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The Annunciation to Joachim, in The Caligula Troper

The Annunciation to Joachim, in The Caligula Troper

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1060

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Caligula A XIV

Item number: f.26r

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

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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.

Below an Assumption trope, a picture of the Annunciation to Joachim precedes tropes for the Nativity of the Virgin. Extending into margins and text, the unframed, floating picture shows Joachim fasting in the desert because his childlessness had rendered his earlier sacrifice unworthy. An angel tells him that Anna, his wife, has conceived a daughter, whereupon he orders a massive sacrifice of lambs, calves, and goats, seen frolicking to the side. The blank scrolls were meant as 'balloons' for the dialogue. The story's ultimate sources are in Greek apocryphal texts.

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