Giotto, The Annunciation to Anne

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

This is the third of the six frescoes on the life of St. Joachim in the chapel. In the second chapter of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew Joachim has been gone five months when St. Anne prays that God will not leave her with neither child nor husband. Then an angel appears and says, "Be not afraid, Anna, for there is seed for thee in the decree of God; and all generations even to the end shall wonder at that which shall be born of thee."

The woman spinning wool on the left might be the impudent servant who mocks St. Anne in Pseudo-Matthew, but if so one would expect her to be painted in the same palette as her mistress, not in a spectral monochrome. Because the figure is dressed exactly like Anne herself, it is possible that it represents her own self-portrayal to the Lord: "Thou, O God, knowest my heart, that from the beginning of my married life I have vowed that, if Thou, O God, shouldst give me son or daughter, I would offer them to Thee in Thy holy temple." The distaff and spindle could then do the double duty of asserting Anne's character as a dutiful woman and of looking forward to the spinning that her daughter-to-be Mary will be assigned as a handmaid in the Temple.

Read more about images of St. Anne.
Read more about images of St. Joachim.

Photographed at the chapel by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.