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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Little Melton, Norfolk (†Norwich) C.14

The Annunciation

The paintings are on the altar wall of the chancel, at either side of and above the altar and are in fact separated by almost the full width of the chancel.

Gabriel, Annunciation, Little Melton Virgin, Annunciation, Little Melton

The Annunciation, marking the beginning of the story that reaches its climax in the Sacrament of the Altar, seems to have been a popular subject for the altar wall – the many surviving but now empty niches in the same position would often have held statues of Gabriel and Mary. Gabriel is at the left, Mary at the right – the former may hold the remnants of a scroll, originally with the opening words of his salutation in Luke 1:28. Mary stands, her hands held wide apart to signify astonishment or interrogation. (The various stages in the “Angelic Colloquy” as it came to be called, were codified and much discussed in the Renaissance¹ but medieval artists even in rural England were already painting the development of Mary’s reaction, which is discussed in more detail on the page for the Annunciation at Barnby). Beside Mary is a triple-branched lily, the standard emblem of the event.

There are other paintings at Little Melton, including an example of the Warning Against Idle Gossip.

Website for All Saints church

¹ e.g. as described in M.Baxendall, Painting and Experience in 15th-century Italy, Oxford, 1972, p.49ff.