God Sending Forth the Angel Gabriel, in the 'Shaftesbury Psalter'
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
In the middle ages, there was a nunnery at Shaftesbury, and this psalter appears to have been made there or to have been modelled after a manuscript from Shaftesbury. Its calendar (used to coordinate prayers with saints' days and other feasts) and litany (a prayer appealing to saints for their help) mention saints who were especially venerated at Shaftesbury. The figures in its many pictures resemble a carving found at nearby Milborne St Andrew. Although its origins at Shaftesbury can not be shown beyond a doubt, it is certain that it was made for a female reader, probably an abbess. Recently a scholar suggested that it was made for Queen Adeliza, the widow of Henry I. Before the psalter itself, the manuscript has a series of eight full-page pictures which the reader would have contemplated as devotional aids rather than strictly as illustrations.
The series begins with an unusual picture, showing God sending forth the archangel Gabriel, who announced to the Virgin Mary that she was to be the mother of God. It faces a page showing the three Marys at Jesus' sepulchre. It is unusual, too, that the manuscript also has a picture of Michael the Archangel.