A unique interpretation of The Annunciation in West Virginia

Lest we forget: March 25  is the Feast of the Annunciation.

Above is an unusual depiction from the great artist John Collier.  He created it for a co-cathedral in West Virginia, and offers this explanation:

“In my Annunciation the angel Gabriel stands on a rotting stump which has a living branch growing out of it showing hope and prosperity. Mary is gathering figs when he comes. The stump is the dead stump of Jesse, David’s father, whose lineage of kings, after they are long dead, will yield a new King born to them Jesus, the son of David. You may notice I have made this branch a Sugar Maple tree — the state tree of West Virginia where this work is placed. Mary is shown here as the Second Eve.

The first Eve sinned and covered herself with the leaves of a fig tree. Jesus, you may remember, cursed a fig tree because He came to it and found no fruit.  Mary, the Second Eve, is entwined in a fruitful fig tree, fruitful Israel, without sin. I do not know if any other art work has portrayed the fig tree and Mary.  In this way it calls our attention to the connection between Mary and Eve, our sin and her sinlessness.”


  1. Fascinating! And I notice the dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, in Gabriel’s hand.

  2. I am something of a collector of Annunciations, and you always find good ones to add. Great to have the artist’s own interpretation of the iconography, rather than to have to read back into older works. And there have been few sculptural representations of this Mystery since the Gothic era.

    Because today is Sunday, the Solemnity of the Annunciation will be celebrated tomorrow.

  3. Thanks for sharing that Dcn. Greg; very beautiful!

  4. It’s not very pretty and and instead of the annunciation it looks like Daphne fleeing Apollo and turning into the Laurel tree.

  5. Interesting, but I don’t particularly like Mary’s posture there. It’s the artist’s vision, but I would think Mary should be facing Gabriel. On the other hand, I think Gabriel is quite interesting as an older man.

  6. @Daisy: I completely agree!

  7. Fiergenholt says:

    Which brings up the interesting notion about just HOW should artists portray these two?

    –I have never found any image I have seen of angels all that satisfactory. They are traditionally pictured — a “default-option” — as human beings with wings but that seems to be all wrong.

    –BUT I especially get upset at the images of Lady Mary of Nazareth. Artists also here choose those iconic reflections of women in their own culture rather than what was historic. Lady Mary at the time of the Annunciation was a 14 year old Palestinian Jewess. Thus maybe 5’1 to maybe 5’4; around 100 lbs; contemporary women’s size #3 (?); olive complexion, dark eyes, long black hair.

    The best representation of the Annunciation I have ever seen is the famous movie “Jesus of Nazareth.” The actress playing Lady Mary is Olivia Hussey — whose physical descriptions do fit those I listed above. The angel is portrayed as a beam of light — no corporeal image at all. The angel has no voice that we in the movie audience can hear but Lady Mary/Olivia Hussey hears it well enough.

  8. I think artists do need a certain latitude in how they put Mary and Gabriel in the context of their culture. Unless an artist is striving for realism, then how he deviates from realism has significance. I do agree that the depiction of the Annunciation in “Jesus of Nazareth” is particularly good.

  9. I was thinking of Daphne myself. That’s one of the reasons i thought her posture was all wrong.

  10. the posture of the Virgin does have some pedigree. In the Renaissance Quattrocento, artists showed the Annunciation at five different stages. The focus is on the Virgin—her reaction and psychological state. The first stage showed the Virgin as surprised and she is thus often depicted as turning away. This first stage lends itself to dynamic portrayal. The different stages are, among other things, an aid to meditation.

    I hope that helps (or interests) anyone! I found this blog which shows examples of Renaissance depictions of the stages of the Annunciation


  11. Mark Greta says:

    OK. I’ll vote. I hate the damn thing. I have seen some wonderful paintings of the moment when God announces that He is giving the world His Son. This thing is pathetic without joy. My first thought for some reason was the Grapes of Wrath and the depression.

  12. Deacon Norb says:

    Mark Greta

    Don’t like this one? Try the art work that Deacon Scott Dodge has posted on his entry for Monday March 26 on his blog. Use the link to it that Dcn Greg has already posted on the right hand columns here.

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