The 'Annunciation,' by Carlo Crivelli
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Wonders In The Sky - Unexplained Aerial Objects From Antiquity To Modern Times - and Their Impact on Human Culture, History, and Beliefs - Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck
Aerial phenomena in classical art
In ancient times, up till a couple of centuries ago, religious art was the most common form of artistic expression. For centuries, painters created tapestries and pictures representing the Virgin, Christ, the Nativity, and scenes from the Old Testament. During those centuries comets and meteorites, triple suns and moons were also very commonly chronicled and taken seriously.
An excellent example of this problem arises in connection with the Annunciation of Carlo Crivelli displayed at the National Gallery of London, because it seems to show a hovering disk-like object sending a precisely collimated beam of golden light to Mary, as she receives the message that she has been chosen to conceive the Son of God.
A modern critic named Cuoghi sees nothing unusual in this painting because "there is a vast amount of Annunciations in which a ray descends from the sky reaching the Madonna. Furthermore, as far as the Crivelli painting is concerned, (...) the object in the sky is formed by a circle of clouds inside which there are two circles of small angels. It is a very common way of representing the divinity, visible in so many works of sacred art. The same particular in the Annunciation of Carlo Crivelli...."
One could point out that this argument actually brings water to the ufologist's mill: If the origin of the message to Mary is represented as a bizarre hovering disk full of celestial beings, doesn't that suggest that knowledgeable artists placed this event into the category of specific interaction between humans and intelligent forces influencing us from the sky?
This case opens an interesting discussion about the representation of unusual phenomena in art when the painting is not contemporary with the events depicted. In this case the "disk" corresponds to nothing in the biblical narrative, any more than other objects in the building such as the expensive drapes or the birds. We can only say that the story of God's selection of Mary as the mother of Christ evoked a connection in the artist's mind to a complex artifact hovering in the sky, which served as the source of a golden beam. While this connection is interesting, it tells us nothing new about Mary's actual experience.
Paintings do not offer valid evidence about the periods they represent. An image of the Virgin Mary with a disk-shaped object flying in the background, if painted centuries after the event, tells us nothing of the period in which Mary lived. However it does tell how the event is being interpreted by the society surrounding the artist, which is valuable in itself and should be noted.