A friend reminded my of the fantastic Annunciation in the Cloisters in NYC by Robert Champin. It is the central panel of a tryptic. On the right St. Joseph is in his workshop making, among other things, mousetraps, because Augustine described the Cross as the trap for the Devil.

The Annunciation panel. Note the diminutive baby Jesus with a Cross zooming toward Mary. It is as if Gabriel has just arrived, so much so that Mary hasn’t turned her head yet but her eyes (if you can see it) are just heading over in his direction. She has caught something from the corner of her eye.  The vase has a lily for purity, often held in images by Gabriel. Note the little figure carved in the fireplace. Gabriel’s popping in – ZOINK! – has snuffed out the candle, wick still glowing?  PUFF goes the candle, but the Incarnation is LIT!

The objects in the room – authentic and period – are also found in the gallery where the painting is displayed.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. thymos says:

    A friend sent me a shot of this recently, noting that St. Joseph, on a side panel, is working on a mousetrap (the cross being like a trap for the evil one).

  2. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    The Flemish Masters were incredible artists. It’s a shame they were more or less buried post renaissance by the dramatic Italian styles that dominate the baroque. I mean, I really like that style, don’t get me wrong. It’s just too bad that it more or less overwhelmed the renaissance era efforts of native northern European culture.

  3. Fr. Theodoxos says:

    I love the bejeweled ornamented alb, amice, and deacon’s stole (as proclaimer of the Word) on St. Gabriel. But what does anyone suppose is the meaning of only one candle above the fireplace?

  4. MikeM says:

    A note for those who love the Cloisters: stones from the courtyard of the monastery that was rebuilt to make the Cloisters are at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the reassembled monastic courtyard is on permanent display.

  5. Cornelius says:

    The left panel shows the painting’s donor and his wife. The man’s face is very . . . specific, i.e., it’s a face painted from life, not just the painter’s imagination. It’s a living person (at the time).

    I hope the two made it to heaven . . . .

  6. Hilda says:

    This ex-voto (1425 approx) from a young married couple presents what is called “homunculus” : Christ coming from heaven with a body at the Annunciation.
    Later on, in 1563 Trent council decree stated : “ ita ut nullae falsi dogmatis imagines et rudibus periculosi erroris occasionem praebentes statutentur”. Thereafter “homunculus” representations were no more accepted in the Church as being able to induce Valentinien or Anabaptist heresies in contradiction with “Et incarnatus est … ex Maria Virgine”. Anyway this is a great picture.

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Is it me, or are the little human figures on the sides of the fireplace also the donors?

  8. mrs wu says:


    Lorenzo Lotto’s Annunciation, because….cat.

    Also, her face! Imagine what went through her mind as she knew what was asked of her.

    Glory to God!


  9. PostCatholic says:

    I wondered about the candle, Fr. Theodoxos, and also the crosier detail to the hearth screen.

  10. Andrew says:

    Augustine described the Cross as the trap for the Devil.

    St. Jerome likewise in dramatic terms:
    “Ero mors tua, o mors: ero morsus tuus, inferne” (Osee 13:17). Illius morte, tu mortua es: illius morte, nos vivimus. Devorasti, et devorata es. Dumque assumpti corporis sollicitaris illecebra, et avidis faucibus praedam putas, interiora tua adunco dente confossa sunt. (Ad Heliodorum)

    (“Oh death, I shall be your death: I shall be your bite”. By his death you will die: by his death we live. You devoured and you were devoured. As you desire the enticement of that body, as you expect your booty with an avid jaw, your own guts are torn with hooked teeth.)

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