Embroidery with the Annunciation

Date: mid-15th century

Culture: Netherlandish

Medium: Silk and metallic threads on linen

Dimensions: 8 1/4 x 3 3/4 in. (21 x 9.5 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Embroidered

Credit Line: Gift of Lois and Anthony Blumka, in memory of Victoria Blumka, 1990

Accession Number: 1990.330


In the corner of an interior room, the Virgin kneels before a prie-dieu on which her prayerbook rests. The angel Gabriel descends at the left, greeting her with the announcement of the forthcoming birth of Jesus—the words stitched into a scroll-like pattern above the Virgin's head: "Ave [Maria] gratia plena dominus tecum" ("Hail [Mary], full of grace, the Lord is with thee"; Luke 1:28). This embroidery, originally part of an on orphrey (a decorative band on priestly vestments) or an altar frontal, is virtually intact. The selvages at the left and right are preserved, and the top and bottom have been trimmed only slightly. With its remarkably vibrant tones and shimmering silk threads, the scene can be appreciated much like a contemporary panel painting, a medium with which it shares many compositional and iconographic elements. This work exemplifies the celebrated or nué technique of Netherlandish embroidery, in which the gold not only provides a glittering appearance but also adds to the rich three-dimensionality of the pictorial surface. The setting, a modest domestic interior, reflects the trend in fifteenth-century Netherlandish imagery of locating religious experience, even the Annunciation, in the home.