An Unconventional Image

Another rewrite of a label from Flickr. The original version of this label takes a long time to get around to explaining what’s special about this painting (why it’s important enough to be in a museum) and to refer to anything specific a viewer can see in the painting (information that can be especially helpful to art novices.) The information is all there, just not in the best possible order.

Some rights reserved by Emily Barney

A possible rewrite:

In The Annunciation, Tanner created an unconventional image of the moment when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the Son of God. Influenced by a recent trip to Egypt and Palestine, Tanner painted Mary as an adolescent dressed in rumpled Middle Eastern peasant clothing, without a halo or other holy attributes, and Gabriel as a shaft of light.

Tanner, the son of a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, specialized in religious subjects, and traveled to the Holy Land to experience firsthand its light, architecture, culture, and people.

Tanner entered this painting in the 1898 Paris Salon exhibition. In 1899, it was bought for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, making it his first work to enter an American museum.

Right off the bat, you know what is special about the painting (it’s an unconventional way to portray the subject matter), and each question raised (for example, what about it is unconventional?) is answered soon after (Mary is an adolescent, no halo).


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