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Keystone with Scene of the Annunciation

late 1400s
13 11/16 x 14 3/16 x 3 3/8 in. (34.8 x 36 x 8.5 cm)

Unknown, French or German
French

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Red sandstone
Credit Line: R. T. Miller Fund
Accession Number: 1949.70
Location: Currently on view
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In Christian tradition, the scene of the Annunciation depicts the moment of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive a child and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Here, the Virgin kneels before a large open book on a reading pulpit. The winged Gabriel faces her, kneeling on the other side of the pulpit. The hand of God emerges from the frame at the top, directing a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, toward the Virgin’s head.

This sculpture was originally an architectural keystone, the central stone of an arch that locks its parts together. The structure of the back of the piece indicates that it probably came from the center of a square vault with four ribs. Its small size and the high level of detail in the carving suggest that it was installed close to the viewer where it could be easily seen, perhaps in a bay of a cloister walk or in a small porch.

[Gallery label text, June 2013]

Provenance
Joseph Brummer, New York (dealer); his sale, part III, Parke Bernet Galleries, New York, June 8-9, 1949, lot 468; purchased at that sale by the Gallery

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