Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece) by Robert Campin
Annunciation Triptych by Robert Campin is also known as the Mérode Altarpiece is oil on oak in three panels format. This masterpiece represents from left to right, the donors kneeling in prayer in a garden, the Annunciation to Mary, which is set in a contemporary, domestic setting, and Saint Joseph as a carpenter. The painting contains many religious symbols including the lily symbolising the purity of Mary, and the Holy Spirit represented by the rays of light and a small white figure with a cross, coming from the left-hand window in the central panel.
The Annunciation is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation. The Annunciation has been a central theme in Christian art in the Catholic Church, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Interestingly, Annunciation is also described in the Quran. Mary, the mother of Jesus, holds a singularly exalted place in Islam as the only woman named in the Quran.
The central panel was completed first by Campin, and the outer panels were added later by Campin’s workshop assistants on request by the donors who wanted to be placed in the Triptych to demonstrate their faith. The side panels contain views of the city of Liège, in today’s Belgium. This triptych is a significant milestone in the emerging late Gothic and the early Netherlandish style. It derives from the medieval tradition, however more importantly it establishes the foundation for the development of modern painting.
Robert Campin was the first great master of Flemish and Early Netherlandish painting. He was highly successful during his lifetime, and his activities are relatively well documented, but he did not sign or date his works. Campin was active by 1406 as a master painter in Tournai, in today’s Belgium. Early Campin panels show the influence of the leading Gothic artists but display more realistic observations which he achieved through innovations in the use of oil paints.
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- Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece) by Robert Campin
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- Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
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- What symbolism can you find in this painting?
- Joseph, who is betrothed to Mary, is shown in the right panel, working in his carpenter’s shop. What stands out about Joseph?
- What do the mousetraps on the bench and in the shop window represent?
- Is the room setting of the central panel symbolic of the donor’s aspirations?
World History during the time this painting was created in 1432
- 1407 – The first public bank is founded in Genoa
- 1418 – Portugal starts sponsoring exploration of Africa’s coast.
- 1428 – Joan of Arc leads French against English.
- 1450 – Florence becomes a centre of Renaissance arts and learning.
- 1453 – Turks conquer Constantinople and end of the Byzantine empire.
- 1455 – Gutenberg completes the first Bible.
- 1462 – Ivan the Great rules Russia as the first Czar.
Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece)
- Title: Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece)
- Artist: Workshop of Robert Campin
- Year: 1432
- Culture: South Netherlandish
- Medium: Oil on oak
- Dimensions: H: 64.5 cm (25.3 in); W: 117.8 cm (46.3 in)
- Museum: The MET Cloisters
- Name: Robert Campin
- Birth: 1375
- Died: 1444 – Tournai, Western Belgium
- Nationality: Flemish
- Movement: Flemish and Early Netherlandish painting
“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone,
but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”
– Martin Luther
Photo Credit: [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons