Inspired by the Italian Middle Ages, Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933) was able to recreate a peaceful and silent atmosphere. The soft colors like those of a fresco, the sober and precise volumes, the limited number of accessories, everything invites the spectator to receive the work slowly.
The composition is surprising: the foreground is dark, while the background shines with whiteness. In this luminous space, at the threshold of an arcade closed by a half-open curtain, an angel has knelt. Silent, he does not dare approach, perhaps fearing to disturb the domestic tranquility of the two women in the house. He knelt down, as he does before the divine majesty.
Because God has chosen to visit humanity. And in this house, these two women bear within them, one a prophet, the other, nothing less than the messiah begotten of the Spirit of the Most High. They accepted to receive God in their home, in them.
Elisabeth is reading, her old woman’s eyes focused on her book. Marie sews, concentrating on her work. Time seems suspended. It is the time of pregnancy, slow and impatient, that all mothers know. It is the time of Mary’s stay with her cousin Elizabeth as told by the Evangelist Luke. It is the time of the ordinary in which God comes to register to upset everything.
In Elizabeth, humanity, bent under the weight of centuries, trials and evil, scrutinizes Scripture to find there the trace of God.
In Mary, she fully receives God. And under his protection, she straightens up, a long youthful figure with a royal port, seated on the purple like an immaculate empress.
The angel did not move. Hands crossed, kneeling, he contemplates like us these two women seized in their daily life. He invites us to scrutinize human life as the space in which to receive God’s work.