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The mysterious retable of the Annunciation by Barthélémy d'Eyck

The Annunciation retable | Jean-Pierre Remy / CC-BY-SA
Mystery Parish church Saint-Esprit church in Aix-en-Provence

In the past, it was displayed in cathedral of Saint-Sauveur, then moved in church of La Madeleine. Well, in fact, the central panel is here, in Aix.

But the other parts were scattered in museums in Amsterdam, Brussels and Rotterdam… This retable dates back to 1445, probably made by Flemish Bartholomew d'Eyck or Burgundian Guillaume Dombet.

We have weird details, in this painting. Let’s see that. The scene takes place in a church in Aix-en-Provence. Angel Gabriel, kneeling, says to the Virgin: Ave gracia plena, Dominus tecum, which means: ″Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.″

Mary get the message, a little bit stunned. In the top left part, God sends a ray of light on her: a little monkey raises his head towards this divine ray. What does he want to do?

Now, look in the middle of the ray of light. We can see a human shape! Maybe a baby Jesus, as a foetus, wearing a cross, sent by God himself? The famous immaculate conception… Amazing, isn’t it?

On the foreground, look at those vase full of flowers. Historians think those flowers are belladona and digitalis, considered as diabolical in the Middle Ages!

Diabolical, like those strange bats above Gabriel’s head (they had wings covered of owl’s feathers, the typical cursed and diabolical bird)…

The legend says the retable’s backer didn't pay the painter, so he took revenge and added those scary elements, rather unorthodox! So there...

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!