Annunciation – Br. Emmaus O’Herlihy, O.S.B.

The latest work from our Artist in Residence, Br. Emmaus O’Herlihy, will be on exhibit at King’s University College at Western University (London, Ontario) from April 5-6, 2017.

Annunciation - Gabriel Annunciation - Mary

Composed of two separate canvases, the Annunciation diptych will be displayed above two matching doorways in a Roman Catholic chapel in London, Ontario. This explains why both the gaze of the Virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel is directed downwards. The Virgin’s right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing intended for all who move below this image when entering or exiting through the doorway of the chapel. While the figure’s two hands and face compose the painting’s pyramidal composition, the energetic bright yellow paintwork surrounding the Virgin’s head, the most vivid colour in the work, draws the viewer’s attention. Clearly an adaptation of the more traditional circle of light (the halo, common in the iconography of many religions to represent a subject’s holiness), it is used here to accentuate Mary’s response to the angel in terms of her intelligence and willingness to accept God’s will for her (Lk.1:34, 38). At the same time it also alludes to the “tongues, as of fire” (Acts 2:3) that symbolize the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. More often associated with depictions of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and Mary at Pentecost in illuminations and sacred art (dating back as far back as the sixth century), this is an appropriate allusion in a work depicting Mary on the occasion of her Annunciation: It is on this day that she is celebrated as the one who will be overpowered by the Holy Spirit and bear the Son of the Most High (Lk.1:31).