MARY – A MASTERPIECE: ‘The Meeting at the Golden Gate’ by Filippino Lippi (1457 – 1504)
One of the leading exponents of High Renaissance Art was undoubtedly Filippino Lippi, son of the renowned yet controversial painter Fra Filippo Lippi (1406 – 69). Highly innovative and expressive, Filippino was first trained under his father and subsequently under the most outstanding painter of the time, Botticelli. The influence of both these master artists is evident in his masterpieces including ‘The Meeting of Joaquim and Anna at the Golden Gate’. Richly detailed and characterized by lightness and grace, the composition is housed at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, England.
We are drawn into the narrative by a gentle handmaiden who aligns her gaze to ours. She invites us to delve deep into the depicted scene and witness the marvellous mystery. The scene recounts the birth narrative of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Having had his offering rejected in the Temple of Jerusalem, the distraught Joaquim retires in shame to the countryside. Anna, his beloved wife, bitterly bewails her barren state.
Her prayerful knocks opened the gates of heaven. The angel of the Lord appeared to her saying, ‘Do not be afraid for a daughter will be born to you. She will be called blessed for generations. Arise, therefore, and go up to the Golden Gate. As a sign of what I have said, you will meet your husband of whom you have been so concerned.’ According to the Golden Legend the angel repeated the same message to Joaquim.
Fillipino Lippi, with utmost elegance, captures the tender embrace and the joyful reunion of Joaquim and Anna. Lippi cringes not from depicting the advanced age of the couple. While Joaquim reflects the kindness and concern of a father, the immaculate face of Anna foreshadows the heavenly grace of Mary. Allegorically, their affection represents the moment, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was immaculately conceived.
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