The subject of the Archangel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary to say she will bear the son of God was often depicted in dramatic and innovative architectural settings, both in Italy and in the Netherlands during the Renaissance. Here, the sweeping recession to the central doorway is the unifying element of the composition. The perspective lines on the floor divide the figures and focus attention on the hilly landscape beyond.
Like many Italian Renaissance painters, Piermatteo d’Amelia was concerned with the principles of optical perspective. However, the painting is neither formulaic nor rigidly symmetrical. The architecture varies significantly from left to right, the open courtyard giving way to an arcade, as if to embody the Virgin’s motherly embrace. In the center, a spray of lilies and the dove connect the archangel with the Virgin.
The painting was made for the main altar of the Franciscan church in Amelia, a small town in Umbria near Spoleto. Since 1900, the painting has borne many different attributions, and was long known simply as the work of the Master of the Gardner Annunciation, but documents now indicate that the artist is Piermatteo d’Amelia, a pupil and assistant of Filippo Lippi.
Source: Alan Chong, "The Annunciation," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 63.