Rephrased, Relocated, Repainted: visual anachronism as a narrative device Gyöngyvér Horváth

Abstract (E): When Carlo Crivelli placed the scene of The Annunciation (1486, National Gallery, London) in the Renaissance town of Ascoli, dressed the humbled Mary in the latest fashion, and included the intervening Saint Emidius, the patron saint of the city, he created a visual analogy of what Aelred of Rievaulx, a Cistercian monk had advised to his readers three centuries earlier: “First enter the room of blessed Mary (…) wait there for the arrival of the angel, so that you may see him as he comes in, hear him as he utters his greeting, and so, filled with amazement and rapt out of yourself, greet your most sweet Lady together with the angel.” Both the painting, with its updated 15th century stage, and the text, with the appeal to join, created the atmosphere of presentness in order to encourage active participation in the biblical event. Crivelli’s ahistorical rendering of the story uses multiplied temporal and diegetic levels, and can be best described by the phenomenon of visual anachronism, an effective narrative strategy still used by such contemporary artists as Cindy Sherman or Adi Nes. This essay will examine the phenomenon of visual anachronism and its role in narrative understanding. This text will argue that there is a difference in the narrative perception between the ‘that-time’ and the present-day viewer, and in both cases it depends on the beholder’s time experience.

Abstract (F): Lorsque Crivelli situait son Annonciation (1486, National Gallery, Londres) dans le paysage contemporain de la ville d'Ascoli, représentait la Vierge dans des habits d'époque et donnait une place à l'intervention de Saint Emidius, le patron de la ville, il créait l'équivalent visuel de ce que le moine cistercien, Aelred de Rievaulx, avait conseillé de faire à ses lecteurs trois siècles plus tôt: "Entrez d'abord dans la chambre de la Vierge bénie (...), attendez l'arrivée de l'ange pour que vous le voyiez au moment de son entrée, écoutez-le quand il prononce son salut, puis, émerveillé et comme sorti de vous-même, saluez votre douce Mère en même temps que l'ange." Tant le tableau, avec son décor moderne du 15e siècle, que le texte, qui invite à se joindre à l'événement, suscitent une atmosphère de présence qui encourage une participation active à l'événement biblique. Crivelli opte pour une représentation modernisée de l'histoire qui s'appuie sur une multiplicité de niveaux temporels et diégétiques et que l'on peut fort bien décrire à l'aide du concept d'anachronisme visuel, une stratégie narrative très efficace qu'utilisent toujours des artistes contemporains comme Cindy Sherman ou Adi Nes. Cet article se propose d'analyser le phénomène de l'anachronisme visuel
Image & Narrative, Vol 12, No 4 (2011)


” (Robb 480). patron of Ascoli. Thomas Tolley characterises the citizens. who. Il voudrait démontrer qu'il existe une différence dans la perception narrative de "ce temps-là" et le spectateur contemporain. These are dressed in the latest fashion. the angel of God. entering the Virgin’s chamber through a small hole in the entablature. the intimacy of the scene is further disturbed by St Emidius. will bring the eternal kingdom onto Earth. like many of his contemporaries. visited Mary and informed her about the Incarnation. experience. Not only are the citizens of Ascoli eyewitnesses to the Annunciation. presentness According to St Luke (1. In a short conversation Gabriel explained the miraculous manner of Christ’s conception and foretold the birth of the child named Jesus. Vol 12. et que dans les deux cas la différence s'explique par la manière dont le spectateur concerné vit le temps. National Gallery) roughly follows Robb’s scheme: the kneeling Mary is depicted in her chamber at a prayer-desk. they are the Image & Narrative. Gabriel approaches from the left. 26-38). What makes Crivelli’s Annunciation interesting is the setting. London. Gabriel. as are Gabriel and the Virgin. David M Robb considers its basic structural elements to be almost constant: “the Virgin is seated. who holds a model of the city. Crivelli. They are thus more or less alike if they are judged by the iconographic rules applicable to earlier art. as Tolley thinks. their contemporary costumes and the presence of St Emidius in Crivelli’s painting as “extra-narrative elements”. Renaissance. No 4 (2011) 5 . Keywords: Anachronism. Crivelli. the dove of the Holy Spirit arrives. The biblical text is brief yet substantial. In son rôle dans la compréhension du récit. which Robb notes to be a variable (480). The humble gestures of Mary’s hand and her pose suggest that the conversation has already finished and the Virgin is ready to conceive: from above. according to prophecy. the citizens and especially St Emidius are not extradiegetic. But the settings all differ. Carlo Crivelli’s Ascoli Annunciation from 1486 (The Annunciation with Saint Emidius. The stage is designed to be the contemporary town of Ascoli inhabited by local citizens. in the act of reading or interrupted by the angel kneeling before her. There is no description of any specific details of the scene. took advantage of the indeterminacy of the Biblical passage on this point. Having studied the iconography of the Annunciation in fourteenth and fifteenth century painting. the Annunciation took place in the town of Nazareth in Galilee. As I will argue.

Pictorial signs of presentness There are many features in Crivelli’s altarpiece that refer to the events and environment of the contemporary Ascoli. First. and on the left are the arms of Prospero 1 For the basic facts and provenance see Davies and Tolley. 1 The Ascoli Annunciation was commissioned in 1486 for the church of the Santissima Annunziata in Ascoli Piceno to commemorate an important event in the chronicle of the city. indicating the growing importance of the privilege. Anachronism is used here as a narrative device to reframe and relocate the religious scene. who was in office when the painting was completed. We know that from the first anniversary an annual procession went on to the Church of the Santissima Annunziata. Ascoli had requested a kind of self-government from Pope Sixtus IV in 1481.most important constitutive elements of the narrative. This day now became a double feast: of the Annunciation and of Ascoli’s special privilege. A second commission. the story of Carlo Crivelli’s painting and the story that it represents are not separable. accompanied by the coat of arms of the city of Ascoli. anachronisms were often used visually to historicise biblical. the right to self-determination regarding internal civic issues. not of the story of the Annunciation. In the middle appears the arms of Innocent VIII. Celebrating the new status of the town two paintings were ordered. these pictorial elements clearly indicate that the Biblical episode has been re-narrated and fully reinterpreted. The first is painted by a Crivelli-follower Pietro Alemanno in 1484. both with the theme of the Annunciation. referring directly to the grant of 1482. Indeed. Image & Narrative. In the religious paintings of Renaissance Italy. textual narratives. This ‘Freedom under the Church’ was a newly constructed category. and was hung in the Chapel of the Town Hall. The inscription is. Vol 12. that is. as I will argue. The key to this new interpretation is the actualisation of the Annunciation. the Libertas Ecclesiastica. Sixtus IV’s successor as overlord of Ascoli. on the right. the free rendering of the temporal layers constitutes an intentional anachronism. so Crivelli’s altarpiece had both a civic and religious commitment and had an important role in the constitution of local Ascoli identity as well. The letter conveying that this had been granted reached the town on 25 March 1482. a special right that gave Ascoli a certain freedom. but of the story Crivelli offers to us. The history and function of the Ascoli Annunciation As is frequently the case. the day of the feast of Annunciation. is the one by Crivelli. No 4 (2011) 6 . there is the painted inner frame below the scene bearing the inscription LIBERTAS ECCLESIASTICA. although the city remained under the papal throne.

protecting it from plague. referring to the local legend that the privilege was granted through his intercession. Franciscan monks stand at the top of the staircase opposite Mary’s house. Of all the elements within the picture that emphasise Image & Narrative.” (Marshall 493). Emidius holds a model of the town in his hands which makes it explicit that his presence here is as an advocate for the city. In front of him lies an open book. the Marian cult had a special interest for both the Franciscans and Sixtus IV (Goffen 228-229). Another sign of contemporaneity is the presence of St Emidius. There are good historical reasons for the significance given to them pictorially. precisely because of their death. the Santissima Annunziata. The presence of Franciscan monks is another pictorial element referring to the town’s contemporary history. No 4 (2011) 7 . but with the God-mother. right above Gabriel’s head at the top of the arch. the Virgin Mary. like Mary. the entire mise-en-scène provided by Crivelli is contemporary Renaissance (Lightbown 333-344). almost level with the hole in the rim where the Holy Ghost is entering the chamber. Apart from Emidius. can be seen (Lightbown 342). Finally. This episode has a crucial role in the understanding of the visual re-narration of the story of the Annunciation. was a Franciscan friar prior to becoming pope. Sixtus IV. earthquake and war: “The martyrs were fellow human beings who. now enjoyed intimacy with God. Secondly. On the vertical axis. has been interrupted by a messenger. Gabriel’s delivery of the divine message to Mary is referenced in a mise-en-abyme motif above the main scene. as will be shown later. Bishop of Ascoli. for which Crivelli’s altarpiece was painted. Benincasa is shown receiving the letter in which the Pope informs the city of its new privilege. the Franciscans are the closest eye-witnesses to the scene. which both visually and thematically is related to the main scene. the notary of Ascoli. First. was a Franciscan church. indicating that he. the street scene with the citizens of Ascoli dressed according to the latest fashion and all the details of the urban environment are quattrocento. yet it can also be regarded as a consequence of it. Furthermore. who granted Ascoli the Libertas Ecclesiastica. The style of Mary’s house. There is a seemingly minor episode. The painting also carries Crivelli’s signature and the date of its completion (1486). formerly Francesco della Rovere. Vol 12. he later became a patron saint of the city.Caffarelli. and most obviously. Antonio Benincasa. a depositary of the local community’s trust. Emidius or Emygdius was an early Christian martyr and also Bishop of Ascoli. although he is not actually interceding with God. through Gabriel. In Crivelli’s painting Emidius is acting accordingly. And through that intimacy came their power to intercede with God on behalf of their devotees.

The decoration of the house is also typically Renaissance. object or person. In narrative theory such a temporal admixture. Annette and Jonathan Barnes have studied anachronism as a general cultural phenomenon. but also about geographical placement in general. Temporal anachronism as a visual phenomenon Evidently. No 4 (2011) 8 . or events with dates. Vol 12. a film or a painting – this date may be merely optional. Furthermore. what is anachronistic in a picture. and crystallised a set of definitions for such phenomena: Something is an anachronism or anachronistic if and only if it implies (1) the ascription of "F" to a at t. When examining an anachronistic event. However. since the event of the Annunciation ("F") happens to the Virgin Mary (a) in ancient times and in the town of Nazareth (time other than t). both in terms of its general composition (which is opened up toward the beholder) and its inner frame (the stone ledge) clearly foregrounds its stage-like nature. should be compared to this fixed date. the Franciscans and the Virgin belong to the same diegetic (and Image & Narrative. does not necessarily correspond with the division between diegetic and extradiegetic pictorial realms. when looking at the Annunciation. Crivelli’s version of the Annunciation. in Crivelli’s painting. a specific date is needed. many features in Crivelli’s painting refer to the contemporary. it is similar to the two-storey building in Piero della Francesca’s Flagellation (Lightbown 333). It is thus the main constituent of the diegetic realm. this is the most striking. For example. It is important to note three things here. The structure of the Virgin’s house follows contemporary Italian Renaissance architecture. all other dates. Second. (258) This suggests that the Ascoli Annunciation is anachronistic. and this date needs to be fixed. First. These elements strengthen the beholder’s feeling that she or he.present time. one still does not expect the Annunciation to take place in a quattrocento environment or to be witnessed by Franciscan monks. for the anachronism to work with the Barneses’ definition. if this date is not implied by the context of the work of art – be it a novel. so it does not pertain to the Virgin Mary in fifteenth-century Ascoli (at t). where (2) "F" is not of a sort to hold of anything at t. sees it happening in quattrocento Ascoli. Crivelli is specific not only about the domestic interior where the message is delivered to Mary. and what is not. incoherence or inconsistency – the placing of an ancient story into a modern environment (or vice versa) – is best described by the concept of visual anachronism. however. and (3) "F" is of a sort to hold of something at a time other than t.

As shown above. However. where the coats of arms are placed. To make the existing painterly realms more complex. So. Crivelli placed the Franciscans in the picture precisely to enable them to witness the Annunciation. diegetic realms of the verbal are fused into one in the visual. 2 A different concept of Renaissance anachronism was proposed by Nagel and Wood in 2005. it is useful to list the most common painterly strategies for setting visual anachronisms into play. extradiegetic level in the altarpiece that is presented by the inner frame. just as the trompe l’oeil elements in the foreground. this could have been achieved by purely compositional means as well. or. as they are not visible either to the Franciscans or to the Virgin. which is not yet known in detail to the present author at the time of the submission of this article. No 4 (2011) 9 . in any reasonable verbal representation. Anachronism is actually tripled in Crivelli’s painting. In Crivelli’s altarpiece. the Barneses’ formula described above can be applied here in at least three different ways (258). such elements as the signature and the date in the lower zone of the columns (which otherwise belong to the first diegetic level). from the viewpoint of the Virgin and the Annunciation. partly due to the narrative density of the depicted events and also because of the reciprocity between the events and their setting. Furthermore. anachronisms in the visual realm are usually generated on more than one level. However. Image & Narrative. they would have to belong to different temporal layers. Third. otherwise different. Vol 12. theoretically. 2 Before moving to other relevant examples. Consequently. Crivelli’s Ascoli Annunciation is special as it gives an almost complete inventory of the methods with which anachronism can be achieved visually. the quattrocento setting is the painterly device that suggests the primary temporal level and establishes the principal narrative. there exists another. These. the inner frame forms another diegetic layer. both the quattrocento mise-en-scène and the presence of St Emidius are anachronistic. because of the possible ambiguity of the reference points. Thus these. or in particular from the viewpoint of the Ascoli notary receiving the papal message. belong to the level of the inner frame. The “principle of substitution” (405) explains why certain works were regarded as antique when they were the last in a long sequence of replicas. From the quattrocento cityscape in general. Naturally. more generally stated. are clearly extradiegetic elements if understood from the viewpoint of the Virgin or the Franciscans. it is anachronistic to be simultaneously witnessing the Annunciation and seeing the town’s patron saint actively intervening in this scene. These elements are clearly not part of the scene where the Annunciation is represented.temporal) world. Their idea is developed further in their new book Anachronic Renaissance (2010). each temporal layer is relativised. the same can be said when one takes St Emidius as a reference point. All of these are here related to the main event of a narrative picture.

which do not coincide with the actual time of the event. the second is the “ecclesiastical interior type”. (5) Including events that are not simultaneous with the main action. Museo Diocesano) stages the scene in an open portico. and this suggests that such settings were commonly used for Annunciation scenes in the period. Fra Filippo Lippi also produced a number of anachronistic Annunciation scenes. The first is employed in Italy and is either a portico type or an open space. imprese). such as patrons. a room in a Flemish house”. biblical or mythological). Cortona. the mise-en-scène provided by Crivelli is not an isolated case. as seen in the Mérode altarpiece (500). donors or other historical figures not synchronic with the main event. No 4 (2011) 10 . it seems that whenever the setting is clearly defined it is contemporary. The narrative is made quite complex by setting up typological relations. in his thorough study of the iconography of early Renaissance Annunciation panels. All Robb’s examples are contemporary.(1) Architectural styles or elements referring to the present (or any other) historical period. He lists three types of architectural settings and relates them to certain geographical areas. both in terms of general scenery. Turning to early quattrocento Italian examples. it is the norm rather than an exception. Trecento Italian fresco and panel paintings provide some early examples of this custom. Examples from the 1440s certainly belong to this Image & Narrative. Fra Angelico’s early panel of the Annunciation (1433-34. From this it is clear that Crivelli is not alone in updating the scenery – and thus the context – of the Biblical event. Vol 12. (3) Referencing the contemporary or any other time with heraldic elements (coats of arms. (2) Figures dressed in costumes belonging to a different historical time(s) than that of the event. the third is what Robb calls “a bourgeois interior. (4) Including objects not yet existent in the era of the event. David M Robb. but rather in the distant past or future. it deploys the setting and costumes of contemporary liturgical drama (Jacobus passim). (7) Characters (including painters themselves) depicted in the guise of some other figure (mostly historical. (6) Including eye-witnesses. Padova) has been thoroughly researched. also examines the question of the setting. architectural detailing and costumes. evoked in the sculpted effigy of the prophet Isaiah and the Expulsion scene in the background. shields. Giotto’s Annunciation in the Scrovegni Chapel (1306. Anachronistic settings in quattrocento Italian painting In the painterly tradition of the Italian Renaissance.

Further examples are Piero della Francesca’s fresco of the Annunciation (ca. The painted architecture of the San Giobbe Altarpiece is contemporary to such an extent that it elongates and frames the real architecture of the church wall. They serve a very similar role to the inner frame of Crivelli’s painting. his well-known San Giobbe Altarpiece (ca. San Francesco). Vol 12. The architectural setting of the altarpiece consists of a coffered vault supported by richly decorated all’antica columns. (Howard 691) The second Venetian example is definitely by Giovanni Bellini. it opens up the wall to an imaginary scene of the Enthroned Virgin flanked by saints who were especially venerated in the church. Santa Maria Novella). Gallerie dell’Accademia). Venice. where an unmistakeably Tuscan landscape can be seen through the double-arched Renaissance painted window. which reveals his classical tastes. The episode of the Resuscitation of the Notary’s Son: Image & Narrative. Florence. Anachronistic settings do not limit themselves to Annunciation scenes. More explicit landmarks than in Crivelli’s altarpiece can be seen in the fresco cycle depicting episodes from the life of Saint Francis painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the Sassetti Chapel (1483-86. 1455. Venice. 1500. No 4 (2011) 11 . it is still the best example of how the real architecture of the church and the fictive architecture of the scenery could be made to interact in the late fifteenth-century Venetian tradition. Florence. For example. Santa Trinita). the one in Rome (The Annunciation with two Kneeling Donors. Arezzo. Although it depicts a Sacra Conversazione. 1440. 1487. or Ghirlandaio’s Annunciation fresco in the Tornabuoni Chapel (1486-90. They are staged within rich architectural settings decorated with Renaissance ornaments. Both are specific because their architectural settings echo the architecture of the churches where they were originally placed. The Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Venice used to house an organ shutter with the subject of the Annunciation. the donors Folco Portinari and Folgonaccio. The Annunciation scene is set in a corner where the walls are covered with colourful painted marble slabs: [a] similar sensitivity to the glowing polychromy of the marbles had been displayed in the original organ shutters. now in the Accademia where the Annunciation scene is set in a marbled interior decorated with polychrome panels like those of the church itself. It is worth noting two examples from Venice since Crivelli is most closely related to this painterly tradition. not an Annunciation. At the same time. ca. Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Antica) shows two contemporary characters witnessing the scene.tradition. now attributed to Giovanni Bellini (ca. Gallerie dell’Accademia). that of imitating decorated carved stone work.

which. The last category in the inventory listing painterly anachronisms. near the Piazza della Signoria. these localized settings develop the cityscape conceits in the altarpiece below and are the final link in defining the secondary axis in the chapel’s overall organization. . (Lavin 205) Following the relocation. the new setting is contemporary urban Florence. as in Crivelli’s altarpiece. Vol 12. relocated events and new contemporary urban settings appear frequently in quattrocento Italian painting. as Roger J Crum suggests (416). where the Confirmation of the Rule. There are different views as to who exactly is portrayed in the figures of the kings and their entourage in Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi fresco at the Medici Chapel in Florence (1459. The procession probably commemorates the 1439 event of the Council of Florence with the portraits of the Byzantine Emperor John VIII Paleologus and the Eastern Patriarch Joseph II. many scholars agree that there are allusions to contemporary figures and events (Crum 403. As is clear from these examples. . seems to be the least frequent case of all. though it had not yet been built when the confirmation of the Franciscan order was bestowed by Pope Honorius III in 1223. whereas in the painting the background is Florence. who is replaced by a contemporary person. The concept of narrative ramification Image & Narrative. In fact. which took place before the pope in Rome. the depiction of contemporary figures in the guise of another. According to another view the patrons. Palazzo Medici-Riccardi). moreover. when for the first time the Church urged painters to be more historically accurate when representing religious subjects. No 4 (2011) 12 . especially footnote 1). is represented in the fresco as happening in Florence. occurred near the Piazza San Marco in Rome. The cycle clearly operates with iconographic flexibility. For example. This tradition would be seriously modified by the Counter Reformation. The late fifteenth-century examples given here. where the depicted characters or settings share the ‘that time’ beholder’s space and time. is matched in the scene directly above. The view shows specifically the piazza outside the Church of Santa Trinita. the triple arches of the Loggia dei Lanzi appear in the background of the Confirmation scene. Several similar examples could be adduced. ornaments or characters. are portrayed among the protagonists. In this period the ‘another’figure. use Renaissance architecture. This transfer of locale. the members of the Medici family. actually mark the summit of a long and consistent tradition. is usually a biblical one. and in this way bears double historicity. A double consideration lies behind the choice of the new location: it has an allusion both to the power of Florence as the new Rome and to the chronicle of the Sassetti family.. however.

In this new story the main role is played not by Gabriel or Mary. a new visual tale is invented. Vol 12. narrative ramification can be defined as a radical step taken by a character in the story to change the course of events. is not only present. Crivelli makes clear that the correspondence between the verbal tale and its visual representation is not obvious. the view of the street and the ‘eyewitnessing’ citizens of the town. Crivelli’s Annunciation belongs not only to biblical Nazareth but. This intrusion indicates the moment when the original story arrives at a crossroad. especially radical Image & Narrative. who interrupts Gabriel to intercede with Mary. it also belongs to Renaissance Ascoli. the coats of arms. Transmedial representations of a story easily turn into ramifications. not recorded in any of the previous visual or written versions of the event. or the other way round. A multiple temporality is achieved by applying anachronistic features. the content of the message is not the arrival of the Redeemer as told in the Bible. the new protagonist. Instead. but rather the arrival of a privilege. St Emidius. but he also intervenes. the Annunciation followed the Biblical storyline with Gabriel and the Virgin. These ramifications are intentional and purposeful. A new character. St Emidius stands for an intrusion: the universal course of Redemption is interrupted and the chain of events is distracted by local historical and political interest. No 4 (2011) 13 . but by St Emidius. by his inclusion of certain episodes and several anachronistic details. distinct from the textual narrative. when transforming a visual tale into verbal. This intervention results in the revision of the storyline. However. for example. The reason Crivelli’s storytelling deserves more attention is that his character. Before the intrusion. with crucial importance for the history of Ascoli. The re-narrated story depicted is about the delivery of a message and what preceded it. this makes for a very rich and very unusual tale. Let us call this phenomenon ‘narrative ramification’. From a narratological point of view. An intervention takes place in the original storyline. often there is a change in the ending of the tale. the viewer’s attention is diverted away from the religious content and is led into Ascoli’s history. but the appearance of Emidius conjoins the Biblical and the contemporary. With his presence. due to the architecture it encloses. The character of St Emidius thus turns the well-known plot of the Annunciation in a completely different direction. Libertas Ecclesiastica. steps into the scene and affects the course of events in a radical way. A certain interference or ramification happens here. the costumes. an altered conclusion. In general. and have nothing to do with the possible limitations of any of the media involved.It is time to address the question of how these anachronisms affect our understanding of Crivelli’s work. Interventions. What story is it that is being told in the Ascoli altarpiece? How is the Annunciation re-narrated here and how is this visual tale constructed by pictorial means? In the Ascoli Annunciation.

Cologne. The term mise-en-abyme is used for a motif in a narrative which is “referring to any part of a work that resembles the larger work in which it occurs” (Nelles 312-313). it seems. whether of the present or of the fifteenth century. The ‘accidental’ historical coincidence that brought Sixtus IV’s letter to Ascoli on 25 March. This is the episode with Antonio Benincasa at the top of the arch. for example. the arrival of the papal message. Art. where an enclosing major form contains the same form but on a smaller scale.. The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses: A. Ludwig Museum). The story of the Ascoli Annunciation In Crivelli’s actualisation. such as that used in heraldry. but now in a smaller scale. had to reach the post-religious era of the twentieth century to be permitted the slightly impudent lightness in the treatment of religious narratives. Any visually acute viewer. The fine linear perspective constructed by Crivelli is subordinated to this narrative unit: the vanishing point is placed exactly on the same axis. This is strengthened both by compositional and thematic means: the consequence is carefully positioned in the pictorial space. the highest power.B. in Van Eyck’s Arnolfini double portrait. in Max Ernst’s deliberately scandalous painting. a microscene. The main motif of the picture. just as the Virgin is interrupted by the salutation of Gabriel. exactly on the feast of the Annunciation. appears visually as a response in a ‘cause and effect’ sequence.interventions into the biblical narratives are rare. it is clear that he is an important and dignified person in the history of the town. and it revises the act of delivering. Vol 12. is not the only thing threaded on this vertical line. for example. the scene with Gabriel and Emidius. should be able to link the two episodes conjoined by the composition with the third. evident. Thus we are to understand a Image & Narrative.E. receiving and accepting the message. as is the Virgin in the biblical story (Lightbown 342). where he receives the papal letter. Benincasa has just been interrupted by the young papal messenger. There. No 4 (2011) 14 . The term was coined by the writer André Gide in 1893. where the cause is the intercession of the figure of St Emidius. This episodic mise-en-abyme motif is applied by Crivelli as a device of narrative expansion. it appears on the vertical axis. the mise-en-abyme motif is primarily identified as mirror reflections. The intercession and its consequence. From the notary’s costume. Through ramification it opens a new storyline. In painting. and the Artist (1926. P. and in its original sense it described the visual effect of a formal repetition. It is a repeated thematic unit. the delivering of the message by Gabriel to the Virgin. is repeated as a mise-en-abyme motif just above the main episode. there is one episode which carries special significance. just above the cause. one also finds the golden whirl of clouds and cherubim indicating the divine presence.

Crivelli’s version celebrates the freedom of the city. An historical narrative operates with memory. the updated environment. The greatest achievement of Crivelli’s altarpiece is the ramification. the shift from religious to historical narratives. Jörg Rüsen specified three qualities that characterise historical narratives. would contribute profoundly to the narrative effect of paintings. at least as they were rendered in late quattrocento Italy. and thus it represents civic ambition. In spite of being primarily a religious object. each of Rüsen’s three qualities is valid for Crivelli’s Annunciation. patrons and spectators to make religious narratives seem actual.visual suggestion. with the help of the anachronistic details. as the time of perception and contemplation. As I argue. In its time.’ (Moshe 430) All the episodes and elements studied here – Emidius’s intercession. as it is seen in Crivelli’s altarpiece. Vol 12. efficient and present. with this altarpiece the citizens of Ascoli could actively experience not only the religious narrative. namely that the cause and its consequence. Anachronism. and finally establishes continuity between the past. it was a large and expensive altarpiece. the intercession of St Emidius in the lower zone and the symbolic act of obtaining the grant in the upper. then it “serves to establish the identity of its authors and listeners”. Image & Narrative. historicising the religious narrative. Anachronism as a narrative device The relationship of time and narration has been addressed in many forms in the domain of the visual: as the idea of punctum temporis. So. which is seen as the fulfilment of the Annunciation. accessible to the general public. Pictorial anachronisms have never previously been studied in a narrative context. It is a device for re-narrating. reinterpreting. in order to make the present understandable and the future imaginable (Rüsen 89). and further. both have divine mandate. pictorial anachronisms. it “mobilizes the experience of past time”. It most likely played a role in contemporary liturgical activity. promotes present time perception and encourages believers to see biblical stories not primarily as ancient historical events but stories that are related to their personal history or personal faith. This was a strategy that enabled painters. as moments in episodic narration. they were offered an historicised. retold story of the Annunciation. It is a small part carrying “as much” significance as the whole that contains it. but. This corresponds with Ron Moshe’s point on this particular narrative device: ‘Mise en abyme is also a rebellion against scale in the quantitative sense. the extradiegetic elements of the painting – suggest that the visual story is a radical reinterpretation of the biblical Annunciation. commissioned for a local church by the community of Ascoli. No 4 (2011) 15 . present and future.

the Council of Florence. In some cases they might be virtuous. Web. 236-37. It is certainly clear that visual narratives set up a different experience of time from that of written narratives. (Barnes and Barnes 259) In the realm of visual storytelling it is better characterised as an elegant painterly device to compress and overlap different periods. is evidence of widespread application. Jonathan. Image & Narrative. No 4 (2011) 16 . Print.3 (1996): 403-17.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 47. n. the obvious anachronism can be non-vicious. If the artist was primarily interested in painting a visually rich. 1 June 2010. 1989): 253-61. Print. Rona. Altarpiece: The Annunciation. Print. Vol 12. eras. in itself. “Image and Narrative. Barnes. warnings against such practices were formulated within art theory and this.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 59. different from the main ‘reality’ of the artwork. If this purpose is clear. Manfred Jahn and Marie-Laure Ryan. Goffen. Verbal narratives are better at separating temporal layers.2 (Summer 1986): 218-62. are better at fusing different moments or temporal layers (they can work simultaneously. with S. London and New York: Routledge. “Time out of Joint: Some Reflections on Anachronism. In some periods. Works Cited Baetens.” The Earlier Italian Schools (National Gallery Catalogue). Images.Anachronism is a device to achieve temporally complex painterly structures. Roger J. It must be concluded that images are able to span not only short intervals but long periods of time and that they can also fuse different locations.” Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory.” Renaissance Quarterly 39. As the Barneses note: chronological inaccuracies could be used for some artistic purposes. as the phenomenon of anachronism shows. It covers the use of different signs to evoke another temporal realm. then the presence of obvious anachronisms might not be vicious. and the Medici Palace Chapel. “Roberto Martelli. 2005. or styles. proleptically or analeptically). Jan. Martin.3 (Summer. David Herman. “Friar Sixtus IV and the Sistine Chapel. “739. structurally complex work. Crivelli’s rendering of the biblical story showed how pictorial time is able to relate the sacred and the dramatic time. Print. pag. Annette and Barnes. an effective narrative strategy still used in contemporary arts. Davies. Crum. Emidius. Eds.

Budapest. “The Restricted Abyss: Nine Problems in the Theory of Mise en Abyme. Rüsen. “Giotto’s Annunciation in the Arena Chapel. Nagel. Robb. Howard.” Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory.” Grove Art Online. Alexander and Wood. Deborah.” The Burlington Magazine 131. Dr. Erwin. Gyöngyvér Horváth obtained her PhD from the University of East Anglia. Print. London: Yale University Press. Print.” History and Theory 26.” The Art Bulletin 87. Mural Decoration in Italian Churches. Print.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 7 (1997): 11-35.Gombrich. Nelles. Padua. 312-13. “Historical Narration: Foundation. 1990. horvathgyongyver@gmail. No 4 (2011) 17 . “Mise en Abyme. Image & Narrative. “The Iconography of the Annunciation in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. Types. recently Horváth joined the Theory Institute of the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. Ron. David Herman.2 (1987): 417-38. Print. Ronald. “The Church of the Miracoli in Venice and Pittoni’s St Jerome Altar-Piece. Web. Tolley. Panofsky. Print.3 (Autumn 1994): 485-532. New Haven. 2005. David M. London and New York: Routledge. Print. Marshall. Norwich. 11 June 2010. Thomas. Jörn. Manfred Jahn and Marie-Laure Ryan. Jacobus. “Toward a New Model of Renaissance Anachronism. Moshe. Print. Lavin. The Place of Narrative. Print. Print. Its Origins and Character. as an Assistant Professor. Christopher S.: Harvard University Press. (December 1936): 480-526. 431-1600.” The Art Bulletin 18. Eds. Carlo Crivelli.” The Art Bulletin 81.” Poetics Today 8. Laura. William.” Renaissance Quarterly 47. Early Netherlandish Painting. Print.1 (March 1999): 93-107. School of World Art Studies and Museology.3 (September 2005): 403-15. “Manipulating the Sacred: Image and Plague in Renaissance Italy. Print. Louise. Lightbown. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Ernst H. Print. Reason.1039 (October 1989): 684-92. 2004. 1953. “Crivelli.26 (December 1987): 87-97. After working as an Assistant Curator of contemporary art for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile. “The Sassetti Chapel Revisited: Santa Trinita and Lorenzo de’Medici. Marilyn Aronberg. Cambridge. Her research is concerned with the theory and historiography of visual narratives. Vol 12.

No 4 (2011) 18 . Vol 12.Image & Narrative.

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