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Triegel, Michael - VM - Patrik Scherrer

Michael Triegel: Annunciation

Salvation History

by Patrik Scherrer

The naked woman on the table covered with two tablecloths is disturbing. Motionless, as if laid out, she lies in a recess underneath a stone arch. Behind her a hanging cloth partly hides the black background. Above her feet an angel is suspended in the air, reminding us of the messengers in Renaissance annunciations. The angel is very small in comparison to the woman, greeting her in festive dress, while the woman lies naked and still.

Is this some kind of representation of the Annunciation? Is it not without respect to render the woman so naked? Why is she lying on this table? Why is she placed in a recess that looks like a passageway? What does the green cloth behind her signify? And why this angel? There are many more questions we could ask about this enigmatic painting. We need to start looking very carefully in order to uncover the meaning of it all.

Let’s start with the woman. Lying completely straight she divides the image in an upper and lower half. She does not move yet is not dead. Her eyes are open and she holds her arms close to her body. Her body exhibits a natural tension. Her nakedness seems deliberate and expresses willingness and surrender, yet without sexual overtones. She rather looks like a patient on an operating table or a sacrificial lamb on an altar. This woman seems prepared to give up everything for the ones she loves. The threatening black background indicates that it could involve her death.

Underneath the arch she lies in a passageway in a kind of borderline experience, between light and dark, life and death. At the boundary hangs a green cloth which also forms the central background of the lying woman. With its green colour and almost rectangular form it may be a symbol for the earth. With its flowers and fruits it may remind us of the biblical Paradise with the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge in its midst. The red seam may symbolize the cherubim who guard Paradise with flaming swords. It may only be entered from above and from its front side, there where the naked woman lies on the table. She lies exactly in the middle of the cloth, so that her womb is placed precisely in the center of this symbolical Paradise.  

In front of this green fabric the woman appears as the new Eve. She is willing to undo the pride of her forefathers through her humility. While Adam and Eve were afraid and covered themselves because of their nakedness before the Holy One, here the new Eve uncovers herself without fear. In the same place where once were sin and mistrust, now salvation comes into the world through the trust and surrender of Mary. The motif of the pomegranate on the fabric alludes to life and fertility. Placed here between the angel and Mary, it refers to Jesus, the fruit of her womb.

As a messenger from another time and world the angel opens his hands in greeting, while cautiously carrying the invisible Word to Mary. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:28,31,35, 38 NRSV) The artist emphasizes the unconditional surrender of this naked woman, who lays herself bare before God to be taken by him as by a bridegroom, become pregnant and carry his child under her heart. In her flesh his Word will dwell, take on human form and follow the transitory path of all earthly life.   

In the manner she lies there, Mary strongly reminds us of images of Jesus in his grave. Through her YES she is filled by the Holy Spirit with new life like a few decades later her son. With her surrender she anticipates the surrender of her son on the cross, so that he can bring about the redemption and resurrection of the whole human race.

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Michael Triegel: Annunciation2008, mixed technique, 75 x 106 cm, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 and Galerie Schwind GmbH, Leipzig.

Michael Triegel was born in 1968 in Erfurt, Germany. He is a painter, illustrator and graphic artist based in Leipzig. He studied painting and graphic art under Arno Rink at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig from 1990 to 1995. His paintings are highly influenced by Renaissance art. He is a key representative of the “New Leipzig School.” He is best known for his portraits, including, famously, a portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2010. Born in East Germany in 1968, he came of age under a politicized system of art training that expected unconditional obedience to communist ideology and propaganda. After the end of the Cold War when he could travel and work without impediments, Triegel’s attention turned to investigating the relevance of religious iconography in the 21st century. After having done various commissions for Catholic and Lutheran churches and clergymen, Triegel was baptised in 2014. In 2015 Die Zeit called him "Germany's most famous religious artist".

Patrik Scherrer is the driving force behind the German website Bildimpuls. Every fortnight he sends out a ‘Bildimpuls’ or visual meditation, in which he focuses on contemporary Christian and religious art from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. He studied theology and works with the mentally handicapped. He wrote the book Gott in Sicht? 33 Impulse zum christlichen Glauben aus der Pinakothek der Moderne, Schnell & Steiner, 2005. On the Bildimpuls website there is also a lot of information about artists, books, museums, exhibitions and organizations, see www.bildimpuls.de.   

ArtWay Visual Meditation 8 March 2020