Claire Maurice Denis has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
In April 1889, Denis painted an Annunciation scene that was inspired by Fra Angelico's paintings and Byzantine icons, and later that year he executed a second larger version (coll. Musée Départmental Maurice Denis, Saint-Germain-en-Laye). The figure of Mary was based on Denis's memory of Jeanne Dufour, a girl he had met in church when he was fifteen years old and with whom he had been infatuated. Artists such as Denis, Emile Bernard and Odilon Redon (see lots 118 and 120) began using Christian imagery in their work as a response to the Catholic revival movement popular in France during this period. Over the course of the next two years, Denis reworked the composition six times, each picture varying only in painterly technique and subtle differences of detail. In 1890 he exhibited a pointillist version at the Salon des Indépendants; its title Mystère catholique had been inspired by his reading of the symbolist poet Adolphe Rette. This version resonated with the avant-garde symbolist group and, in an article about the picture, Rette wrote: "(It) has an extraordinary suavity: what harmony of lines and what sweetness of tone! Above all, there is the Virgin, a great lily leaning slightly towards the approaching Word, almost childlike in her wonder and emotion, with a pure oval face. The landscape glimpsed through the window has rolling, fleeting lines which miraculously complete this symbol of grace" ("Septième exposition des artistes indépendants-Notes cursives," L'Ermitage, May 1891, p. 299). There are only three reduced copies of this pointillist painting recorded in the list of commissions in the artist's notebooks: the present painting, commissioned by the actor and art collector Ernest Coquelin-Cadet; another for the critic Jules Claretie where Coquelin-Cadet acted as middleman (coll. Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo); and a third for his good friend, the actor Aurélien Lugné-Poe.