THE ANNUNCIATION, leaf with an arch-topped miniature from a Book of Hours, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[southern Netherlands, later 15th century]
134 x 89mm. At half-length, in a cope patterned with liquid gold, Gabriel salutes the Virgin, who looks up from her book, the Dove of the Holy Spirit descending on gold rays towards her, in a chamber furnished with bed, chair and settle, with a window opening onto a landscape; surrounded by a full border of lilies in a majolica vase, a butterfly, peacock with gold feathers, flowers and fruit, casting shadows on a gold-coloured ground (some loss of surface).
The Annunciation varies slightly from the corresponding miniature in the Ince Blundell Hours, sold in these rooms 23 November 1998, lot 11, by the Master of the David Scenes in the Grimani Breviary, c.1500. The fully detailed background of this leaf brings it closer to the half-length narrative miniatures in the La Flora Hours (Naples, Biblioteca nazionale, I.B.51), by Simon Marmion, who seems to have popularised in manuscript a format already familiar in panel painting. In style this miniature, with larger and more sharply modelled faces, seems closer to the Carpentin Hours (Private Collection), that has been attributed to the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook, datable to the 1480s (see B. Brinkmann, Die flämische Buchmalerei am ende des Burgunderreichs, esp. col pl. 41, pl. 253). The border, with Annunciation lilies and the peacock symbolizing immortality, complements the miniature in meaning and colour. The leaf would have faced the opening of the Office of the Virgin.