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The Annunciation, Paris, c.1400-50

This tiny gold Annunciation is decorated with opaque white, and translucent blue, red and green enamels applied directly to the surface. This technique, described as émail en ronde bosse, was developed by Parisian goldsmiths during the fourteenth century and reached its apogee during the reign of Charles VI of France (1380-1422). The figures of the Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel are surrounded by a low fence of twisted gold wire, which creates an enclosed garden, a symbol of the Immaculate Conception. Royal and noble inventories of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries show that devotional objects incorporating figures and gemstones existed in large numbers, but very few have survived. 

The origin of this Annunciation is uncertain, but it is likely to have been made in Paris. It was formerly in the Spiritual Treasury of the Imperial Hapsburg Court in Vienna. During the 1860s it was sent for repair to a dealer and restorer, Salomon Weininger (1822-79) who sold the original, and returned a copy to the Treasury. This fraud remained undetected until the twentieth century, but Weininger was imprisoned in 1876 for another offence.