Angels in Art - Putti
The Annunciation, by Benedetto Gennari II, 1686
Lin Vertefeuille, December 2002
In Baroque Art the distinction between putto and angel was less defined. The
Annunciation by Benedetto Gennari is illustrative of this blurring of function and
representation. A putto- angel raises a curtain behind which putti-angels form an
illuminated celestial halo around the white Dove of the Holy Spirit. Some of the
encircling angels are bodiless with just heads and wings. This is a representation of the
Cherubim, angels traditionally depicted surrounding God. An angel above Gabriel carries a
white lily that is both an attribute of Gabriel and a symbol of the Virgin's purity.
Archangel Gabriel is magnificently radiant! The Archangel's countenance is beautiful,
crowned in glowing golden curls. Gabriel is sensuous with luminous skin on extended arms
and exposed leg. The angel's pose is in a three-quarter position, rather than in the
profile, so traditional in many other Annunciations. Although Gabriel is suspended
kneeling on a cloud-air and is not moving, the fabric of his clothing and clouds billowing
around him, give his presence energy and force. This agitated drapery is indicative of
Bernini's High Baroque style. It is by the curator's creative design that the Bernini
(executed by Finelli) terracotta, Kneeling Angel, is placed in front of it in the
gallery. Gabriel is one of a very few angels used as a main figure in compositions.
Gennari's Archangel is the dramatic focal point of this painting.
Benedetto Gennari II, nephew of Giovanni Guercino, trained under him and ran his workshop
aiter his uncle's death. However, Gennari's approach is very different than Guercino's
Annunciation (Gallery 8) in composition, style, hues and tones. Gennari has positioned
Gabriel kneeling upright and almost facing us, whereas Guercino shows Gabriel flying
laterally in profile. Gennari's Annunciation was painted in London for the main altar in
the Whitehall Palace Chapel for James II, Catholic King of England.
Alter, Rosilyn, Curator Spotlight: An Annunciation Painted for an English King,
Ringling Museum Newsletter, Spring/Summer 1991
Dictionary of Art, Macmillan Publishers Limited, London 1996 V. 12 p. 279-280
Merling, Mitchell, Ringling the Art Museum, The John and Marble Ringling Museum
of Art, The State Art Museum of Florida 2002 p. p.73