Gabriel and Mary are presented within an elaborately furnished interior that would have been familiar to sixteenth-century viewers. However, most of the objects, arranged unobtrusively within the room, carry symbolic meaning. The altarpiece and the woodcut on the wall, for example, show Old Testament prophets as prefigurations of New Testament themes. Influenced by Italian art, Joos appropriated a new canon of beauty, a new repertory of rhetorical gesture, and a striking grace of movement in his figures.
Inscription: Inscribed (background, on predella of altarpiece): ABRAHAM; MELCHICED [Melchizedek]
Francis Douce, London (until d. 1834); Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, Goodrich Court, Herefordshire (1834–d. 1848); his cousin, Lt. Col. Augustus Meyrick, Goodrich Court (from 1848); ?his son, Gen. A. W. H. Meyrick, Goodrich Court (until about 1872); Mr. W. Twopenny, Woodstock Park, Sittingbourne; Mr. B. M. Twopenny (until 1896; sale, Christie's, London, June 20, 1896, no. 71, as by Martin Schongauer; for £504 to Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell); [Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell, London, from 1896]; Jules Porgès, Paris (by 1902–about 1920, as by the Maître dit de la Mort de Marie or Schongauer); [Kleinberger, Paris and New York]; Michael Friedsam, New York (by 1924–d. 1931)
London. South Kensington Museum. "The Meyrick Collection," 1869, no. 1413 (as Flemish, 15th century, lent by Col. Meyrick).
Bruges. Palais du Gouvernement. "Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien," June 15–September 15, 1902, no. 276 [in an earlier printing of the catalogue listed as by Martin Schongauer; later printing corrected to Master of the Death of Mary, lent by Jules Porgès].
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Flemish Primitives," 1929, no. 55 (lent by Michael Friedsam).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 97.
Pictures by Old Masters of W.E. Biscoe, Esq. Also Important Pictures . . . from Different Sources. Christie's, London. June 20, 1896, no. 71, as by Martin Schongauer.
Georges H. de Loo Palais du Gouvernement, Bruges. Exposition de tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe et XVIe siècles: catalogue critique précédé d'une introduction sur l'identité de certains maîtres anonymes. Ghent, 1902, p. 74, no. 276, as by the Master of the Death of the Virgin (Joos van der Beke dit Van Cleve).
W. H. James Weale. Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien, Bruges. Première section: tableaux. Catalogue. Exh. cat., Palais du Gouvernement. Bruges, 1902, p. 105, no. 276, as by the Master of the Death of the Virgin, but apparently an earlier printing of the same catalogue lists it as by Martin Schöngauer; notes (p. XXX) that all attributions given in the catalogue are those provided by owners.
[E.] Firmenich–Richartz inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker. Vol. 3, Leipzig, 1909, p. 217, dates it in his late period, lists it in the collection of Jules Porgès [Paris].
Max J. Friedländer. Von Eyck bis Bruegel: Studien zur Geschichte der Niederländischen Malerei. Berlin, 1916, p. 186, lists it with the works of Joos van Cleve.
Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, p. 403, notes that while the general design of our painting is borrowed from Jan Joest's panel in Calcar [Church of Saint Nicholas] the figure of Gabriel owes much to Gerard David's Annunciation at Sigmaringen [collection Hohenzollern–Sigmaringen, now MMA 50.145.9ab].
Friedrich Winkler. Die altniederländische Malerei: Die Malerei in Belgien und Holland von 1400–1600. Berlin, 1924, p. 249, as by Joos.
William B. M'Cormick. "Michael Friedsam Collection." International Studio 80 (November 1924), p. 122, ill.
Ludwig von Baldass. Joos van Cleve, der Meister des Todes Mariä. Vienna, 1925, p. 25, no. 48, fig. 51, as by Joos, about 1525.
Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 139, as by Joos van Cleve, who is "identical with the so-called 'Master of the Death of the Virgin'"; places it in his later period, about 1530.
E. M. Sperling. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Flemish Primitives. Exh. cat., F. Kleinberger Galleries, Inc., New York. New York, 1929, p. 170, no. 55, ill.
The Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 13, 14th ed. London, 1929, p. 147.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 9, Joos van Cleve, Jan Provost, Joachim Patenier. Berlin, 1931, p. 130, no. 25, dates it about 1525.
Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), pp. 24–25, no. 34, ill.
"Friedsam Bequest to be Exhibited Next November." Art News 30 (January 2, 1932), p. 13, prints Bryson Burroughs's survey of the Friedsam paintings.
Erwin Panofsky. "The Friedsam Annunciation and the Problem of the Ghent Altarpiece." Art Bulletin 17 (December 1935), pp. 450–53 n. 32, fig. 28, discusses the symbolism of numerous objects in this painting, as well as the juxtaposition of Old and New Testament figures and narratives; notes that the small altarpiece in the background represents the Adoration of the Magi, an event after the Annunciation, while its shutters represent the Meeting of Abraham and Melchisedek, a prefiguration of the Last Supper; observes that our panel "almost teems with intricately symbolical details, so that the overdevelopment of fifteenth century tendencies which characterizes the 'mannerism' of Joos van Cleve and his Antwerp contemporaries can be observed not only in style, but also in iconography"
G. M. A. R. "Notes." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (December 1942), ill. on front cover and inside front cover (color, overall and detail), provides brief biographical notes on the artist.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 135–37, ill., date it about 1525; compare the design of our picture to the Annunciation panel in Jan Joest's altarpiece in Calcar (Church of Saint Nicholas), which Joos van Cleve helped to paint.
Julius S. Held. "A Tondo by Cornelis Engebrechtsz." Oud-Holland 67, no. 1 (1952), pp. 236–37 n. 15, notes that a small tondo comparable to Memling's Salvator Mundi and Virgin and Child [MMA 32.100.54 and 32.100.59] hangs over the head end of the bed.
Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 92, 131, fig. 34, dates it about 1510, close to Joos's years of appprenticeship with Jan Joest.
A. Hyatt Mayor. Prints & People: A Social History of Printed Pictures. New York, 1971, unpaginated, fig. 90 (detail), suggests that the hand-colored woodcut of Moses on the back wall is a lost print by Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen; notes that "before about 1700 prints were commonly tacked (or fixed with wax) to walls".
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 9, part 1, Joos van Cleve, Jan Provost, Joachim Patenier. New York, 1972, p. 55, no. 25, pl. 47.
Alan M. Fern. "The Print as Subject." Baltimore Museum of Art Annual 4, part 2 (1972), pp. 102–3, ill.
Elga Lanc. "Die religiösen Bilder des Joos van Cleve." PhD diss., Universität Wien, 1972, p. 131, fig. 142.
John Oliver Hand. "Joos van Cleve: The Early and Mature Works." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1978, pp. 196–98, 303, no. 54, fig. 64, dates it about 1525; comments that the easy use of objects loaded with symbolic meaning suggests a certain standardization of the iconographic vocabulary.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Underdrawings in Paintings by Joos van Cleve at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Le dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture. Ed. Roger van Schoute and Dominique Hollanders-Favart. Colloque 4, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982, pp. 161–63, 166 nn. 7–9, ill. (including reflectograms of details), discusses the fluid underdrawing which is followed in the painted layers with minor adjustments.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "New Insights into Joos van Cleve as a Draughtsman." Essays in Northern European Art Presented to Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann on His Sixtieth Birthday. Ed. Anne-Marie Logan. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1983, p. 16, finds in the similarities in underdrawing between the present work and Joos's Crucifixion altarpiece [MMA 41.190.20a–c] compelling evidence of the same hand at work.
Susan Koslow. "The Curtain-Sack: A Newly Discovered Incarnation Motif in Rogier van der Weyden's 'Columba Annunciation'." Artibus et Historiae no. 13 (1986), pp. 28, 32, ill., interprets the curtain sack of the bed as an analogy of form representative of the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh.
Introduction by James Snyder inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance in the North. New York, 1987, pp. 50, 52, ill. (color), sees the affluent domestic interior as a reflection of the prosperity of Antwerp, where the artist worked.
Martha Wolff. "An Image of Compassion: Dieric Bouts's Sorrowing Madonna." Museum Studies 15, no. 2 (1989), pp. 115–16, ill., comments on the numerous aids to private devotion used in 15th– and 16th–century Flanders that are depicted in this painting.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke inFlemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, p. 432, no. 280, ill.
Ilja M. Veldman inDie Maler Tom Ring. Ed. Angelika Lorenz. Exh. cat., Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte. Münster, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 72–73, ill.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "A Meeting of Sacred and Secular Worlds." From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 69, 92, 114, 118, 360, 364–65, no. 97, ill. (color), dates it about 1525, noting that Joos must have been familiar with David's Annunciation from the Cervara Altarpiece of 1506 (MMA 50.145.9ab).
Henk van Os inNetherlandish Art in the Rijksmuseum, 1400–1600. Ed. Jan Piet Filedt Kok et al. Vol. 1, Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2000, p. 11, fig. 1 (color), reproduces objects similar to those decorating the Virgin's bedroom here.
Michaela Krieger inGenie ohne Namen: Der Meister des Bartholomäus-Altars. Ed. Rainer Budde and Roland Krischel. Exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Cologne, 2001, p. 239 n. 64.
Dagmar Eichberger. Leben mit Kunst, Wirken durch Kunst: Sammelwesen und Hofkunst unter Margarete von Österreich, Regentin der Niederlande. Turnhout, Belgium, 2002, p. 104, ill.
John Oliver Hand. Joos van Cleve: The Complete Paintings. New Haven, 2004, pp. 84, 148, no. 58, fig. 84 (color), sees the influence of Gerard David's Annunciation panels (MMA 50.145.9ab) and dates it about 1525.
Annette LeZotte. The Home Setting in Early Netherlandish Paintings: A Statistical and Iconographical Analysis of Fifteenth- and Early Sixteenth-Century Domestic Imagery. Lewiston, N.Y., 2008, pp. 39, 41–42, 64, 99–100, 107, 112–23, 153–57, asserts that this Annunciation "displays a variety of art objects which work together to communicate the identity of the Van Cleve workshop, the complex iconography and theological associations of the Biblical scene, and perhaps most significantly the socio-historical milieu in the city of Antwerp during the years after the start of the Protestant Reformation"; claims that it was rare for an artist to represent an illumination, a print and a panel painting within a single composition, as is the case here, and sees this as indicating a softening of guild regulations and the development of a collaborative environment in Antwerp by 1525, the panel's [approximate] date of execution; also sees the presence of these objects in a single work as a sign that "the need to eliminate visual references to the work of competing craftsmen may have diminished"; believes that "Joos van Cleve's emphasis on such 'images within images' in his Annunciation also served to promote the importance of art in Catholic devotional practice at a time when the use of imagery as part of the religious experience was being questioned by most Protestant Reformers".
Peter van den Brink inJoos van Cleve, Leonardo des Nordens. Ed. Peter van den Brink et al. Exh. cat., Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen. Stuttgart, 2011, p. 17.
Lynn F. Jacobs. Opening Doors: The Early Netherlandish Triptych Reinterpreted. University Park, Pa., 2012, pp. ix, 17, 50, 296 n. 98, fig. 3.
Gianluca Zanelli inJoos van Cleve: il trittico di San Donato. Ed. Gianluca Zanelli. Genoa, 2016, pp. 55, 61 n. 134, fig. 37 (color), as datable in the first half of the 1520s.
Old Masters: Day Sale. Christie's, London. July 7, 2017, p. 53, under no. 138.