The Annunciation by Giovanni di Balduccio is a pair of finely carved marble sculptures depicting the moment that the archangel Gabriel announces to Mary at Nazareth that she will become the mother of Jesus Christ.
The two separate figures stand in relationship to each other. Gabriel, slightly smaller than Mary, looks at her with his head turned slightly to his left. Mary, seemingly surprised, returns his gaze.
“These are stupendous sculptures of the highest quality created by one of the most important Italian Gothic sculptors for a prestigious papal chapel,” said Anne-Lise Desmas, senior curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the Getty Museum.
In 2005, the sculptures, which stand at about 30 inches, were identified as the largest sculptural elements preserved from a chapel in the fortress Rocca di Porta Galliera, in Bologna, Italy. The chapel was commissioned for Pope John XXII in the early 1330s and was decorated with marble sculptures carved by Giovanni di Balduccio, as well as frescoes (now lost) and an altarpiece both painted by Giotto. The chapel was destroyed shortly after the Papal Legate was expelled from the city in March 1334, and its artworks were dispersed.
“This well-documented and exceptionally preserved work of art by a major master of the Trecento [14th-century Italy] will stand out in our collection of medieval sculpture for its ambitious composition, elegant figures, and refined carving,” said Desmas.
Italian artist Giovanni di Balduccio was one of the greatest Italian Gothic sculptors of the first half of the 1300s, active in Pisa, Florence, Bologna, and Milan.
The Annunciation is the first work by the artist to enter the Getty Museum’s collection; the only other work by him in an American collection is a Virgin and Child—also made for the same Bolognese chapel—now in the Detroit Institute of Arts.
The Annunciation is on view at the Getty Center in Gallery N201 beginning December 10, 2019.