More hope for religious art

Elizabeth Scalia posted a link (on Facebook, not on her blog — but she always has tons of good stuff, so check it out!) to this sculpture of the Annunciation, by John Collier:

(photo source:  The Deacon’s Bench)

I know it’s just about impossible to make a judgment based on a photo, but what do you think?  My first thought was that it made reference to the statue of Apollo and Daphne by Bernini:

(photo source)

The artist seems to be stressing the significance of the fig tree.  Intstresting, no?  I prefer the one true God’s means of preserving his faithful daughter’s virginity!  I also thought the face of Mary in the first sculpture hearkened to the  Ecstasy of St. Theresa, also by Bernini.


  1. fig trees in the old and new testament are a sign of the kingdom of god breaking into reality. i don’t know that the NT narratives mention a fig tree in connection with mary, though. and out of curiosity, how did you know it was a fig tree? i need to study up on my forestry.

  2. I like the style, but I don’t like the way that Mary’s body language seems to be saying, “eh… I guess so”

    One thing that seems particularly interesting is how “grounded” the angel seems to be. He’s standing on a rock – higher than Mary, and seems to be a bit entangled in a fig tree too. His wings seem a bit weighed down.

    In the Bernini statue, there’s a wonderful lightness to the marble characters – but in these there is a weight, a heaviness that impresses upon you the gravity of the moment, and the “strangeness” of an eternal God submitting to a physical body.

    • Yeah, I don’t really hold it against a guy when his execution is not quite as deft as Bernini’s! It’s a strange statue, isn’t it? (the Mary one, I mean) re: the body language: she’s on her toes and has her hand to her belly, almost as if she just received a blow. Or is it a, “Who, ME?” gesture?

      I’d really like to see this in person – I don’t know how big it is, either. Also, it looks like the two figures are on separate blocks, and I don’t know if they’d be arranged differently (facing each other, for instance) when they’re installed.

      I also found the face of the angel very unusual – he looks like an older guy, which you don’t usually see.

      • I *think* Mary’s hand is to her stomach because she’s making a pouch out of her clothes and is picking figs. At least, that’s the only sense I can make out of the circular objects in her torso area.

        Odd, that, to have the New Eve picking figs.

  3. I loathe sculpture, so keep that in mind when I say that this looks like it’s been done by a claymation animation team (“From the makers of “Gumby” comes “The Annunciation”!!).

    The figures look like they’ve been starved for three months, and the angle of Mary’s head looks like someone’s sunk a fish hook into it and is reeling her in.

    What medium is this? My eight year old looked at it and commented that it looked “too earthy”, but when she saw that Daphne and Apollo one, done in alabaster, she said, “yes! that’s what Mary should look like- more white and Immaculate.”

    Blah, don’t listen to me. I’m amped up on caffeine and have a million people coming to stay with me tomorrow and I shouldn’t even be spending time writing art critiques.

  4. I think I’m supposed to like it. Yes, Simcha, the angel Gabriel looks a little feeble, old, not-to-be-feared. Again that could be the picture.

  5. I think Gabriel looks like a banker. Or like a “trusted advisor”. The old-manishness bothered me at first, but now I think he looks like an old friend.

  6. Dear Folks
    I am the sculptor of the Annunciation in question. Thank you for thinking about my work. As some have observed, the fig tree is to call attention to the connection of Mary as the new Eve. But rather than in shame to cover her sin she is fruitful Israel which produces the Messiah. Gabriel is standing on the dead stump of Jesse which has a living branch coming from it. He is announcing the birth of Jesus. Mary is gathering figs when Gabriel calls to her from behind. She is startled and starts to turn around. And yes, I have to admit, the Bernini statue is a favorite of mine. I’m sorry if it looks like claymation, Cari, it was the best I could do.
    John Collier

  7. Hey,

    I am all into mythology and also currently taking a mythology class. I just read about this and Daphne (nymph) who is pursued by Apollo is turning into a Laurel Tree and thus the laurel tree is sacred to Apollo. Its NOT a fig tree!

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