With its collections of ancient, modern and contemporary art, the Musée de Grenoble offers you a chance to traverse the history of western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Included are major masterpieces of classical Flemish, Dutch, Italian and Spanish painting; one of 20th century Europe’s richest collections; and all the great post-1945 contemporary art trends, right up to the most recent artworks of the 2000s.
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Zurburàn, together with Velazquez and Murillo, was the greatest Spanish painter of the Golden Age. This picture, along with the three others, comes from the large altarpiece in the Charterhouse at Jerez de la Frontera, which was taken apart in 1837. The four canvases, which were acquired by General de Beylié in 1904, were immediately offered to the museum.
This triumphal Annunciation associates the requirement that the work be readable with the instructions of the exegetes of the Counter-Reformation. The distribution to left and right of the Virgin and the Angel is relayed by the vertical lines of the columns linking heaven and earth. This arrangement lends the composition a powerfully frontal aspect. The alternating dark and light areas, and the improbable inclusion of the landscape in the background give the décor a marked theatrical look.
Zurburàn rejected the Mannerist decorative excess. He was careful to isolate the objects, which thus take on an unusual monumental presence. The symbolic nature of the still lifes—lilies, white linen, and book—goes hand in hand with a meditative aura emphasized by the solemn, contemplative attitude of the figures. These latter, who are idealized without mawkishness, face the onlooker and bear witness to the fulfillment of the divine will. The colour, modulated by the light, lends a forceful relief to the elements in the lower register. The treatment of the sky and the angels is in a mellowed, more diffuse style. This work, probably the last to be made for the altarpiece, shows Zurburàn’s receptiveness to Italian-inspired influences.
Francisco de Zurbàran
The Annunciation, 1638-1639
© Musée de Grenoble