Viewers of Renaissance representations of the Annunciation miss an important irony. Where Mary is figured as unimpressed by Gabriel's proposal, she is upholding a masculinist ideal of female virtue. Where she is figured as delighted by the news, she represents an alternative feminine ideal that continues to be attractive to women and feminists, today. Inspired by the writings of Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, I figure Mary in Renaissance representations of the Annunciation as contesting an ideal of feminine virtue that would deny her sexual difference and deny her pleasure in fulfilling her role as the bride and mother of God.

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