Home Introduction Jesus Mary Apostles Saints Spiritual Themes Genesis Moses Deuteronomic History Educating Arte Full new Screen

Joachim and Anne

The Meeting of Joachim and Anne outside the Golden Gate at Jerusalem

Filippino Lippi (1457-1486). Statens Museum for Kunst – Copenhagen. 1497.

Joachim and Anne were married for twenty years, but the marriage had remained childless. They fervently wanted a child. Joachim went to the Temple of Jerusalem to make offerings so that their wish for a child would be fulfilled. But Joachim was turned away by the priests. Since he was childless he was not allowed to stay with the others. Ashamed, Joachim took refuge with shepherds. Then an angel informed him that his prayers were answered and that Anne would give birth to a daughter who was to be the mother of God K1 . The angel gave a sign to Joachim as a token of the truth of the conveyed message: Anne would be waiting for his return at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem. Joachim set off for the town and indeed, Anne was waiting for him at the indicated gate. She flung her arms around him and nine months later a daughter, whom they named Mary, was born.

There is no mention of either Joachim or Anne in the Gospels. But a second century apocryphal ‘Gospel of James’, which is not considered trustworthy by the Catholic Church, tells of the conception of Mary and also gives the story of Anne and Joachim. Thus, the interest in the cult of the Virgin Mary pulled also to the foreground the stories of Anne and Joachim. The main cycle of early paintings on the parents of Mary is probably the series of frescoes of Giotto di Bondone in the Arena chapel of Padua. Saint Anne is often represented in teaching Mary to read. She is also often shown in scenes of the Holy Family, together with Mary.

The embrace of Joachim and Anna at the Golden Gate symbolically conceived Mary. The life of the Virgin had to be mysterious in order to be attractive. So her life had to start with a miracle, with the conception by an elderly lady past fertility, who normally could not bear children anymore. The theme of the miraculous conception runs through many stories of the Bible, as well in the Old as in the New Testament.

So, Filippino Lippi has shown both figures in the middle of his painting. The parents are seen as already middle-aged, so they are somewhat bent. They were used to live together, so they even wear the same clothes. It is an occasion for Filippino Lippi to use the same colours as the cloak in which the Virgin Mary is traditionally dressed: the wonderful blue maphorion. The painting is structured around the two figures, which form the classical pyramid. This blue middle scene contrasts with the softer brownish colours of the shepherds and the bystanders. The bystanders seem to press on Joachim and Anne, forming of their embrace an even more solid block. Jerusalem is thought of as a Renaissance town with buildings reminding Roman and Greek columned halls. The tenderness between the subject figures is evident, as is the gesture of their hands that form a prayer. The meeting between Joachim and Anne is thus an allegory of the Immaculate Conception, predicting the conception of Mary K1 . The painting describes a special event of the life of the Virgin: her Conception.

Remarkable in this painting is the emphasis on the shepherd. This underscores the message of Luke in which shepherds visit the child Jesus at his birth. Filippino Lippi has shown the rough shepherd to the right of the frame. The shepherd has obviously travelled a long time together with Joachim. To the left Lippi represented the delicate, sophisticated life of the courts of the Renaissance city of Florence. For Filippino Lippi was proud of his town of Florence; he called himself on this painting ‘Philippinus de Florentia’.

The ‘Meeting of Joachim and Anne’ is a happy picture. It was probably made in the same mood as Joachim might really have been, because it was painted in the same year the middle-aged Filippino Lippi married Maddalena di Piero Paolo Monti. Filippino would have three sons with Maddalena. Thus our series of pictures on the themes of the New Testament starts on a scene of love. Such scenes are rare. Joachim and Anne embrace in love after a long life that had hardships as well as pleasant moments. The two figures belong to each other. Joachim and Anne were accomplices in so many events and feelings. The scene of Joachim and Anne was always a theme of hope for better times, tenderly painted as here by Filippino Lippi around 1500. It is a scene of two people groping for each other, oblivious of their surroundings and communicating their emotions and aspirations. Communication also is between the author of a book and the reader and these are hence linked as the figures in Lippi’s painting, also isolated from the rest of the world in the act of reading.

Filippino Lippi was the son of one of the first Florentine Renaissance painters, Filippo Lippi. Filippo Lippi’s pupil was the famous Sandro Botticelli and when Filippo died, Sandro took in the boy Filippino or ‘Little Filippo’. Filippo Lippi had asked his friend Fra Diamante, with whom he had worked much on frescoes, to take care of his son. But Fra Diamante placed Filippino with Sandro Botticelli who was regarded as a first-rate artist. The paintings of Filippino Lippi are very much influenced by Botticelli. But Filippino has added his father’s sweetness and tenderness to the magnificent Botticellian scene. Indeed, one can feel the sophistication of Botticelli in the flowing clothes of the courtly ladies and in the pure colours of Joachim and Anne. But Filippino added the true and warm emotions that we sometimes miss in Botticelli. Filippino Lippi also generally took the style of Botticelli one degree further in complexity of the scenes and the landscape. We can feel however that his painting of Joachim and Anne came from his heart, probably as he made it in thanksgiving for his own late marriage. Lippi avoided here overloaded ornament to emphasise emotion. We know that the artist was sincere in his display of sensitivity and his emotions are depicted within the harmony and design of Florentine tradition.

The painting of ‘Joachim and Anna outside the Golden Gate’ is a picture of the great tradition of Florentine art. This was a very spiritual and intellectual art in which the intellectual design was expressed by clear lines and clean colour areas as in Filippino’s picture. But we will see constantly that however much a painter was the product of his time, his individual genius modulated and transformed his art. Filippino Lippi introduced his special kindness and the happiness he felt at the particular event in his personal life. These emotions transformed a painting of outer splendour to an intimate image of tender love.

Other paintings:

Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: January 2007
Book Next Previous

Copyright: René Dewil - All rights reserved. The electronic form of this document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source as 'René Dewil - The Art of Painting - Copyright'. No permission is granted for commercial use and if you would like to reproduce this work for commercial purposes in all or in part, in any form, as in selling it as a book or published compilation, then you must ask for my permission formally and separately.