Nowadays, a profound analysis of the history of world art results in highlighting Botticelli and Hans Memling as the most significant painters of the 15th-16th centuries. This epoch is known for the fungal development and the overwhelming success of art whereas an abundance of paintings based on various Bible motifs appeared quite rapidly as such works had already become quite prestigious at that age. This fact is proved by such masterpieces as two paintings “The Annunciation”, which were created by Botticelli and Hans Memling. Having observed both artistic works, it is evident that, in spite of the same motif taken from the Bible, each painter had his own interpretation of it; it is demonstrated on their masterpieces.
In order to understand the intentions of the author, as well his or her masterpiece in particularly, it is more than necessary to understand some bibliographical data of each of them. To begin with, the epoch when Botticelli lived and created is considered to be a golden age for numerous Italian men of genius. In accordance with Capretti, the personality of Botticelli flourished in the historical period dominated by Lorenzo the Magnificent. The real name of the famous artist is Alessandro Filipeppi; he was born in the heart of creating of an abundance of artistic works, Florence, in 1445. His father was a tanner; he rented a house, and having a low standard of living, he wanted his children to find an occupation as soon as possible. It influenced Botticelli, but he suffered from numerous health problems, and mounting jewels became his activity. The impact of Sandro’s brother, Antonio, who might have led him to the occupation of a goldsmith, was more than significant for the artistic development of the artist as even his second name, Botticelli, is considered to trace back to his elder sibling. Moreover, the connection of painters and goldsmiths was obvious at the time Sandro lived, and it provoked artist not to squander his talent, and in 1470, he had his own workshop. During his life, Botticelli created a large amount of masterpieces which are essential for the art history; he died in 1510.
Hans Memling’s biography is quite different. He is known to be born in the Rhenish town of Selingenstadt; his precise date of birth is unknown as he was first recorded only when he is considered to acquire citizenship. This is the reason why little is known about his family and childhood, but as an adult, he worked for a merchant class; in addition, in the years preceding 1464, he created his artistic works in Van der Weyden’s Brussels workshop. According to Hand and Wolff, Hans Memling’s works have nothing in common with German art of that age; the artist died in 1494.
Comparing the artistic works created by of both Botticelli and Hans Hemling, it is obvious that they differ from each other very much. For instance, this fact is proved by “The Annunciation” as the composition, color, and light are different on both works of art.
To begin with, in spite of the fact that, on both artistic works, the central figure is Virgin Mary, she is depicted in quite a different way. On Botticelli’s “The Annunciation” (1449/1450), she is leaning towards the angel; thereby her body is similar to the form of an “S”; in accordance with Deimling, the curiously twisted posture of the Virgin Mary is similar to a Gothic sculpture. The Virgin is wearing dark green and red clothes. The hands of the angel and the Virgin play an integral role for the whole work. At first sight, it may seem that Virgin Mary is stretching out her hand in defense, but a gesture of her slightly upright hand demonstrates a greeting. The position of the hands is considered to be shown in accordance to the rules of the Golden Section; it links both halves of the picture. It is proved by all lines and areas in the picture, which are divided according to certain ratios. The Virgin’s hand is slightly lowered; its position is horizontal, and it predominates in the angel whereas Mary’s pose is emphasized by the position of the angel’s hand. The fascination of the picture lies in the interaction of the hands of the angel and Virgin Mary as they seem to strive to touch each other, but an invisible force prevents them from performing it.
As it was mentioned above, “The Annunciation” by Botticelli is divided into two halves; their measurement is performed by a doorway depicted in the centre of the artistic work. The distance between two parts of the picture is emphasized by the hand of the angel which is located directly at the edge of the door jamb. The interrelations between the exterior and the interior is more than significant for the precise understanding of the picture as the fact that Virgin Mary is surrounded by walls; the lack of furniture and mostly dark colors are used for the demonstration of the room show Virgin’s poverty whereas the broad landscape depicted behind the angel, on the contrary, demonstrates wealth and prosperity (multi-stored castle, beautiful river, and a bridge over it). The colors of the landscape are more vivid and eye-catching; this is the reason why an effect of the obedience of Virgin Mary and the thrill caused by the moment of the Annunciation is achieved.
The same effect is achieved by Hans Memling; however, in “The Annunciation” created in 1482 (this very date appeared on the original), it was realized in quite a different way. First of all, there is no exterior in the picture; only windows and the light in them give a hint concerning the outside life. No dark colors are used in order to depict Virgin Mary’s room. Unlike Botticelli’s “The Annunciation”, the body of the Virgin is shown in the manner of Christ’s body after his death whereas her half-risen beautiful state is supported by two angels. The Virgin is dressed in black and grey clothes, and it is one more detail that makes the masterpieces created by two authors different.
Moreover, Virgin Mary was reading a book when the angel Gabriel entered her bedroom, which is also a symbol of the annunciation. In Hans Memling’s version of the picture, no poverty is intended to be demonstrated. The room is well-furnished, mostly bright and vivid colors are used for its depiction although the room seems to be enlightened poorly enough. The bed as well as the angels dressed in priests’ robes is to be one of the most noteworthy details of the picture as they symbolize the Virgin’s wedding. An abundance of different details is obvious, but each detail has its own artistic meaning. For instance, the vase in front of Virgin Mary contains the lily, which is a symbol of her virginity, and the iris or gladiolus, which symbolizes her sorrow. An angel raising Virgin Mary’s dress is considered to signify the train of the Queen of Heaven. The attention of the viewer is attracted also by the extraordinary fluorescent coloring.
Another detail, which needs to be emphasized, is the book Virgin Mary was reading when the angel Gabriel appeared in her room. It is obvious that the book is opened on a certain page; although it remains unknown what exactly this page is, the viewer can only guess that the Virgin was reading the prophetic words of Isaiah: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign, Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear the son.
The candelabrum placed on the small cabinet near Virgin Mary is of great significance, as well. One of the crucial details which must be emphasized is that there are no candles in them, and it is denoted to be a symbol of the Annunciation, as well. Since that moment, the Virgin is known to bear her own Light, and this Light is Jesus Christ. This is the reason why the cozy bedroom is peculiar for its lack of light.
In conclusion, it is necessary to admit that, in spite of the same epoch, both paintings were created, two authors illustrated the scene in their own style and manner. This difference lies both in the ancestry of them and their individual style and vision of the motif taken from the Bible. Hans Memling’s masterpiece is full of numerous details; each of them is a source for better understanding the artistic work. Botticelli emphasized on the position of the hands of the angel and Virgin Mary, the lack of details also plays a significant role in the whole impression of the viewers. Hans Memling used only the interior of Mary’s bedroom in order to depict the scene of “The Annunciation”; Botticelli showed both the interior of the room (it is difficult to understand what kind of room it is) and the exterior. It is evident that both layouts play their own role; this is the reason why different color patterns were used in order to demonstrate them, and the necessary effect was achieved. The position of the Virgin differs much in these two paintings as well; in addition, Botticelli depicted only Mary and the angel on his work of art while Hans Memling preferred to show not only them but also two smaller angels who are standing behind the Virgin. These main differences make both pictures more than unique and of certain interest for all art critics and historians.