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

Date: ca. 1300

Geography: Made in Lake Constance, Switzerland

Culture: Upper Rhenish

Medium: Tempera, ink and gold on parchment

Dimensions: 4 x 3 1/16in. (10.2 x 7.8cm)
Mat: 9 × 7 in. (22.9 × 17.8 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1982

Accession Number: 1982.175


Protected by the arching curve of the blue-and-white letter R, the standing figures of the archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary are set against a burnished gold background. The barefoot angel wears a simple salmon-colored tunic, belted at the waist, and holds a staff. His right hand raised and his wings outstretched, he addresses the Virgin Mary, who stands before him and lifts both hands as the dove of the Holy Ghost whispers in her ear.

The letter R is the opening of the Introit, or entrance hymn, Rorate caeli de super (Drop down dew, you heavens, from above), sung on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, to celebrate the archangel Gabriel's announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. The cutting was once part of a gradual, a book containing the choral parts of the Mass. It was probably painted about 1300 by the Dominican nuns at the convent of Sankt Katharinenthal on Lake Constance.