Monday, July 18, 2011

Glorious St. Anne – Iconography of St. Anne, Day 2– The Meeting at the Golden Gate

Meeting at the Golden Gate
from Hours of the Virgin
French (Paris), 1490-1500
Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek,
MS KB 76 F14 fol.29r detail

According to the story in the Golden Legend, an angel announced to Anne and Joachim separately that God had heard their prayers for the gift of a child and that the child they would have would be “full of the Holy Ghost”1 and he gave each of them a sign. The sign was that they would meet each other at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem.

They each went to Jerusalem, to the Golden Gate, where they did meet “and glad to see each other… returned home, abiding joyously the promise divine. And Anne conceived and brought forth a daughter, and named her Mary.”2

After the Nativity of Mary the Meeting at the Golden Gate is the principal subject of the iconography of the couple, Joachim and Anne.

In all of the images there is a touching display of joy and real affection that is quite unusual in art.

Artists as diverse as Giotto,

Giotto, Meeting at the Golden Gate
Italian, 1304-1306
Padua, Arena Chapel

Benozzo Gozzoli,

Benozzo Gozzoli, Meeting at the Golden Gate
Italian, 1491
Castelfiorentino, Biblioteca Comunale

Filippo Lippi, Meeting at the Golden Gate
Italian, c. 1445
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

      Bartolomeo Vivarini,                                      

Bartolomeo Vivarini,
Meeting at the Golden Gate
Italian, c. 1473
Venice, S. Maria Formosa

Albrecht Durer, Meeting at the Golden Gate
from Life of the Virgin 
German, 1504


and Boccaccino
Boccaccio Boccaccino, Meeting at the Golden Gate
Italian, 1514-1515
Cremona, Cathedral

and various illuminators have been inspired by the evident warmth of the meeting.
Meeting at the Golden Gate
from a Breviary 
French (Paris), ca. 1350
New York, Morgan Library
MS M.75, fol. 573r

Meeting at the Golden Gate
from Fleur de Victoires by Jean Mansel
France, 1450-1475
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 56, fol. 6


Meeting at the Golden Gate venerated by
King Henry VII and his family
English, 1503
One illuminator summed the entire story up on one sheet. This (as yet) unknown English painter offers the Meeting at the Golden Gate as the central image being venerated by the family of the English king, Henry VII. The choice of image is appropriate, given that the union of Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, with his wife, Elizabeth of York, the daughter of the last Yorkist king, Edward IV, symbolized the end of the period of civil war known as the Wars of the Roses. Surrounding the central image are four other images which tell the story of Joachim and Anne, from the rejection of Joachim’s offering (upper left) to the conception of Mary (upper right). Between the images are images of the red rose of Lancaster and white flowers reflecting the white rose of York, the symbols from which the term “Wars of the Roses” is derived, as well as the portcullis, also used as a badge by Henry VII.  The page is dated at 1503 and may come from a Book of Hours, possibly from a copy of the Hours of the Virgin.

The tale has also been a source of inspiration to sculptors. 
Benedikt Dreyer, Meeting at the Golden Gate
German, ca. 1515-1520
New York, Metropolitan Museum

Each image, in its different way, conveys a sense of the love of these two for each other and of their trust in the promise of God.
1. The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275. First Edition Published 1470. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483, Edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1900 (Reprinted 1922, 1931.), Vol. 5, pp. 47-54.

© M. Duffy, 2011/2012

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