Sunday, June 9, 2019


The Annunciation
oil on linen, 32 x 24
Copyright 2019 Peter Bougie
Author's Note: This post originally featured a photograph of The Annunciation painting in progress. That has been replaced above with a photograph of the finished painting. A detail of the work in progress is still included at the end of the post. --P.B.

           The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is related in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, in twelve verses, 26 – 38. The angel Gabriel, sent from God, appears and offers the salutation “Hail, full of grace” (“to whom grace is given, favored one”).[1] “The Lord is with you.”  Mary was troubled and did not know what the appearance of the angel or his greeting meant. The angel announces that she has been chosen to conceive and bear a son who will be named Jesus, and that he shall be great and called “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). She is astonished, and asks “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1: 34) Gabriel reassures her that the power of the Holy Spirit will come upon her and that the power of the Most High will overshadow her; conception will not take place by ordinary means. He notes a connection to another miraculous event, that Mary’s elder cousin Elizabeth has also conceived a son and is in her sixth month. Then Mary consents, saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” The Catholic Encyclopedia provides a succinct summary of this moment: “Mary may not yet have fully understood the meaning of the heavenly message and how the maternity might be reconciled with her vow of virginity, but clinging to the first words of the angel and trusting to the Omnipotence of God”[2] she consented.
            In this painting in progress, I have endeavored to show the moment of Mary’s meeting with Gabriel. She has raised her head from her book and turned it to look at him. She is in the process of understanding what he is saying. Her hand lingering over the vicinity of her heart indicates the intimacy of her devotion to the Lord, and also her effort to grasp what is being told her. That it is suspended there, for a moment, indicates that an effort of her will was required in her choice. The book is the single prop I have chosen to include, and it represents Jesus “the Word” (John, 1:1). Mary is our model of humility and consent to God’s will. Years later, at the wedding in Cana, she tells the serving people to do whatever Jesus tells them to do, in regard to the water and the wine. This remark is recorded because we are meant to understand that she always points the way to Jesus.
Study for Annunciation, detail
Charcoal and chalk
Copyright 2019 Peter Bougie

            There is some difference between the expression and the tip of the head in the charcoal study and in the painting. I also altered the hand from the study to the painting. It seems to me the expression in the study is more indicative of her first response to Gabriel, “How can this be?”, and the painting more indicative of her consent. I painted the head directly from life, but when my model Katie’s time was up, I continued working, making some corrections from the drawing and striving to imitate the expression of the study. However, after several sessions I put the brushes down and stepped away from the work, as I regularly do, and upon returning endeavored to see what I was doing with a fresh eye. At that moment I realized the expression I had painted might be more suitable than the one I had drawn. The grace of God can only work if we don’t get in the way.
Annunciation painting in progress
Copyright 2019 Peter Bougie
          I want to emphasize again that this is a work in progress. I began work on the charcoal and chalk study about the end of February (2019). Mary’s face and hands are mainly finished. My model was available until the end of April, so naturally I concentrated on those parts of the work. The veil and robe now adorn a mannequin. The drapery and the background in these photos are at an intermediate stage. The photos are not professional, merely my own snapshots, and do not represent the color very well.
            Thanks to Joan T., for making the veil, the robe and the sash for my model to wear; and thanks to my model, Katie D., who posed well and diligently for many hours in the veil and the robe for this project. By way of consolation, and distraction from the tedium of posing and of me, she had the music of Palestrina, Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, among others.

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