How to Read Paintings: The Annunciation by Botticelli

Enter a small but perfectly formed world

The Annunciation (c. 1485–92) by Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi). Tempera and gold on wood. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, US. Image source The Met (open access)

This is a small painting, just over 30cm wide. Yet if you let your eyes move beyond the bare wood of the outer margins and enter the scene, it gradually takes on a much grander dimension.

In The Annunciation, Mary is visited by an angel in her private quarters. In the Christian…