That captured here is the earlier of two and can now be found at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It was completed around 1609-10, and is a typically large oil on canvas, standing at 224cm x 200cm. The Jesuit college in Antwerp commissioned this first painting.
Peter Paul Rubens was a significant part of the Baroque art movement, coming soon after the achievements of the earlier Renaissance masters. It was also now that European art would not be quite so dominated by Italy as it was before, with famous names starting to appear in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and France.
The artist's second version of The Annunciation came many years later in 1628 and was composed very differently. It is now housed at the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, where it has remained since the mid-1950s. The work was actually begun shortly after the original version was completed, but was left half finished until nearly 20 years later. Rubens also produced four versions of The Adoration of the Magi.
Many famous names from the art world have re-visited themes and subjects on countless occasions in order to experiment with materials, lighting and so forth. Monet famously captured Haystacks and Water lilies in all manner of different conditions. In the case of Rubens with Annunciation, however, these are two very separate artworks, predominantly in the manner in which the figures are placed across each scene.
It is the first version that holds a relatively traditional composition, perhaps the artist then decided to push the boundaries in his follow-up version. The length of time that he spent on the second version also would have influenced his decision making around its style and layout.
As with most Christian themes and narratives, famous names from the world of the Renaissance have covered The Annunciation countless times, well beyond just those found in the career of Rubens. Some of the best examples have come from Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Sandro Botticelli and Raphael.