The Annunciation is one of the most popular subjects of Christian art, but only rarely does a cat make an appearance in this sacred drama. Such is the case in Vico Consorti's depiction of the theme. The Annunciation makes up two of the bronze panels of the Porta Santa (Holy Door) that Consorti (1902-79) created for St Peter's Basilica as part of the celebration of the Jubilee, or Holy Year, of 1950.
The presence of the feline, peeping out from a curtain in the background, might refer to a medieval saying that the Devil was trapped by Christ’s incarnation in the way that a mouse is trapped by a cat.
The oldest known image of the Annunciation dates back to the 4th century and is to be found in the catacombs of Priscilla.
The main protagonists in scenes of the Annunciation are Mary, the Archangel Gabriel, the Holy Spirit (which takes the form of a dove) and, more often than not, God the Father. On very rare occasions the dove is replaced by a small, naked flying figure, holding a cross. Known as an homunculus, such a figure can be seen a somewhat faded fresco in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25th, which once marked the start of the new year in many European states.
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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