Fol. 56v

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Jean Poyer

Terce: Annunciation to the Shepherds

Hours of Henry VIII, in Latin
Illuminated by Jean Poyer

France, Tours
ca. 1500
256 x 180 mm

The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection; deposited in 1962, given in 1977

MS H.8 (fol. 56v)
Item description: 

Illuminated around 1500 by the artist Jean Poyer, The Hours of Henry VIII receives its name from the possible but unproven eighteenth-century tradition that holds King Henry of England once owned this splendid manuscript. By following the simple instructions, you can explore every painting of this Renaissance masterpiece and learn how Books of Hours helped their readers to pray.

Books of Hours contain more or less standard texts—Calendar, Gospel Lessons, Hours of the Virgin, Hours of the Cross, Hours of the Holy Spirit, Penitential Psalms with Litany, Office of the Dead, and Suffrages—as well as a number of common accessory prayers. Based on the frequency and variety of added devotions, it appears that scribes included these for owners who wished to personalize their prayer books.

Page description: 

Terce: Annunciation to the Shepherds (fol. 56v)

The Annunciation to the Shepherds, like the Nativity, is only recounted by Luke (2:8–14). Poyer, however, chose not to emphasize the nocturnal appearance of the single annunciatory angel amid the brightness of God but the later moment when the angel, joined by others from the heavenly hosts, sang the familiar "Glory to God in the Highest, and peace on earth to men of good will."

Poyer illustrates the Angels of the Annunciation singing their familiar "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men of good will" by adding the text on the scroll that they present: Gloria in exelssi [sic: excelsis] Deo et in terra pax.

Wooden sheds in the background contain more sheep and two shepherds who are not yet aware of the angel's good tidings.

Three shepherds in the fore- ground, seen from the back or side, look up and receive the tidings. One holds a staff while another with a bagpipe has a second instrument—a flute— tucked into his belt; the shepherdess holds a distaff.

One wonders if the solitary and prominently placed goat amid the sheep would have recalled Matthew 25:32, where the future Son of Man would come to judge and separate the blessed from the evil, "just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats."