The Annunciation from a Book of Hours, 1485–90
Tempera and gold leaf on parchment; 3 3/4 x 2 3/8 in. (9.6 x 6 cm)
Gift of Peter Sharrer, 2004 (2004.564)
As part of a daily cycle of prayers in honor of the Virgin, Matins is habitually illustrated by an Annunciation, with the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will bear the infant Jesus. Inhabitual, however, are details of this composition by Jean Bourdichon of Tours, the foremost illuminator to the court of France during the reigns of Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I (1461–1547). Despite his magnificent wings, the angel appearing from the right with crossed arms seems less a heavenly apparition than a confidant. However, it is the golden light suffusing the scene that conveys an otherworldly aspect. Originally the image would have been framed by a floral border, partly visible at the upper left and upper right, and by the opening words of the prayers.