by Annette Pozzuolo-Alessi
“The Annunciation” is one of the most painted religious icons in the history of the Catholic church. “The Annunciation” portrays the biblical story in which the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and said to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God. Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and you shall bear a son, and you shall call his name: JESUS” (Luke 1:30-32).
“Sometime around 2011, I was inspired to paint my own rendition of “The Annunciation”. At this time, I had not known the amount of times it had already been painted. The inspiration was sparked by a feeling I experienced during a yoga session during that year. I had a clear visual of the painting – a profound, heartfelt emotion directed at the heart of Mary, with a beam of light and a stone window, which made me feel like it was somewhat dated.
When doing portraiture type work, I prefer to work from a model. I needed just the right person to be able to portray this feeling that I had. Searching for about a year trying to figure out who would be the perfect model for this most spiritual expression of love, I found no one. In prayer, I asked God to find someone whom I could use to portray this perfect emotion. Putting the vision aside, I forgot about it for a few years.
When my boys were younger, we made sure that during Christmas and Easter we would always take a picture of our family in front of the church’s altar. There was another family who did the same thing, and we would swap cameras to get the entire family in the shot. One day in the summer of 2014, I saw the family and noticed how big their children got. It amazed me how time changes people. As the family returned from receiving the Eucharist, I watched them return to their pews and noticed their one daughter and how reverent she was, and how she was folding her hands. All of a sudden, in an instant, I heard the words, “She’s the one”! I had chills running up and down my spine! I couldn’t believe it. She was the one to use for the Annunciation painting. She was perfect! The unexpectedness of the situation amazed me. The model for the Annunciation painting that I had completely forgotten about, God had sent her to me Himself!
Two months later, I was able to approach the family after church to discuss with them my painting and the instant inspiration I was given in church earlier that summer. Being in church alone that day, I looked over and saw the family. I heard the words, “Now is the time”. I approached the family after mass. As I was explaining to the mother my idea and wishes to use her daughter to model for me, the young girls face lit up! After agreeing to the idea, I finally realized that I did not even know their names after all these years! When I asked what their daughter’s name was, they replied, “Natalie”. To my astonishment, her name in Italian means “The Nativity” or “The Birth of Christ”! She also happened to be 12 years old, around the age that Mary was when she was asked to be the Mother of God.
The model’s sister, Emily, mentioned that I should add a white dove in the painting. Even though that was not in my original vision, I took her advice. I felt that it would complete the piece, since the white dove represents the Holy Spirit.
There have been many more mysteries that occurred during the creation of this painting regarding the clothing, the location, and the October 13th date of the photo shoot for use of reference. October 13th was a significant date during this painting creation, as well as a very significant date in the history of Our Lady of Fatima and the Catholic church. This was the date when the Divine Mother Mary appeared to three Shepard children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Mary appeared to the children on the 13th of each month from May to October 1917, giving the children messages for the world.
All these mysteries I strongly believe were a divine intervention in the creation of this painting. I also believe that there is a strong message that will be given to mankind through this painting. Whatever the message may be, I can only hope it will be received well.”
– Annette Pozzuolo-Alessi © September 2015
To learn more about the Divine Mother Mary through Our Lady of Fatima, read about it on this website: