This oil on canvas work was painted by Dante Gabriel Rosseti between the end of 1849 and the beginning of 1850. It is currently preserved and exhibited in the museum from the Tate Gallery in London, where it also appears in their catalog with its Latin title: Ecce Ancilla Domini.
This is a scene with a religious theme, in which the Archangel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary to announce that she will give birth to Jesus Christ. These kinds of biblically inspired themes are relatively common among Pre-Raphaelite painters, the core of which was formed by Rosseti himself, as well as painters as well Englishmen John Everett Millais and Edward C. Burne Jones, all of them with a certain spiritual character, which sometimes transforms into a mystical tone in their paintings.
Here, Rosseti presents us with the scene in an interior almost entirely occupied by the two characters, who are separated only by the branch of lilies carried by the archangel, which is a very common compositional device inGothic paintings and the firstRenaissance, that is, prior to the work of the famous Raphael. For example, one of the paintings in which Rosseti could be inspired would be the Annunciation by Simone Martini, a panel painted in tempera in the year 1333.
Obviously there are big differencesstylistic differences between the painting of Rosseti and that of Martini, but it is also certain the great influence of the artists of the Trecento and the Quattrocento italiano in the nineteenth century English painter, especially in his concept of the figure of the artist. Since the pre-Raphaelites, as if they were medieval artists, sought with their works more the glory of God than their own earthly fame.
Even if that meant drawing inspiration from such ancient and spiritual paintings, and the truth is that it was very difficult for this attempt to be somewhat primitive not to involve a somewhat wasted effort and to create quite artificial works on many occasions, because trying to paint in a primitive way was impossible in the middle of the 19th century. So it was an artistic movement that did not have much repercussion once its main representatives disappeared.
And that Rosseti did make a lot of effort to make his works sincere and simple, and to do so on occasions like this, he used a technique very much based on drawing, on clear lines, something closely related to late medieval painting.
However, this work is one of the best expressions of his artistic intentions, and was made at the height of the pre-Raphaelite painters, a journey that goes from 1848 until 1852, when even these artists signed their works in the same way, with the acronym P.R.B. (Pre-Raphaelite Brothers), although after those years each one of them followed a more individualized and personal path, which in thecase of Dante Gabriel Rosseti was transformed into an increasingly symbolist, dark and dreamlike painting, based on many literary references, some of them also medieval origin such as the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.