Sandro Botticelli, San Martino della Scala Annunciation

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Sandro Botticelli

San Martino della Scala Annunciation (1481)

Botticelli created this version of the Annunciation in 1481 for the loggia of San Martino, a church in the Spedale (Hospital) of Santa Maria della Scala, in the wake of a devastating outbreak of the plague that paralyzed the city in 1478-79. The hospital, originally built to support abandoned children, would eventually merge with the Ospedale degli Innocenti in 1536.

The angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin, with raised wings and billowing hair. The Virgin kneels in humility with lowered eyes, accepting God’s will for her to carry and give birth to the Christ child. The white canopy, drape, and pillow indicate her purity, as does the enclosed garden appearing on the left. 

Botticelli divided the space into four sections; the angel appears in the foreground to the left, corresponding to Mary in her antechamber to the right. The receding floor leads to Mary’s bed behind her, and the architecture on the left recedes to the enclosed garden behind the angel. The angel Gabriel would have appeared directly above the viewers entering the space through the portal below. The painted pillar bisecting the scene would have corresponded to the right jamb of the portal underneath, fusing the painting with the actual structure of San Martino. 


Musée Luxembourg. Botticelli: From Lorenzo the Magnificent to Savonarola. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003. Pg 114

  Poggi, Giovanni. “The Annunciation of San Martino; by Botticelli.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 28, no. 154 (Jan 1916): 128-130, 132-133, 137.