February 2012 cover SCAN ;St. Catherine University St. Catherine University
February 2012
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Inside the Annunciation

St. Catherine student analyzed symbol-rich masterwork.

A lithographic reproduction of the Annunciation, a 15th-century masterwork painted by the German artist Johann van Duyren, currently hangs in an office in Derham Hall. Although the original resides in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany, this lithograph (pictured above) was created by artist Johann Neopuk Stixner in the early 19th century as a means of sharing the story of the Virgin Mary with illiterate populations. The image depicts the Annunciation — when the Archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she would become mother of Jesus Christ, Son of God.

As part of a research project with Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Amy Hamlin, Molly Davy '12 analyzed the symbol-rich lithograph and presented her research to others at the University last fall. Her work revealed intriguing layers of hidden meaning in a beautiful work of art. -- Melissa Kaelin


PEACOCK FEATHER In Christianity, the peacock represents the "all-seeing" church, along with the holiness and sanctity associated with it. More specifically, the peacock feather (as depicted in the wings of the angel Gabriel in the painting) represents pride, nobility and glory.

LILY The lily denotes, among other things, spirituality. In the annunciation, white lilies symbolize chastity as well as virtue in the Christian iconographic tradition. The white lily was a symbol of the Virgin Mary's purity. White represents the purity of thought and action as well as innocence.

ST. PETER On the bench opposite Mary is an engraving of St. Peter with a key. The key St. Peter holds is the key to heaven. The keys were, according to Christian tradition, received by St. Peter from Jesus, marking St. Peter's ability to assume difficult tasks with love and respect for Jesus.

QUATREFOIL CLASP In a picture steeped in symbolism, one can make connections in the most menial of objects within the image. This is exemplified in the quatrefoil clasp Gabriel uses to secure his robe. The quatrefoil shape is especially astute to representing the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) due to its four symmetrical, slightly overlapping shapes.

She, woodcut, 23"x31"

Molly Davy '12