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Icon - The Annunciation

The Annunciation

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Greece (made)

  • Date:

    About 1704 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Anagnostou, Angelos (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tempera on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Major R. G. Gayer Anderson

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case SF, shelf 9

Physical description

Religious icon painting

Place of Origin

Greece (made)


About 1704 (made)


Anagnostou, Angelos (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Tempera on panel


Height: 18.5 in approx., Width: 13.25 in approx.

Object history note

Given by Major R. G. Gayer Anderson, 1942

This icon is one of six panels donated to the V&A by Major R G Gayer Anderson in 1942 (W.11-1942, W.12-1942, W.13-1942, W.14-1942, W.15-1942, W.16-1942), and one of a set of four icons attributed to the same artist, Angelos Anagnostou, about whom no information survives. Major Gayer-Anderson was a keen Orientalist who had lived in Cairo for many years until ill health forced him back to his house in Suffolk in 1942, the same year as this donation. His vast collection of antiquities and furnishings was divided primarily between the Major Gayer-Anderson Museum in Cairo (composed of his seventeenth-century house and all of its furnishings), and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which became the beneficiary of his collection of Egyptian antiquities.

Historical significance: The dimensions and style employed in this icon identify it immediately as one of a set of icons by Angelos Anagnostou. Like the previous panel (W.11-1942), this icon is probably from the festival tier of an iconostasis, although the Annunciation is often depicted on the royal doors in the centre of the iconostasis. Series of icons depicting the great feasts of the liturgical year were produced for many churches in the orthodox world and used to decorate the iconostasis. The quality of the painting is very good and its condition is good despite some surface wear and woodworm damage. In the scene, the archangel Gabriel walks toward the Virgin, who has been surprised while she was reading the book to her right. In earlier examples of the Annunciation, the Virgin is shown holding a spindle and a ball of yarn, but this variant with a book is commonly found as well.
This icon was one of the panels examined by raman microscopy scan. The pigment analysis reveals the use of Prussian blue, a material not commonly available until the mid eighteenth century. This makes the proposed date of 1704 a difficult one to support based on the inscription, but it is not impossible that Prussian blue could have been used in the first twenty years of the eighteenth century.

Descriptive line

Icon, 'The Annunciation', Angelos Anagnostou, about 1704

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Lucia Burgio (1-2), Robin J.H. Clark (2) and Krini Theodoraki (3),"Ramen microscopy of Greek icons: identification of unusual pigments", in Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy, Volume 59, Issue 10, August 2003, Pages 2371-2389. Georaman 2002, Fifth International Conference on Raman Spectroscopy Applied to the Earth Sciences. (Article available online)

1. Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London SW7 2RL, UK.
2. Christopher Ingold Laboratories, University College London, 20 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AJ, UK.
3. Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, UK.

Abstract Five Greek icons, made between the 15th and the 18th centuries and now belonging to the Victoria and Albert Museum collections, were analysed by energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF), optical microscopy and Raman microscopy in order to determine the stratigraphy of the artworks and the identity of the pigments used. Together with common pigments, such as red lake, vermilion, red lead, red iron oxide, orpiment, yellow ochre, lead white, chalk, gypsum, anhydrite, Prussian blue, indigo and a copper-containing green, a few unusual materials were identified, specifically pararealgar (a yellow arsenic sulfide, As4S4), its precursor the c-phase, and lead tin yellow type II (PbSn1-xSixO3). Attention is drawn to the complementarity of the techniques used for the pigment identifications. Article Outline 1. Introduction
2. Experimental
2.1. Energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence
2.2. Optical microscopy
2.3. Raman microscopy
3. The icons
3.1. The Ascension (W.15-1940)
3.2. The Annunciation (W.12-1942) and the Entry into Jerusalem (W.14-1942)
3.3. The Presentation to the Temple (W.4-1927) and the Entry into Jerusalem (W. 5-1927)
4. Results
4.1. Grounds
4.2. Paint layers
4.3. The Ascension (W.15-1940)
4.4. The Annunciation (W.12-1942)
4.5. The Entry into Jerusalem (W.14-1942)
4.6. The Presentation to the Temple (W.4-1927)
4.7. The Entry into Jerusalem (W.5-1927)
5. Discussion
6. Conclusion

Production Note

See W.11-1942, signed by Anagnostou and dated 1704


Tempera; Panel




Paintings; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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