David Hawkins / Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week: 27

Andrei Rublev, ‘The Annunciation’

Andrei Rublev (1360c. – 1430c.), The Annunciation, 1408, Dormition Cathedral, Vladimir.

Looking at our painting of the week history, it struck me how recently we haven’t strayed very far from works in the 19th and 20th century. So this week, we’re going Medieval.

Russian icon painter Andrei Rublev produced an art of stillness and contemplation that was entirely at odds with the chaotic and bloody times in which he lived. With this image he transports the viewer straight into mythic time: the dreaming golds, the multiple perspectives, the curious lion on the building behind. There is almost a weariness in the faces of Gabriel and Mary, as if they know they will be fixed forever with these infinite gestures. Even without sharing the faith that shaped Rublev and his work we can sense the power of his vision of mercy and forgiveness. Who, I wonder, in the troubled Russia of today is producing art (in whatever form) that echoes such a sensibility – irenic, luminous, enduring.

An extraordinary evocation of Rublev’s life and times was made in 1966 by Andrei Tarkovsky in his eponymously titled film. For more details, read this extract from our new book, The Cinema of Tarkovsky. ■ DH

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