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Record Image
Annunciation to the Shepherds
Circa 1475-Circa 1480
egg tempera and gold leaf on vellum
128 x 87 mm
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1951 by Archdeacon F H D Smythe.
This miniature illustrates the opening of tierce, which is the fourth canonical hour of the Hours of the Virgin. Two shepherds on a pastoral hillside gaze upwards, shielding their eyes from the brilliance of the angel who appears on high to deliver the news of Christ’s birth. Their flock continues to graze, unaware of the majesty above. The standing figure holds a houlette, or crook, the inspiration for the crosier carried by bishops to this day. A city, possibly representing Bethlehem, can be seen in the distance beyond a half-timbered hut. The border is decorated with flowers and acanthus leaves with gold bezants or coins, and the historiated (enlarged and illustrated) initial shows a kneeling peasant girl.
The Annunciation to the Shepherds is a highly studied image, providing the artists with an opportunity to depict a landscape inhabited by peasants in their working clothes. Such figures were initially idealised, but became more rustic in the later medieval period. The style and composition of the miniature arise from those associated with the Maître François atelier, a Parisian workshop well established in the 15th century. By the end of the century works like this were reproduced in large numbers in Rouen and Paris.

not on view

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