Antonello da Messina 

(c. 1430 to February 1479),


 Antonello was an Italian painter from Messina active during the Italian Renaissance. He was trained in Naples, then a cosmopolitan art center, where he studied the work of Provençal and Flemish artists. His vitality and meticulous realism established his reputation in northern Italy. From 1475 to 1476 he was in Venice where his work attracted so much favorable attention that he was supported by the Venetian state. Venetian painters adopted his oil technique and compositional style. In 1476 he returned to Messina, where he completed his final masterpiece, The Virgin Annunciate now in the Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo.


The Virgin Annunciate

The Virgin with complete dignity and composure is receiving the Archangel Michael. The viewer occupies the position of the angel and enters into a dynamic relationship with this paintings. Antonello's art allows us to experience the painting as an extension of reality. The Virgin extends her hand almost into our world - but we are separated by the lectern and the angle of the hand. The mental divisions between past and present, the realms of the sacred and secular, are overcome and we seem to be in direct contact with the figure; she gathers our attention with a gaze from eternity.


If we imagine the painting not hanging in a museum but in a private devotional in a 15th century Palermo palace where the devotee would keel each morning and begin the rosary, "Ave Marie gratia Plena......", then the compelling psychological aspect of the painting  overcomes time and space.


No Virgin before or since has occupied space with such assurance and dignity. Behind her, there is only darkness. The fingers of the outstretched right hand lift the viewer's gaze to her face and the V of the veil brings us down to the left hand. She does not reach out to touch the viewer, as she is in another realm, but her gesture seems a subtle warning to come no closer, even if you happen to be an archangel.




The work below portrays an unknown man, whose garments belonged to the middle-upper class of the time. He wears a leather blouse, under which a white shirt is visible, and a red cloth beret. It could be a self-portrait.


Portrait of a Man, 1476, National Gallery, London








Christ Crucified,
1475, National Gallery, London
For a detailed look. Go Here The figures at the foot of the Cross are the Virgin  and St John. Those in the middle distance are probably the Three Maries. There are several horsemen on the road by the river.  The blood has not come all the way down the cross to the skulls below. Thus the souls have not yet been redeemed.

The mood of the painting is of meditation and contemplation


st jerome
       Saint Jerome in His Study (National Gallery, London)

This is a work foremost about space and light; secondarily about the scholar-saint in his library in a cut away palace. The light illuminating the foreground comes from the left of the viewer's space, while the rear of the building is lit from the windows at the back wall. The square windows of the ground floor have views of a Sicilian landscape, the Gothic windows of the upper story show a sky with birds. The open arch  frames the interior view and provides a ledge containing  a partridge (truth/deceit) and a peacock (immortality) and a brass bowl. At the bottom of the steps is a pair of shoes. The lion in the shadows is from a story about St. Jerome pulling a thorn out of a lion's paws and in gratitude the lion follows St. Jerome around for the rest of his life. What the house cat, potted plants, and other stuff symbolize, if anything, is anybodies guess.

The paintings of Antonello in the National Gallery seem out of place so far north, but are a delight to behold. His paintings like the works of Vermeer draw the viewers like no other artists.


christ blessing
Christ is shown raising his hand in blessing. The foreshortened gesture  startles the viewer with its projection from the canvas.
The scroll includes a cryptic reference to the date, which has been interpreted to mean 1465.