Manuscript Illumination with the Annunciation in an Initial R, from a Gradual

Upper Rhenish

Not on view

Here, the letter “R” opens the Introit, or entrance hymn, “Rorate caeli de super” (Drop down dew, you heavens, from above), sung on the Feast of the Annunciation. This feast day was one of the most important in the Church calendar, celebrating the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. That moment is exquisitely illustrated on this leaf, which was cut from a Dominican choir book. Probably painted by the nuns of the convent of Sankt Katharinenthal, the figures of the Archangel and the Virgin are pictured against a burnished gold background. The Virgin lifts both hands as the dove of the Holy Ghost whispers in her ear. The detailed refinement of the figures’ faces, the elongated sway of their bodies, and the intimate scale of the scene are characteristic of a number of related cuttings, all thought to come from the same manuscript.

Manuscript Illumination with the Annunciation in an Initial R, from a Gradual, Tempera, ink and gold on parchment, Upper Rhenish

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