Critics have often described this as Andrea della Robbia's masterpiece, and in its spare, balanced composition, crisp modeling, and subtle expression it is unparalleled. The words painted in glaze along the base - "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word" (Lk. 1:38) - are the Virgin's own, and they indicate that the image depicts the moment just after Gabriel's pronouncement that she would give birth to the son of God. The Virgin's pose, with her head inclined and her hand on her breast, conveys her somber response to and acceptance of this role. The Annunciation was paid for by a member of the Florentine Niccolini family, whose arms appear in the predella. The altarpiece is enshrined in a stone tempietto on the left side of the church. Another stone tempietto directly across the nave houses Andrea's Incarnation altarpiece of c.1479, which is similar in size, and Andrea's larger Ascension of c.1490 originally stood above the high altar. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.