The annunciation triptych, Robert Campin. 1427-32. Cloisters Museum, New York. White Tara tangka (detail). Central Tibet, from a Gelukpa Monastery, 19th century. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 5/15/04
THE WHITE LILY
The water lily and the lotus are sometimes interchangeable in mythological iconography. As a symbol of rebirth and creation, this flower appears throughout world mythology. Its earliest mythic origins might be Egyptian though an eight-petalled flower, bearing a striking resemblance to later Buddhist depictions of the lotus, also shows up in the stone face of a 7000 year old passage tomb in Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland.
The white lotus is the seat of the Buddha and the goddess White Tara. In the visual vocabulary of Christian iconography, the white lily (Lilium candidum, also known as the madonna lily) often appears in depictions of the annunciation. In this context, the lily represents purity and chastity.