Sandro Botticelli's The Cestello Annunciation

Botticelli’s "The Cestello Annunciation"

Botticelli, The Cestello Annunciation1489, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

I love a good Annunciation. It’s an intimate scene between the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary and I have always thought its simplicity lends itself well to an artist putting their own stamp on it. There’s no shortage of famous Annunciations and Botticelli did a few of them, but I think this is my favorite. 


First of all, it has a great vibe to it. It’s so quiet and lovely. Gabriel, crouching in a sort of bow, looks so light on his feet, as if he just landed. Mary, rather than being startled, looks to be both politely demurring, and graciously accepting the news. The reds and blues are warm and rich, allowing our eyes to easily float around the composition.

I think this is exactly what comes to mind when people think of classical Renaissance painting – in so much as anybody actually spends their time thinking about such things. And it has everything you need to pass an Art History 101 exam on the subject. Maybe it’s easy to forget this now, but one point perspective – a method of rendering realistic three-dimensional space by having the various orthogonals within the picture converge on a single vanishing point in the horizon – was the hottest artistic innovation of its day. That’s what Botticelli’s doing with the floor pattern here. He’s showing off his understanding of the latest and greatest technique. But that’s not what makes the composition engaging. It’s the complementing figures of Gabriel and Mary that I love so much. They form a sort of stretched yin-yang that keeps us engaged in the foreground while the linear perspective sends our gaze back towards this fantastical – very Flemish – landscape through the window. 

Just like I love a good Annunciation, I’m never going to say no to fantastical backgrounds in Renaissance paintings. They’re a funny contrast to the academic and methodical adherence to linear perspective. It’s like, after having painted a very realistic representation of the interior space, Botticelli said to himself “That’s enough of that realistic stuff, I want to put a Disney castle in the background.” It’s quirky and weird and I love it. 

Lastly, just look at Mary’s face. It’s so beautiful and relaxing. You can’t not smile when you linger on it. It lowers your blood pressure just looking at it. Like Benazepril in Tempera. 

But would it make a good puzzle?


Absolutely, I think this would make a terrific 300+ piece puzzle. The drapery would be fun. Parsing out the different red tones. Gabriel’s wings. The opportunity for some color line cuts in the window. Bring. It. On.


There are some beautiful blocks of color in the image that will assist the puzzler in creating “islands” of pieces for assembly. The upper corners of the image would be good for an irregular border, and there are plenty of lines throughout that could be color line cut if a puzzler wants to increase the difficulty of a puzzle.

What do you think?

If you'd like this piece crafted into a wonderful hand-cut puzzle, use the discount code GUSTUM for 10% off. Elms Club members can stack their CLUBMEMBER discount for an additional 15% off.