The Angel in the Coral Leather Sandals

Giovanni-Bellini-The-Annunciation

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.

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