The white lilies held by Gabriel are a symbol of Mary's purity and innocence, often appearing in depictions of the Annunciation.
Although Veronese is best known for his large-scale, pageant-like presentations, here the artist has taken the narrative of the Annunciation (the announcement of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a son) and compressed the figures close to one another, creating a startling intimacy. According to a tradition established by the medieval writer Saint Bernard, Mary has been reading from the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah (7:14), "A young woman is with child and she will bear a son."
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