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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Martley, Worcestershire (†Worcester) Mid C.14

The Annunciation

Annunciation, Martley

An Annunciation in the chancel of the church, on the south wall. Gabriel, barefoot and holding a scroll in his left hand, salutes Mary with his right. His voluminous robes have traces of what looks like gold-coloured pigment on them, and he probably once had a golden halo.

Mary, wearing similar ample draperies, also has conspicuously bare feet – a very unusual detail since Mary is often the only figure in a group (in, say, a painting of the Ascension), identifiable because she is wearing shoes. Presenting the Virgin unshod like this stresses her ordinariness until this moment, and her humility as well. I do not know of another barefoot virgin in the English parish church, and this painter’s wiry, linear (despite the fullness of the draperies which would once have been areas of solid colour) style is a distinctive one.

Tristram saw small kneeling figures, presumably donors¹, below this painting; these can be glimpsed at the lower corners of the photograph, but they have been reduced to traces now. Some of the very fine painted decoration – including a a very clear running stag – also in the chancel at Martley is on this site, and other paintings in the church will be in due course.

Website for St Peter’s, Martley

¹ Tristram III, p. 222