Antonello da Messina: A Painter not Human

Ingrid D. Rowland at the NYRB:

Antonello da Messina: Annunciate Madonna, 17 3/4 x 13 1/2 inches, 1475–1476

There are several reasons why Antonello is not as well known today as artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, or Caravaggio, though he is undoubtedly their equal. First of all, a frustratingly small sample of his work still exists, for his beautiful city, founded by Greeks in Homer’s time (circa 730 BCE), sits on one of the Mediterranean’s major fault lines and has paid the price for that precarious location many times over. Since Caravaggio’s visit in 1608, Messina has been leveled by two catastrophic earthquakes, one in 1783 and another in 1908, when thirty seconds of seismic shaking toppled more than nine tenths of the city’s buildings. Ten minutes later, a forty-foot tsunami crashed down on the devastated port, while a pelting rain continued off and on for miserable weeks, complicating rescue efforts and destroying many of the books, documents, and works of art that had survived the quake, the wave, and the aftershocks (almost three hundred of them).

more here.