The Primer of Claude of France

Prayers for Mass

Texts and Images

Lightbox: 79
Detail of the orange sleeve of one of the shepherds under magnification (20x). Raman analysis (below) identified the orange pigment as an arsenic-based glass.
Lightbox: 80
Detail of the grey-brown floor surrounding the dog, under magnification (7.5x). Raman analysis reveals that the colour was obtained by mixing indigo with an arsenic-based glass.

Annunciation to the Shepherds; Adoration of the Shepherds; Peace comforting souls in Limbo

According to the Gospel of St Luke, an angel announced Christ’s birth to shepherds who were watching their flocks near Bethlehem. After hearing the good news, the shepherds hurried to the stable to adore the Christ Child. The orange sleeves of the shepherds’ tunics as well as the dark shadows on their yellow robes were painted with the glassy arsenic-based material often called ‘artificial orpiment’ (hotspot 1). This unusual pigment was also mixed with indigo to paint the grey-brown floor in the lower scene (hotspot 2).

The final scene on this page depicts the positive consequences of Christ’s Incarnation. It shows a woman dressed in white (probably a personification of Peace), comforting souls in Limbo. Peace assures the souls, which are represented as naked figures, that they will be redeemed. This scene is not based on the Bible, but probably derives from Arnoul Gréban’s Mystère de la Passion, a play performed in Paris in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.