(Flanders, doubtless Bruges, second half of the 15th century). 100 x 64 mm. (4 x 2 1/2"). No text on the side with the miniature, and blank on the other side.
Verso WITH AN ANIMATED FULL BORDER containing acanthus leaves and much other vegetation as well as many burnished gold bezants, the top border with a gray and pink bird in flight, the lower and fore-edge borders with charming grotesques, one a small, chubby griffin with a unicorn's horn, the other a blue creature with green wings and two heads (one a bird, the other a shaggy-haired human with a very long neck), the border ENCLOSING A CHARMING SMALL MINIATURE OF THE ANNUNCIATION (50 x 33 mm.) within a thin gold frame, the Virgin kneeling before a prie-dieu and turning to look behind her at Gabriel, who wears a gold-trimmed red cape over his white robe and holds a banderole with the opening of the "Ave Maria," the two figures in a white-tiled room with gray stone walls, an arched mullioned window, and gothic wood furnishings, a lily (an attribute of all virgin saints and closely associated with the Virgin Mary) growing from a gold pot between the two figures, an arched doorway behind the angel revealing a green landscape and, at the top, God the Father holding a golden orb, the dove of the Holy Spirit sliding down along the orb's radiant golden beams towards the Virgin. UNUSUALLY WELL PRESERVED, without even a trivial imperfection worth mentioning, the vellum especially clean, and the paint and gold entirely intact.
This leaf is characteristic work from the circle of Willem Vrelant, the leading purveyor of books of private devotion in Bruges during the third quarter of the 15th century. His leading position among Flemish illuminators of the time is indicated by the considerable number of manuscripts illustrated in his manner by other miniaturists both in Bruges and in nearby cities in Flanders. The illuminator of our Book of Hours shows a number of distinctive stylistic traits. Among these are a preference for boldly patterned cloth backdrops, tessellated flooring, landscapes filled with stylized bushes and trees, and persisting prominent architectural constructions that frame the subject, frequently in a corner (in these leaves, it is a waist-high outdoor wall or an indoor feature resembling wainscoting). The inclination for strong geometrical patterning is manifested in the artist's angular treatment of human figures and their garments. Specifically, the faces and elongated figures here show strong similarity to the work of a follower of Vrelant now in the Walters Art Museum (W.229), although the borders of our leaves are designed with greater richness and verve, closer to the work of another member of Vrelant's coterie, the so-called Master of The Vraie Cronicque d'Escoce. Our very sweet little Annunciation is an appealing work full of appropriate actions and emotions, beginning with the Virgin, who inclines her head slightly toward the angel and glances down, her hands raised as if in an attempt at emotional balance. The typical 15th century Renaissance setting here is a gothic building with vaulted ceiling painted blue and spangled with stars. There is an open door through which a green formal garden is glimpsed, and with a white tiled floor whose converging lines give the effect of recession in space. The level of detail is impressive for a miniature of this size, and the painter demonstrates great skill in producing well-realized figures with convincing facial expressions--Our Lady registers a humble wonderment, Gabriel shows respect and reassurance, and God the Father radiates benevolence. (ST12639a)