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Carlo Crivelli about 1430/5 – about 1494, The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius 1486, © The National Gallery, London
Set in the town of Ascoli, Italy, Venice-born renaissance painter Crivelli has captured the day of the Annunciation in stunning detail. Crivelli’s precision with colour and composition narrates two distinct events. The Virgin Mary, seen on the right, is seated indoors and a divine, heavenly shaft of light from above is breaking into the physical world symbolising the Annunciation. At the same time the Archangel Gabriel can be seen on the left talking to Saint Emidius, announcing the city’s newly granted self-governing status by the pope.
The fine details and striking colour of this painting ensures this works well as a winged puff or four point fold, with the contrast of the dark borders and the vibrant colours really standing out on a dark jacket.
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Carlo Crivelli (around 1430/5 – around 1494) was born in Venice and was an Italian Renaissance painter who spent his early years in the Veneto, where he absorbed influences from the Vivarini, Squarcione and Mantegna. One of the first records of Crivelli as a painter comes from 1457 when he was condemned in Venice for adultery, and after spending 6 months in jail left Venice and was never to return. He spent most of the remainder of his career in the March of Ancona, where he developed a distinctive personal style that makes a contrast to his Venetian contemporary Giovanni Bellini.
Crivelli was a fine technical painter, had a strong linear decorative sense and was a brilliant colourist. He was a painter of marked individuality and unlike Bellini his works are not "soft", but clear and definite in contour, with astounding attention to detail. He also worked exclusively with religious subject matter, and some of his works have been described as disturbing, such is the suffering they depict. Few artists of his time seem to have worked with more uniformity of purpose, or more forthright command of his materials; this single-mindedness was recognised by the number of prestigious commissions he was awarded. For more information see his Wikipedia page Carlo Crivelli.
In 1482, Pope Sixtus IV granted the small city of Ascoli Piceno the right to self-government free from direct papal rule. Four years later, Venetian painter Carlo Crivelli was commissioned to paint an altarpiece of the Annunciation celebrating the occasion. The finished painting was installed in the convent, most likely in the chapel of the Annunciate Virgin, in the same year, 1486. The civic background to this commission explains numerous unusual features within the work, specifically the urban setting of contemporary Ascoli, and the presence of the city’s patron saint, Emidius, who can be seen with the Archangel Gabriel offering a model of the city to its protector, the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin herself is firmly encased in a building, surrounded on three sides by the tight confines of her room, the two other houses on this street are far plainer than that of the Virgin, lacking its ornate entablature and lavish decorative elements – a contrast that makes a pointed statement about the Virgin’s elevated status. Its privacy is emphasised and secured by the barred window that faces the street and yet the front is open to us, the viewers, who look into her private room. Mary is therefore more accessible to the beholder of the picture than to the Holy Spirit, which enters her room through a hole in the wall. The metaphorical removal of barriers between the worshipper (who through prayer before this painting becomes closer to Mary) and the Virgin is further enhanced by the extraordinary three dimensional effects at the front of the pictorial space. For more information on this painting see the National Gallery website.
Along the bottom edge we have included the Latin plaque which reads ‘Libertas Ecclesiastica’. This is found at the bottom of the original painting but is left out of the area cropped for the pocket square. The border is then a combination of the repeated pattern found within the columns on the right of the picture and some of the details of the ledge on which the peacock sits. Our corner detailing has also used the capitals of the previous columns. The colours in the outermost part of the border, a rich green and blue, have been matched from the peacock.