We would like to thank Professor Börsch-Supan for his detailed commentary on the present work.
The scene of this strange encounter is undoubtedly set in Italy where Blechen lived in the 1820s. The two figures are shown before a statue of the Virgin Mary – possibly at a staging point on a pilgrimage or perhaps at the conclusion of a procession. An imposing Trinitarian monk in a traditional white habit with a blue and white cross is depicted standing beside a young, conspicuously attired woman with a large bouquet of flowers in her lowered left hand. The monk proffers her a lily, not with the intention of handing it to her, but as a symbol of the Annunciation and a warning not to succumb to worldliness and vanity.
Blechen frequently returned to the subject of monks, as in his oil titled Tarantella, now in the collection of the Städel in Frankfurt, and his Mönche bei Terni in the collection of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Professor Börsch-Supan underscores the special significance of the present work in Blechen’s oeuvre: It is not just the spirited bravura of his execution and the translucence of the darkly shimmering tones, it is the depth of his psychological observation that ranks this, albeit small, painting above the level of a study or an anecdotal piece.