CHAPTER 3: Collapsing Time

Narrative paintings often combine scenes from multiple moments of the depicted story, rather than provide a snapshot of a single moment. Visual clues that evoke episodes from before and after the main event are mixed into the scene. Sometimes figures appear more than once in different parts of the picture to suggest the sequence of events.

This art object can not be displayed

Camillo Procaccini
Bologna, Italy, 1557 - 1629, Milan, Italy

213 cm x 146 cm (83 7/8 in. x 57 1/2 in.)
Purchase through the generosity of Suzan and Julius Glickman, M.K. Hage, Jr., Derek Johns, Lawrence Lawver, Susan Thomas, Julia Wilkinson, and Jimmy and Jessica Younger, 2005

Mary glides into the scene as the sunlight before dusk enriches the palette with a golden vibrancy. With Jesus in her womb, she will spend the next three months with her cousin, Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant. At the sound of Mary’s voice, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit as the child in her womb leaps for joy. While Mary’s husband Joseph is not present in the scripture, he appears to the right of the Virgin as a narrative device to evidence Zacharias’s muteness. Because Zacharias doubted his wife’s ability to conceive, the angel Gabriel punished his lack of faith by rendering him mute until the birth of his son, John the Baptist. Here, Zacharias gestures his salutations to Joseph, whose furrowed gaze is troubled by his lack of speech. The Visitation is a popular scene from the life of the Virgin, having been depicted by Camillo Procaccini numerous times. A preparatory drawing for the present piece is kept at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

Image credit:
Abraham van Beyeren
A Roemer with Grapes, a Pewter Plate, and a Roll, 17th century (detail)
Oil on wood panel
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1984