Robert Campin and Assistant, The Annunciation Triptych

South Netherlandish, circa 1425
Oil on wood. Central panel: 25¼ x 24⅞ in. (64.1 x 63.2 cm.); each wing 25⅜ x 10¾ in. (64.5 x 27.3 cm.)
The Cloisters, New York City


In the left panel the donors stand outside Mary's chamber. The right panel may reflect a statement in chapter 10 of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew that "While these things [i.e., the Annunciation] were doing, Joseph was occupied with his work, house-building, in the districts by the sea-shore; for he was a carpenter."

"Some objects, such as the lily and the laver, symbolize the Virgin's purity expressed through the divine birth of Christ. The tiny figure of the Christ Child bearing a cross and descending on rays of light from the round window indicates that the primary subject is the Incarnation. This understanding is borne out by the flame of the candle, symbolic of God's divinity, which has just been extinguished, a further reference to the Incarnation, the moment when God became man.…The presence on the right panel of Joseph, who is not usually attendant at the Annunciation, can also be explained in the context of the Incarnation. Joseph has made two mousetraps, whose meaning is elucidated by the Augustinian speculation that the Incarnation was God's means of ensnaring the devil, much as bait entraps a mouse."

– from the Metropolitan Museum's online commentary on this painting

View the center panel, the left panel, and the right panel in full resolution.
Read more about the Annunciation and about St. Joseph

Photographed at the Cloisters by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.