The Annunciation

Selections from the Nasher Museum of Art
November 30, 2008
The Annunciation, ca. 1640, by Francisco Rizi de Guevara
The Annunciation, ca. 1640, by Francisco Rizi de Guevara
Spanish (1614-1685), oil on canvas.
50 1/4 inches x 56 inches.
Gift in honor of James H. Semans and Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans '39, Hon. '83 by Harriet DuBose and Thomas S. Kenan III.

Late Baroque painting in Spain is characterized by exuberant and dynamic compositions, lightness of color, and a free, sketchy technique. Francisco Rizi was the first artist in what is known as the School of Madrid to embrace this new style, breaking away from the official court taste represented by Diego Velázquez and Rizi's own teacher, Vicente Carducho.

He was the son of Italian painter Antonio Ricci, who came to Spain with the wave of foreign artists seeking work at El Escorial, an elaborate complex constructed near Madrid in the late sixteenth century that comprised a
royal palace and pantheon, monastery, library, and basilica. In 1656, Francisco was named pintor del rey (painter to the king); he also served as director of stage design for the theatrical productions at court and as the official painter of the Cathedral of Toledo.

This painting, formerly misattributed, is an early work by the artist, perhaps Rizi's first attempt at painting the Annunciation, which he repeated at least five times. Recent conservation has revealed that the young artist was still experimenting with elements in the composition, trying lighter colors, for example, and adjusting the original placement of the angel's profile and the hands of both figures.

It would have been viewed as a daring work, departing from the solid outlines and subdued tones favored by his teacher. Theatrical, and infused with light-dissolving form and emotional tension, this work embodies the "modern" stylistic elements of late Baroque painting in Madrid.