Philadelphia Museum of Art Custom Prints



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About the Artwork

We see a teenage girl, dressed in peasant robes, sitting on a rumpled bed in a room with a bumpy, cobblestone floor. She seems afraid and awed. Who could she be? What is happening? What is that bright column of light on the left? This painting is an unusual version of one of the oldest themes in European art, the Annunciation (which means announcement). In this New Testament Bible story, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus. Traditional paintings of the Annunciation show Mary wearing fancy blue robes and seated in a European palace or cathedral, as she listens calmly to an angel with glorious wings and a halo.

Tanner made his painting so different from other artists’ paintings of the same subject because he wanted the scene to be realistic. He painted The Annunciation in 1898, just after returning from his first trip to the Holy Land—Egypt and Palestine (now Israel). Sketching ordinary Jewish people in the settings where Jesus lived moved Tanner deeply, and he tried to make his painting as authentic as possible.

Tanner’s academic training is evident in his skillful depiction of Mary’s tense face and body and in his use of thin, transparent glazes to create the dark shadows and the soft, luminous effect. He also included several religious symbols in some of the details. The three pottery vessels in the corners may represent Mary since she will soon be the vessel of Jesus. The shelf high up on the wall in the upper left corner intersects the column of light to form the shape of a cross, the symbol of Christianity.

For Tanner, just as for African American artists who made pottery and quilts, and for preachers and congregations who sang spirituals, certain Bible stories became metaphors for freedom from slavery and discrimination. When The Annunciation was first shown in America, it was hailed as a “brilliant masterpiece.” In 1899 the painting was purchased for the city of Philadelphia and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Art (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art). It was the first work by Tanner to find a permanent home at a museum in the United States.

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About Our Prints

Philadelphia Museum of Art Custom Prints offers exclusive custom reproductions of artworks in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Hand-made in the USA using gallery-quality materials, we create prints as true to the original work as possible, using strict color management protocols and state-of-the-art printing technology.
Many of the works offered through this store are exclusive and not available anywhere else. In addition, new works are continually added to the offering so make sure to come back and see the new releases.
You have found the work that speaks to you. Now what? Using our innovative custom framing tool you can preview exactly what your finished and framed art will look like. We offer many different moulding styles so there is sure to be a match for any type of decor.

Member Discounts

As always, members will receive their discount for all transactions processed through our Custom Prints store. Simply enter your Member ID during the checkout process and your discount will be applied.