The city of Florence is awash with images of the Annunciation, but surely one of the strangest, and certainly one of the largest, depictions can be found in the loggia of the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, the city's oldest hospital.
The image takes the form of a fresco and was painted, circa 1560, by Taddeo Zuccari (1529-66).
In the centre of the painting a cat is curled up asleep on a chair. Is it just a domestic detail or does it have another meaning? Given its prominence in the painting, I think the latter.
Its inclusion may refer to a medieval saying that the Devil was trapped by Christ’s incarnation in the way that a mouse is trapped by a cat.
A startled cat appears in an earlier image of the Annunciation (1534-5) by Lorenzo Lotto (c. 1480-1556), but in this case I think its presence is simply naturalistic rather than symbolic.
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