Monday, February 8, 2016

An ancient Annunciation scene?

This week's New York Times (of all places!) shone the spotlight on ancient wall art from a baptistery in Syria. It appears to show a woman at a well, and was tentatively identified (until very recently) with the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at a well, and heard his promise of "living water" (see John 4). However, an ancient tradition in iconography depicts the Annunciation to Mary as taking place at a well, and there are indications that this Syrian painting may be one of the earliest such images: sketches from the 1932 excavation of the site include lines (of text?) that might be Mary's response, and--most strikingly--a starburst near the woman's abdomen: a powerful representation of the Word being made flesh.

The jury is still out on the meaning of the image, and time may be running out for it, as well, given the destructive zeal for plunder by the IS forces on the ground in Syria.
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