Scala/Art Resource, Courtesy Diocesan Museum, Cortona, Italy

“The Annunciation” by Fra Angelico was painted in the 1430s. The young monk (“Fra” means “Brother”), an important Renaissance artist, endowed Gabriel with sensitivity and gentleness; the angel seems to have reassured a surprised and pious Virgin Mary. Shimmering in sumptuous rose and gold tones, the angel contrasts with the cool white marble of the pillared loggia. In the top left corner, Adam and Eve depart from Eden.

In the infancy narrative of Luke, Jesus is identified as begotten of God at the annunciation to Mary, the moment when she learns that she will bear a son who “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:35).