Works from the National Gallery of Art

Jan Van Eyck - The Annunciation

Two people with pale, peach skin are situated in a church interior in this tall, narrow painting.
“The Annunciation,” c. 1434/1436 by Jan van Eyck, oil on canvas transferred from panel,
Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art
Postage stamp featuring a person with long, blond, curly hair, smooth skin, who is smiling. The wings that indicate that this is an angel are outlined in royal blue and blend down from blue to green to yellow to crimson.
1968 Christmas stamp issued November 1st in Washington, DC (Scott 1363)

Flemish painter Jan van Eyck (c.1390-1441), known for his hand in painting both the Ghent altarpiece and for the painting known as the Arnolfini Portrait, also painted the small panel that inspired this stamp. Beautifully and colorfully engraved by Robert J. Jones, this stamp represents the angel Gabriel in regal attire. In the painting (but omitted from the stamp), we see the words uttered by the angel, “Ave gratia plena” (hail, full of grace) as well as those spoken by Mary, “Ecce ancilla domini” (behold the handmaiden of the Lord) (Hand 1986). The scene, taken from the book of Luke, depicts the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, and the incarnation of Christ as the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, descending towards Mary on a beam of light.

The painting is abundant with symbolism in its connection of the Old Testament with the New Testament (Hand 1986). For example, the dark upper portion of the church, with its crumbling roof in a Romanesque architectural style, symbolizes the Old Testament. The lower portion, in early Gothic style, symbolizes the New Testament (Hand 1986). Most likely, The Annunciation was a side panel of a triptych, although scholars are only able to speculate on the other scenes depicted.