This work depicts a lively outdoor scene in pen and ink with grey wash and pink and blue watercolor. The setting is replete with lush foliage and populated by several figures and animals. A nude female figure stands holding onto a slender fruit tree looking over a body of water in which a winged boy wades holding his hands to his head. Another nude female figure is shown seated on the right holding a dog tied to a leash. Two playful birds and another winged boy are shown in the bottom foreground.
A woman wearing long robes sits holding a pen in her right hand and props up a blank tablet in her lap. A putto helps support the table from behind and points toward the seated figure. A pot of ink with another pen appears next to his foot.
The print depicts an ancient prophetess, known as a sibyl, holding a pen and awaiting a prophecy that she will inscribe on the blank tablet held in her lap. The chiaroscuro woodcut was probably made by Coriolano after a drawing by the famous painter Guido Reni (1575-1642). Reni, in turn, apparently found inspiration for this work in a chiaroscuro woodcut of a similar subject made by the artist Ugo da Carpi after Raphael over a century earlier.
An angel, draped with a flowing red mantle, descends on the left from a bank of clouds. He holds a scepter and twisting scroll in his left hand while he points with his right toward a white dove encircled by a halo of light that descends toward a woman dressed in long robes and a veil. She sits, holding a book open on the lectern before her, and draws back slightly with her right hand raised and her eyes downcast. Six cherubim sit above on the edge of the cloudbank, which opens to reveal a male figure barely visible in the blinding light that fills the cloud.
This painting, formerly part of an altarpiece, depicts the Annunciation, an episode recounted in the gospel of Luke in which the archangel Gabriel declared to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Christ. Gabriel swoops toward Mary on the left from a dramatically lit cloudbank in which God sits engulfed in light. Mary, interrupted at her reading, looks downward with an expression of humility and submission while the white dove of the Holy Spirit descends toward her. The white lilies in the vase on the balustrade symbolize her purity, while the glass vase serves as a metaphor for how she became pregnant without sin. The animated poses of the figures, the dramatic tonal range of the painting, the passages of vivid color and the energetic brushwork combine to invigorate the scene with an exuberant theatricality.