Leaf from a Book of Hours:
The Annunciation (Office of the Virgin, Matins), 1470s
Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum
The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection [Cat. no. 54]
The Annunciation is the traditional introduction to matins, the first of the eight canonical hours. This striking scene recalls the archangel Gabriel's announce-ment to the Virgin Mary that she was to become the mother of God. The humble scene, steeped in monumentality and innocence, honors one of the
most significant moments in Christian history-the coming of God into the world. Flemish artists, in particular, tenderly elaborated this event. The Virgin is usually shown within an architectural interior. Typically her bedroom, this interior space includes a curtained bed, a wooden bench, windows through which a landscape is revealed, and a simple earthenware ewer filled with lilies that proclaim her innocence. Within this private setting, Mary kneels to read from an open book of hours. Her prayer is interrupted by the angel's appearance and she is captured by the artist in stunned surprise.
The miniature is accompanied by an illustration in the margins of the Tree of Jesse, the family tree showing Jesus's human descent from Jesse, the father of King David, through the royal house of Judah. The motif begins in the lower margin with the seated Jesse, from whom a tree grows. David, Solomon, and various kings and prophets can be seen in its branches.