Illuminated manuscript leaf from a 14th-century Italian Antiphonary with miniature illuminated by the Spanish Forger, folio (18 x 13 ½ in.; 458 x 343 mm). Upper portion painted with 8 ¼ x 8 7/8 in.; 210 x 225 mm. miniature of the Annunciation in full colors and liquid gold within an alternating pink and blue frame with white infill, surrounded by a gold frame, full border of blue and pink acanthus leaves with gold orbs, outer border with four birds, lower border with a lady riding upon a 4-legged monster, orange initial “Q” on a gold ground, 2 staves of 4 lines each with neumes; gold flaking, leaf a bit cockled. Framed, not examined outside of frame.
The beginning of the Christmas story, when Mary first learns that she is with child, depicted by the most enigmatic and skilful of all manuscript forgers. The Forger was probably trained as a chromolithographer and there are tantalising links with the publishing house of Firmin-Didot [the models for many of his painting come from deluxe illustrated publications by that firm], but, as yet, his identity remains unknown.
This is among the most ambitious examples of the Forger's work. To aid his deception, he always used genuine unillustrated leaves from choir books. The architectural setting and the drapery of the Virgin are inspired by Alessio Baldovinetti's Annunciation in the Uffizi.