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Bill Viola

The Greeting



Bill Viola (1951-)


The Greeting




Video and sound installation


Dimensions variable

Edition information

Edition of 5 | 1 AP

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Partial and promised gift of Marion Stroud in honor of David A. Ross

Accession number


Object Label

Bill Viola’s large-screen video installation The Greeting was inspired by the Visitation, painted in 1528-29 by Italian Mannerist Jacopo Pontormo. The sixteenth-century painting depicts the visit of the Virgin Mary to her older cousin Elizabeth, who acknowledges that the child Mary is carrying is the Son of God. Viola‘s video sequence echoes the drama of Pontormo’s Visitation, but transforms the ancient Christian moment into an enigmatic contemporary narrative. In this frame, three women are dressed in long, flowing garments and stand in an Italianate architectural setting similar to that in Pontormo’s painting. The woman in the orange dress, her stomach visibly swollen, has just entered the scene from the left, interrupting a conversation and perhaps whispering to the older woman the news of her pregnancy. The woman pushed aside seems to eye the meeting with a tinge of resentment or jealousy. This charged encounter was filmed in less than a minute, but Viola has slowed the video down to ten minutes. The use of extreme slow motion draws attention to the nuances of the women’s gestures and glances and intensifies the psychological dynamic of the exchange.