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