The panel painting of The Annunciation in the National Gallery in Prague
Hayes, Kathleen (Translator of Summary)
Source document: Opuscula historiae artium. 2009, vol. 53, iss. F53, pp. -22
ISSN1211-7390 (print)2336-4467 (online)
License: Not specified license
The article treats the panel painting of the Annunciation in the Prague National Gallery (inv. no. 017447), which is currently on display in the permanent exhibition of old art of the National Gallery in the St Agnes of Bohemia Convent in Prague. The panel is considered to be one of the few surviving Bohemian works of the late Middle Ages that show the strong influence of 15th century Netherlandish art, in particular the Annunciation by the Master of Flémalle. The introduction to the article provides a summary of opinions on the work to date, which most frequently assume that it was a separate devotional painting. Some researchers suggest that the panel was part of a diptych or triptych. The work is of unknown provenance; nothing is known about the whereabouts of the work before Count Joseph Nostitz bought and loaned it to the Gallery of the Society of Patriotic Friends of Art in Prague in 1805. Researchers assume that it originally came from South Bohemia. In the literature on the subject, scholars have estimated that the panel was made between 1450 and 1460. According to earlier scholars, the work was based on a print of the Flémalle model. Later scholars tend to assume that it was based rather on a clay relief. The article treats the question of the source of inspiration in the context of what is now known of the two surviving paintings of the Annunciation by the Master of Flémalle. The author concludes that the panel was probably based on a clay relief, which resembled the extant relief from Magdeburg. In this connection, the author likewise concludes that the painting was made as a separate panel. The author returns to Milena Bartlová's observation (2001) that it is difficult to place the work in Bohemian painting of the mid 15th century. In its execution, the work differs from local paintings. In addition, in the given period one cannot find a single similar work recreating with such purity the Netherlandish original, in this case the Brussels Annunciation of the Master of Flémalle, or its prototype. The article concludes with a new theory: that the panel may have been painted in the Rhineland-Westphalia after a clay relief, which was either based directly on the Brussels panel or on an older Netherlandish prototype. It may have been imported to Bohemia in the Middle Ages or in the modern period. It is possible that the panel was made at the same time as the clay reliefs, that is, around 1450 or even before 1450. Thus far, no laboratory analysis, which might demonstrate technological similarities between the panel and local paintings of the period, has been carried out on the work. Therefore, one cannot a priori rule out the possibility of a provenance other than Central European. Given the limited research to date, the author does not claim to have resolved all of the issues. On the contrary, the article should stimulate further study of the art-history context, as well as material-technological research.