Joachim, Anna and the Virgin Mary, in the Caligula Troper
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Made up of fragments from a late Anglo-Saxon liturgical chant book, the Caligula Troper's illuminations introduce songs which would be inserted into the mass on special feast days and sung by a soloist, hence the book's small scale. The pictures' geometric abstraction of form and use of vibrant colours embellished with gold give an opulence that speaks of manufacture for use by an important figure. It is named for its 17th-century position in a bookcase supporting a bust of Caligula in the Cotton rare books library. Its selection of tropes (songs) and where it was in the Middle Ages suggest origins at Winchester or Worcester.
In an unusual double-billing of pictures to introduce the tropes for the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, a portrait of Joachim, Anna and the infant Mary follows a scene of Joachim in the desert. The figures, seated under an arch, are shown richly dressed. Without any attempt to narrate the Virgin's early life, the family portrait instead proclaims her importance as an ancestor of Christ.