The Annunciation

View enlargement
Zoom image
Email to a friend
Print this page

Alessandro Vittoria
Italian, 1525—1608

The Annunciation, c. 1583

Bronze
97.8 x 61.6 cm (38 1/2 x 24 1/4 in.)
Edward E. Ayer Endowment in memory of Charles L. Hutchinson, 1942.249

This masterpiece of Renaissance relief sculpture by the Venetian artist Alessandro Vittoria was commissioned in 1580 by Hans Fugger, a member of a noted Augsburg banking family, to decorate an altarpiece for the Fugger family chapel in Swabia, Germany. Here Vittoria translated into bronze the flickering light and colorful palette of the great Venetian painters of the period; his composition is specifically adapted from altarpieces by Titian. Working in wax (from which the finished relief was then cast in bronze), Vittoria manipulated the relief’s form and edges to catch the light. The result is a highly animated surface in which everything—figures, drapery, clouds, and sky—seems to move with excitement, heightening the drama between the sharply turned, startled Virgin and the powerful figure of Gabriel, who has suddenly descended from heaven. Fully sculpted in the round, the archangel’s arm points to the smallest feature in the scene: the dove, representing the Holy Ghost of the Christian Trinity. The plasticity and depth of the relief, the dramatic movement, and the handling of detail make this one of the artist’s finest creations.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 191.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Northhampton, Massachusetts, Smith College Museum of Art, "Renaissance Bronzes in American Collections," 9 April - 3 May, 1964, cat. 17.

Augsburg, Ausstellung im Rathaus, "Welt im Umbruch, Augsburg zwischen Renaissance und Barock," 28 June – 28 September, 1980, pp. 200-201, cat. 577.

London, Royal Academy of Arts, "The Genius of Venice, 1500–1600," 25 November, 1983 – 11 March. 1984, pp. 390-391, p. 304, cat. S42.

Berlin, Alten Museum, "Von allen seiten schön, Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock," 31 October 1995 – 28 January, 1996, cat. 86.

Trent Italy, Castello del Buonconsiglio, "La bellissima maniera, Alessandro Vittoria e la scultura del Cinquecento," 25 June – 26, September, 1999, pp. 370-379, cat. 84.

Publication History

Georg Lill, Hans Fugger (1531–1598) und die Kunst (Leipzig, 1908), pp. 32, 153–55.

Leo Planiscig, Venezianische Bildhauer der Renaissance (Vienna, 1921), p. 501.

Leo Planiscig, "Alessandro Vittorias Verkündigungsrelief für Hans Fugger," Jahrbuche der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 60 (1932), pp. 155–56, pl. XVL.

Leo Planiscig, "Alessandro Vittoria e la Pala Fugger," Rivista di Venezia 12,1 (1933).

Adolfo Venturi, Storia dell’arte Italiana X,III (Milan, 1937), pp. 70, 116, 120, fig. 89.

Helen Comstock, "Bronze Relief by Alessandro Vittoria," The Connoisseur 111,488 (1943), pp. 133–34.

Meyeric R. Rogers and Oswald Goetz, "A Masterpiece of Italian Renaissance Sculpture," Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 37, 1 (1943), pp. 4–7.

Francesco Cessi, Alessandro Vittoria, medaglista (1525–1608) (Trent, 1960), pp. 50–55, pl. 31.

Hans Huth, "Italienische Kunstwerke im Art Institute von Chicago, USA," Miscellanea bibliothecae hertzianae, edited by Leo Bruhns, Franz Graf, Wolff Metternich, and Ludwig Schudt (Munich, 1961), p. 518.

Manfred Leithe-Jasper, "Alessandro Vittoria," Mitteliungen der Gesellschaft für veregleichende kunstforschung in Wien: Auszüge aus kunsthistorischen Dissertationen Österreichischer Hochschulen seit 1956 16/17 (1963-1965), p. 32.

Michael Baxandall, "A Masterpiece by Hubert Gerhard," Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin 1,2 (1965), p. 8.

Francesco Cessi, "Note sulla genesi iconografico–stilistica della pala bronzea di Alessandro Vittoria per Giovanni Fugger," Studi trenti di scienze storiche (1965), pp. 348–53.

Allen Wardwell and Mildred Davison, "Three Centuries of the Decorative Arts in Italy," Apollo 84,55 (1966), pp. 180–81, 187, fig. 4.

Hildebrand Dussler, Reisen und Reisende in Bayerisch-Schwaben (Weissenhorn, 1968), p. 109.

Hans Habel, Landkreis Mindelheim (Munich, 1971), pp. 170, 186.

Denys Sutton, "Venetian Art at the Royal Academy," Apollo (1984), pp. 91, 95, fig. 30.

Michel Hochmann, Peintres et commanditaires à Venise, Collection de l’école Française de Rome 155 (Rome, 1992), p. 217.

Andrew John Martin, "Quellen zum Kunsthandel um 1550–1600: Die Frima Ott in Venedig," Kunstchronik 11 (1995), p. 535.

Andrew John Martin, "Jacopo Tintoretto: Dipinti per committenti tedeschi" Jacopo Tintoretto, nel quarto centenario della morte, edited by P. Rossi and L. Puppi (Venice, 1996), pp. 97, 99–100, no. 6.

Claudia Kryza-Gersch, "New Light on Nicolo Roccatagliata and his Son Sebastian Nicolini," Nuovi Studi Rivista di arte Antica e Moderna (Italy, 1998), pp. 113-14, ill.

Andrea Bacchi, La Scultura a Venezia da Sansovino a Canova (Milan, 2000), p. 802, fig. 177.

Ian Wardropper, "An Allegorical Bronze Statuette Newly Attributed to Ammanati," in Small Bronzes in the Renaissance, ed. Debra Pincus (Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 105-21, fig. 3.

Ownership History

Commissioned by Hans Fugger from Allessandro Vittoria for the Fugger Family chapel, Schloss Kirchheim, Augsburg, 1580. Fugger family collection, Schloss Kirchheim, Augsburg, until demolition of the castle in the nineteenth century [according to Trent 1999 exh. cat.]. Fugger family collection, Augsburg, until 1908. German art market, 1930 [according to Berlin 1995/96 exh. cat.; and Trent 1999 exh. cat.]. Dr. Preston P. Satterwhite, New York, by 1932 [see sources cited above; Planiscig 1932; and two letters from Leo Planiscig to Preston Satterwhite, 16 December 1932 and 2 March 1933, in curatorial file]. French & Co., New York, by 1942; sold to the Art Institute, 1942.