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Flowers of the Annunciation

By Melanie Zebrowski, Library Specialist

The feast of the Annunciation is the pivotal event that signifies the beginning of the Incarnation when the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her she would conceive and be the mother of Jesus Christ. Occurring 9 months before Christmas, this feast has been celebrated since the 5th century A.D. and has imaginatively been depicted throughout the history of western art all the way to modern times.

Cincinnati-based artist Holly Schapker was commissioned by the Marian Library to create a collection of works that harmoniously bring together three facets of Marian art: nature, history, and spirituality. Her 24 oil paintings draw upon the symbolism of flowers that pertain to legends about Mary’s life story and mysteries. The title of this piece, The Annunciation to Mary – Lily and Violet, refers to the legend that when the archangel Gabriel appeared, he held a lily in his hand in recognition of Mary’s purity. He told the young virgin that she had “found favor with God” and would conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Tradition tells that after Mary touched the flower, which had been scentless, an exquisite fragrance arose from it. The violet blossomed outside the Virgin Mary’s window when she spoke the words, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” to the angel Gabriel and accepted God’s plan for her.

Holly Schapker invites us even deeper into her painting with this explanation: Christian spirituality invites us to imagine what it would be like to know Mary — or even to be her. It is important to remember that when Mary was speaking to Gabriel, she spoke for all of humanity. This painting pays homage to an Annunciation painting (1445-1450) by High Renaissance Italian painter Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-1469). The palette of this painting shows a wide variety of colors that represent the many emotions Mary must have felt in this moment.

“They speak of the splendor of your majestic glory, tell of your wonderful deeds.” – Psalm 145

Want to see this painting and even more artworks featuring the Annunciation up close? Stop by and visit our exciting retrospective exhibit The Many Faces of the Madonna featuring over 80 artworks from the past 25 years of exhibits in Marian Library gallery!

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