Every year on this date, the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated in the Catholic Church and beyond. This is the day when the Archangel Gabriel appeared before Mary to inquire as to whether or not she would consent to God’s salvific plan. Poetically, it is written that earthly creation and the heavens above held their collective breathe until the answer “let it be done unto me according to thy word” was whispered. Lilies, either in the hands of the Archangel or resting in a vase are frequently included in traditional Western Annunciation paintings.
I cannot help but wonder when contemplating this garden painting called Lilies ca. 1905, located at the National Gallery of Women in the Arts in Washington DC, about the artist, Ellen Day Hale's awareness of lily symbolism.
A look at her art training might suggest affirmatively. However, her focus wasn’t on religious art per say, but more about the decorative styles that influenced the culture at that time:
“Hale was an Impressionist painter, best known for her figure paintings, including many portraits and self-portraits. She made sophisticated, aesthetic paintings with good command of light, shadow and technical skill”. WP
Another painting by Hale, called “June”, shows a young woman mending. I find this reminiscent of Annunciation scenes where Mary is depicted as holding a spool of red thread that she had been dutifully spinning just prior to the magnificent angel’s entrance. One can imagine Mary sitting alone daily and working deliberately on this craft; much like the young woman in this painting.
Other paintings located at the nearby National Gallery of Arts in DC (below), depict women occupied in a variety of household duties like ironing, writing, nursing or balancing accounts while pregnant or otherwise preoccupied..
We see how within the silence of each task,a gentle stillness and peace permeates. It is in these seemingly trivial moments that one often hears the whisper.
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
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