The Annunciation

Icon of the Annunciation

The icon of the Annunciation is one that presents the joy of the announcement of the coming of Christ. It is an icon of bright colors, depicting the Archangel Gabriel (left), who has descended from heaven, and the Virgin Mary (right), who has been chosen to be the Mother of God.

The Archangel is shown with his feet spread apart as if he is running to share the good news with Mary. In his left hand is a staff, the symbol of a messenger. His right hand is extended toward Mary as he delivers the message and announces the blessing bestowed upon her by God.

On the right side of the icon the Virgin sits on an elevated seat, indicating that as the Mother of God she is “greater in honor than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, who without corruption gave birth to God the Word.” In her left hand she holds a spindle of scarlet yarn which depicts the task she was assigned of preparing the purple and scarlet material to be used in making the veil for the Temple in Jerusalem. Her right hand is raised in a gesture of acceptance in response to Gabriel’s message. Her posture expresses willing cooperation with God’s plan of salvation. Mary’s garments also have the three stars commonly used to represent her ever-virginity: before, during, and after the birth of Christ.

At the top of the icon the segment of a circle represents the divine realm, from which three rays emerge. This demonstrates the action of the Holy Spirit coming upon her. In other depictions of the same icon, Christ Himself – as a man – is shown in this semi-circle.

This icon marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims to the ever-virgin Mary:
“Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you.”


Alternative depiction: Russian Icon of Ustyug (Устюжское Благовещение)



This entry was posted in Icons of the Incarnation, The Theotokos and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Annunciation

  1. modeoflife says:

    keep up the good work, nice site.

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  6. Milan Urbanik says:

    Hi iconreader,
    Thank you for your work.
    I beg you to explain Icon of Annunciation with Two Angels.
    God Bless You!

  7. Margaret says:

    The icon of the Annunciation from St. Catherine’s in Sinai can be founding the catalogue for the St. Catherine’s Monastery Exhibit at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles 2008 – 2009. I was able to see the Getty Exhibit. Moving to get a closer look at that particular icon of the Annunciation, I was startled to see a flash of light. On closer inspection, the icon revealed several things. The iconographer, to express the action of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Virginal Conception, had depicted it by burnishing the gold leaf ground of the image. The ellipse of the Father was burnished, a ray from the Father to Mary was burnished, and between the two a perfectly burnished disc held an image of a dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit. When you looked at the icon straight-on, you didn’t see the burnishing, but when you moved, the burnishing picked up light, and the ‘flash’ of light illumined an understanding of the conception.

    The second unique feature of this icon was that the skein of crimson thread fell in a single strand from the Virgin’s hand, but as you followed it, it seemed attached to a difficult to see wispy image. The iconographer probably used a single-hair brush to create the fine white outline of the image of an infant taking shape in her womb. That discovery drew soft gasps from the people viewing the image.

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