The Angel in the Coral Leather Sandals


There have been conversations over at my Facebook page about favourite Annunciations. My friend, author Midori Snyder, has put in her vote for Botticelli’s. I could offer a good many, each with different qualities, but I always return to the Giovanni Bellini at the Accademia in Venice, because of its strangeness, and because of the Angel’s footwear.

This is a passage from my notebook, written in the Accademia in May 2003 while standing in front of the painting.

“The angel seems frozen in the moment of entering the room. The door could barely have contained him. There is an awkwardness in the painting of the raised hand of benediction, but I like the feet enormously, harnessed unforgettably in a fetishist’s skin-tight, coral leather. His robes are arranged in oddly stiff folds, as though the artist has composed a still life in the studio from an empty garment and then painted the result onto the figure.”

“The lily the angel carries cuts a silhouette through the bright light reflected from a window-shutter. I love the formality of the room: the tiled floor with the asymmetric vanishing point, and the dream-like landscape beyond. But the beauty of the painting for me lies in Gabriel’s turbulent, headlong rush into the soundless vacuum of the room where Mary waits in stillness. It’s the captured moment before his wings unfurl, after which the air will be filled with feathers, cool, billowing satin and flying golden hair. And nothing will ever be the same again.”

I returned from Venice to paint this, my first Annunciation.

Clive August 04 006_2.jpg





13 thoughts on “The Angel in the Coral Leather Sandals

  1. Dear Clive,
    Here comes the prosaic…always loved her dress and it’s good to be reminded of the vibrancy of your colours, particularly on a windy, dark winters morning.
    Love as ever
    Bern xxx

      • Sending ‘imaginary chicken soup’ in an earthenware bowl on this moist afternoon, just before the first candle of Chanukah’ a different kind of ‘light in the darkness’.
        Germ free hugs and love as ever
        B xxx

  2. Yours has a lot of immediacy, Clive, and the distress we might expect from a modest teenager on hearing this kind of news… I do love the Fra Angelico, and the Piero despite the odd composition. I’m going to stick with Martini as my Old Master selection, for now.

    • Luckily this is not a ‘one winner only’ competition. I for one change my mind from day to day. How could one not, with so many treasures to choose from? I probably need to make a bigger post, and include the favourites of ‘Artloggers’.

  3. Oh Clive. I love this posting. Love hearing you as you stand before the gorgeous Bellini in front of which I stood only two years ago for the first time. A rich, evocative, and equally gorgeous prose poem you wrote then. And then your Annunciation painting which I have always admired. Here is my Annunciation poem from my book The Fountain:


    She asked only that
    her purity
    be a
    lily-flower and

    from her womb might
    come children
    wholesome as fish and
    as green.

    Why should an angel
    announce this
    blessing on her,
    a lowly

    carpenter’s wife?
    Even if David’s song
    her blood

    (and Joseph’s),
    what myrrh
    can she give?
    To give

    Life to a
    fleshless soul was her
    one hope –
    not countless

    resonating sanctities
    palpable as figs and

    Still, joy
    the common
    Galilean light.

    In her smock
    she feels
    the whole earth

    While barley
    summery fields.


  4. Clive, you’ll be receiving the book soon in your post, but your readers might like to read some poets’ reactions to Annunciation art in this new book from Phoenicia. (Marly has one in there, for instance.) For my own relief print illustrations, I was inspired both by Fra Angelico and by an El Greco Annunciation mentioned in a poem by Luisa A. Igloria – and of course by your own example!

  5. And if I am mentioning Fra Angelico and the Annunciation, well, it’s only right to link to this brand new book: There’s a print in it inspired by a Fra Angelico painting. And it’s just the sort of book a great many of your fans and readers might like, being full of variety and prints: Annunciation: Sixteen Contemporary Poets Consider Mary. It’s the child of Elizabeth Adams of Phoenicia Publishing, and she made a nice job of it, too!

  6. I love Midori’s choice and yours as well, and there are many more I like… But I suppose I would put in a good word for the versions done by Fra Angelico, as the big Met show of his work a few years back made my hair stand on end. Really marvelous work. Humbling to consider any art that has lasted more than 500 years and retained such beauty and potency. (The “Christ Crowned with Thorns” has to be one of the most startling paintings I’ve ever seen–the one with the eyes filled with blood.) A print of his “Virgin Mary Annunciate” is one of the many prints on my writing room wall, along with the paired angel, souvenir from that visit. The Mary image is not so far away from the head of Thalia, who just might be looking her way.

    • Lots to ponder on there. I love Fra Angelico, and yes, that ‘Christ Crowned with Thorns’ is staggering. I like it too that you see a ‘Marian’ quality in the cover image of of ‘Thaliad’, greened with a sprig that miraculously bears simultaneous fruits and flowers: the red of ripe berries and lips, the gold of bird’s plumage and sanctity.

      Cover of 'Thaliad'.

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