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Tapestry with the Annunciation

ca. 1410–20
South Netherlandish
Wool warp, wool with a few metallic wefts
Overall: 138 x 117in. (350.5 x 297.2cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Harriet Barnes Pratt, in memory of her husband, Harold Irving Pratt (February 1, 1877–May 21, 1939), 1949
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Seated in a spacious room of the elaborate type first represented in Northern Europe by the illuminator Jean Pucelle, the Virgin Mary looks away from her book on the reading lectern, startled by the sudden entrance of the archangel Gabriel. He holds a scroll with the words "Ave gracia plena" ("Hail [Mary] full of grace"). In the sky, God the Father sends the infant Jesus bearing a cross toward the Virgin, preceded by the dove of the Holy Spirit. They descend in the direction of the Virgin's ear, as it was believed that her ear was the opening through which she conceived. Other imagery in the tapestry, such as the enclosed garden, emphasizes her virginity, and the single white lily placed in an elaborate pottery jar symbolizes her purity.

    Although the tapestry was probably woven in Arras in the south Lowlands—the leading center of tapestry production following the decline of Paris during the Hundred Years War-it was found in Spain. The fame of weavers from this area extended throughout Europe, and was especially prized by Spaniards, who had established close diplomatic and commercial ties in the region.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: [on banderole]: AVE GRACIA PLENA

    Marking: Arms [on shield held by two angels, center top]: Vilanova of Castile, Catalonia, etc. impaling identified arms.

  • Provenance

    Spanish Art Gallery Ltd., London; P. W. French & Co., New York (before 1922–1924); Mr. and Mrs. Harold Irving Pratt(1924–1949)

  • See also