In a domestic interior, the Virgin Mary kneels before a prie-dieu on which her prayer book rests. The archangel Gabriel, at the left, greets her with the Gospel announcement of the forthcoming birth of Jesus: "Ave Maria gratia plena dominus tecum" ("Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee," Luke 1:28).

This embroidery, originally part of an orphrey (a decorative band on a priestly vestment) or an altar frontal, is virtually intact. The selvages at left and right are preserved, and the top and bottom have been trimmed only slightly. In its present form, with the scene almost complete and its shimmering silks still remarkably vibrant, it can be appreciated in much the same way as a Netherlandish panel painting—a medium with which it shares many compositional and iconographic aspects. The embroidery typifies the celebrated Netherlandish or "nué" technique, in which gold is used not only to provide glitter but also to add to the rich three-dimensional quality of the pictorial surface—an effect to which the textile medium naturally lends itself.


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