The Annunciation represents the biblical story in which Archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of Jesus. These two panels were once part of a large altarpiece, placed to the left and right above a central painting and held within an elaborate frame. Fra Angelico represented the moment just after the angel's announcement, as indicated by the gesture of the Virgin, whose bowed head shows that she has submitted to the will of God. The Annunciation was a common theme in fifteenth-century altarpieces; Italian artists analyzed and depicted every aspect of this miraculous event.
Artist Fra Angelico, Italian, ca. 1400-1455
Title
  • Annunciatory Angel
Date between 1450 and 1455
Medium gold leaf and tempera on wood panel
Dimensions Unframed: 13 × 10 5/8 inches (33 × 27 cm)
Framed: 19 3/8 × 17 1/4 × 2 inches (49.2 × 43.8 × 5.1 cm)
Credit Line Bequest of Eleanor Clay Ford
Accession Number 77.1.1
Department European Painting
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W241, Level 2 (see map)
(?) Fiesole, Convent of San Domenico;
(?) Possibly collection Cardinal Desiderio Scaglia (1621);
Paris, collection Baron Dominique-Vivant Denon;
Paris, auction Baron Vivant Denon, 1 May 1826, lot 41;
Great Britain, Fonthill Abbey, Collection William Beckford;
By inheritance, daughter of Beckford;
Glasgow, Hamilton Palace, collection Duke of Hamilton (entered collection through marriage to Beckford's daughter);
Glasgow, Hamilton Palace, collection Duke of Hamilton;
London, auction, 12th Duke of Hamilton (Christie's) 24 June 1882, lot 356; acquired by Winckworth [collector?, dealer?], 1882;
London, collection John Edward Taylor;
London, auction (Christie's) 5 July 1912, lot 11;
Paris, Galerie Sedelmeyer (until after 1913);
New York, collection Carl W. Hamilton;
Detroit, Grosse Pointe Farms, collection Mr. and Mrs. Edsel Ford (1925); bequeathed by Eleanor Clay Ford to the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1977).
Lanzi, Luigi. Traduction Abrégée de la Storia Pittorica della Italia. Paris, 1823, p. 9.

Denon, Vivant. Monuments des Arts du Dessin Chez les Peuples Tant Anciens que Modernes, Recueillis par le Baron Vivant Denon [...] pour Servir à l'Histoire des Arts, Lithographiés par ses Soins et sous ses Yeux, Décrits et Expliqués par Amaury Duval, vol. 2. Paris, 1829, p. 167, pl. 67 (ill.). [Illustrative print after, lithographed by Dubois de Beauchène]

Blanc, Charles. Le Trésor de la Curiosité, Tiré des Catalogues de Vente de Tableaux, Dessins, Estampes, Livres, Marbres, Bronzes, Ivoires, Terres Cuites, Vitraux, Médailles, Armes, Porcelaines, Meubles, Émaux, Laques et Autres Objets D'art, vol. 2. Paris, 1858, p. 361.

Clément de Ris, L[ouis]. "Le Baron V. Denon." In Les Amateurs D'Autrefois. Paris, 1877, p. 444.

The Hamilton Palace Collection. Sales cat., Christie’s, London, June, 24 & 26 1882, p. 51, no. 356 (ill.). [Illustrative print after]

Berenson, Bernhard. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1909, p. 107. [As “Small Panel” in the collection of Mrs. J.E. Taylor]

Crowe, J[oseph] A[rcher] and Cavalcaselle, G[iovanni] B[attista]. A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence, and Siena from the Second to Sixteenth Century, vol. 4. London, 1911, p. 76, n. 1.

Illustrated Catalogue of the Twelfth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters. Exh. cat., Galerie Sedelmeyer. Paris, 1913, pp. 50–51, no. 29.

Loan Exhibition of Important Early Italian Paintings. Exh. cat., Duveen Brothers. New York, 1924, p. 3, no. 5.

Offner, Richard. "A Remarkable Exhibition of Italian Paintings." The Arts 5, no. 5 (May 1924): pp. 241–264, p. 245.

"Early Italian Paintings." International Studio 79, no. 325 (June 1924): pp. 207–19, p. 208 (ill.).

Loan exhibition of Paintings, Furniture & Art Objects from the Collection of Carl W. Hamilton. Exh. cat., Montclair Art Museum. Montclair, 1925, pp. 19–22, no. 54 (ill.).

The Third Loan Exhibition of Old Masters: Italian, Flemish, Dutch, German, French, Spanish and English Fifteenth to Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1926, unpaginated, no. 2.

Valentiner, W. R. A Catalogue of Early Italian Paintings Exhibited at the Duveen Galleries New York. Exh. cat., Duveen Galleries. New York, 1926, unpaginated, no. 3 (ill.).

Heil, Walter. Fifth Loan Exhibition of Old and Modern Masters. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1927, pp. 5, 15, no. 1.

Van Marle, Raimond. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, vol. 10. The Hague, 1928, p. 143, n. 3.

Singleton, Esther. Old World Masters in New World Collections. New York, 1929, pp. 34-39, esp. pp. 32–34 (ill.). [Quotes Berenson dating the panels ca. 1425]

Venturi, Lionello. Pitture Italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, no. 147 (ill.).

Berenson, Bernhard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and their Works with an Index of Places. Oxford, 1932, p. 20.

Venturi, Lionello. Italian Paintings in America, vol. 2. New York, 1933, unpaginated, no. 176 (ill.).

The Sixteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters: Italian Paintings of the XIV to XVI. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1933, unpaginated, no. 15 (ill.).

Valentiner, William R. "Die Leihausstellung Frühitalienischer Malerei in Detroit." Pantheon 12 (August 1933): pp. 236–243, p. 238.

Catalogue of a Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1934, p. 5, no. 23, pl. III.

Berenson, Bernhard. Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 17.

Valentiner, William R. and Alfred M. Frankfurther. Masterpieces of Art: Exhibition at the New York World's Fair 1939, Official Souvenir Guide and Picture Book. Exh. cat., New York World's Fair. New York, 1939, addenda, p. 8, no. 3, pl. 13 (ill.).

McCall, George Henry. Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800. Exh. cat., New York World's Fair. New York, 1939, no. 3, pl. 11 (ill.).

Pope-Hennessy, John. Fra Angelico. London, 1952, p. 197 [Suggests panels functioned as pinnacles]

Salmi, Mario. Il Beato Angelico. Spoleto, 1958, pp. 33, 61 (ill.), 110. [Supports Pope-Hennessy's pinnacle hypothesis; suggests figures originally full-length]

Berenson, Bernard. The Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: The Florentine School, vol. 1. London, 1963, p. 11.

Orlandi, Stefano. Beato Angelico. Florence, 1964, pp. 59–60, 196. [Includes document whereby monastery of S. Domenico di Fiesole offered two panels with images by Fra Angelico of the Angel and Virgin Annunciate to Cardinal Scaglia in 1621]

Baldini, Umberto. L'opera completa dell'Angelico. Milan, 1970, p. 94, no. 33I (ill.).

Pope-Hennessy, John. Fra Angelico. New York, 1974, p. 223 (ill.).

Haskell, Francis. Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France. New York, 1976, p. 43, n. 91.

Cummings, Frederick J. "Report of the Director" Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 56, no. 1 (1977): pp. 7–12, p. 9.

Mosby, Dewey F. "The Annunciatory Angel and Virgin Annunciate." In Catalog of the University Liggett Antiques Show. Detroit, 1977, pp. 84–88.

Mosby, Dewey F. "Curatorial Reports" Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 56, no. 1 (1977): p. 23, 27.

Cummings, Frederick J. "Preface." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 57, no. 1 (1979): pp. 4–14; p. 8; p. 10, pl. 2 (ill.); p. 14 (ill.).

Morse, John D. Old Master Paintings in North America: Over 3000 Masterpieces by 50 Great Artists. New York, 1979, p. 12.

Pope-Hennessy, John. "The Ford Italian Paintings." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 57, no. 1 (1979): pp. 15–23; pp. 15–18 (ill.); p. 23, n. 10.

Sterne, Margaret. The Passionate Eye: The Life of William R. Valentiner. Detroit, 1980, pp. 161–162, 263–264.

Marandel, J. Patrice. "A Valentiner Legacy: The Broad Stream of European Painting." Apollo 124, no. 298 (December 1986): 486–497, pp. 495 (ill.).

Joannides, Paul. "Fra Angelico: Two Annunciations." Arte Cristiana 77, no. 733 (1989): pp. 303–308; pp. 305–306 (ill.); p. 308, nn. 8–12.

Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300–1450. Exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1994, front cover (ill.); pp. 345–348, no. 51 (ill.). [Strehlke dates the panels to early 1430s]

Henshaw, Julia P., ed. A Visitor's Guide: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1995, p. 176 (ill.).

Spike, John T. Fra Angelico. New York, 1996, p. 198, no. 10A (ill.). [dated ca. 1436–40]

Dominique-Vivant Denon: L'oeil de Napoléon. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1999, pp. 439, no. 520 (ill.); p. 511.

Lasnier, Jean-François. "Paris: The Man Who Made the Louvre." The Art Newspaper, no. 98 (December 1999): p. 20.

Kirschten, Robert. Nighthawks and Irises: Poems about Paintings. New York, 2000, pp. 54–55.

Kanter, Laurence and Pia Palladino. Fra Angelico. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005, p. 71, n. 2; 121–132, no. 25F (ill.). [Kanter dates the panels to ca. 1429–1430 as part of an altarpiece with the Pontassieve Madonna now in the Uffizi, whose patrons were the Da Filicaia family, and suggests that this altarpiece may have been located in the crypt at Santa Croce; per Andria Derstine, the figures in the DIA panels seem too large to have been part of the altarpiece as reconstructed on p. 132]

Hood, William. "Fra Angelico, New York." Burlington Magazine 148, no. 1235 (February 2006): pp. 147–149.

Beissel, Stephan. Fra Angelico. New York, 2007, pp. 6–7 (ill.).

Darr, Alan Phipps. "Collecting Italian Renaissance and Later Ceramics at the DIA from William Valentiner to Today" Bulletin of the DIA 87, no. 1/4 (2013): p. 21.