The Annunciation to the Shepherds

Object Details


The Annunciation to the Shepherds


Jean Bourdichon (French, 1457 - 1521)




Tours, France (Place created)


about 1480 - 1485


Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment


Leaf: 16.4 x 11.6 cm (6 7/16 x 4 9/16 in.)

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The court painter Jean Bourdichon represented the scene of the Annunciation to the Shepherds in the dark of night as the rustic shepherds huddle around a campfire. Suddenly, the supernatural light of the angel in the sky overpowers the naturalistic source of light from the campfire. Announcing that the Messiah has just been born, the angel radiates golden rays on the shepherd's upturned faces and highlights the figures' clothes. The representation of light effects was a central issue in European naturalism in the 1400s, and nocturnal scenes represented a challenging aesthetic problem. Increasingly, illuminators used the Annunciation to the Shepherds as an opportunity to represent a scene in the dark of night.

The miniature of the Annunciation to the Shepherds precedes a verse taken from Psalm 69, which opens the prayers for Terce in the Hours of the Virgin: Deus in adiutorium meum intende. Domine ad adiuvandum me festina (God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me).

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