Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Ecce Ancilla Domini (1849-1853)

(Tate Britain, London, UK)

A painting by the English artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). This painting shows the Annunciation: the Archangel Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation, appears to the virgin Mary to announce that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus. Both Gabriel and Mary are dressed in white, the color of virginity. Gabriel gives Mary Lilies which are a symbol of virginity and purity. As the flowers blooms during the time of the Assumption in mid-August, it is closely associated with Mary. Lilies are also funereal flowers and as such indicative of Christ's death.  The title of the painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini (= "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord") comes the Vulgate text of the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, describing the Annunciation. The entire scene has its source in the gospel of Luke I: 26-35, especially verses 28-29: "The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be". Rossetti used several sitters for his figures: his sister Christina sat for the virgin while Miss Love, a professional model, sat for the Virgin's hair. Three professional models, Maitland, Lambert, and White, sat for Gabriel. William Michael Rossetti and Thomas Woolner sat for Gabriel's head. Painting from 1849-1853.

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