Enameled terracotta relief by Andrea della Robbia, 1493
Sculpted by Andrea della Robbia during the Renaissance, the richly colored and enameled terracotta original of the Annunciation stands above the altar of the Church of Santa Maria degli Innocenti in the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, Italy. In its entirety, the relief depicts the archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, as well as an image of God the Father, encompassed by a border of cherubs. The central portion is missing from the cast, but the figures of Gabriel and Mary are complete.
In the left fragment, the graceful figure of the archangel Gabriel kneels on one knee with a hand extended toward the Virgin Mary. In his other hand he holds a cluster of lilies. The right fragment portrays Mary kneeling at a prie dieu reading a prayer book. The dove of the Holy Spirit hovers above the prie dieu. Mary seems to radiate a slight air of trepidation and disbelief. The missing portion of the relief would have depicted God the Father surrounded by celestial clouds and cherubs looking on with adoration as the Virgin Mary received the message that she is with child.
The artist was extremely articulate in his terracotta representations - much of his training came from his uncle, Luca della Robbia. The young Andrea followed closely in his uncle's footsteps, attempting to capture the charm and frankness of Luca's images of Mary. Andrea was also influenced by another of his contemporaries, Andrea del Verrochhio, whose paintings of the Madonna inspired Andrea to imbue his representations with a more realistic, dynamic modeling of the figures. By combining adaptations of various concepts of other artists with his own unique technical skill, Andrea della Robbia created religious works such as the Annunciation relief that gave visual confirmation to biblical narratives.