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Jean Hey (Master of Moulins), The Meeting at the Golden Gate; Charlemagne

Key facts
Full title The Meeting of Saints Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate; Charlemagne
Artist Jean Hey (Master of Moulins)
Artist dates active 1482; died after 1504
Date made about 1491-4
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 72.6 × 60.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1925
Inventory number NG4092
Location Room 26
Collection Main Collection
The Meeting at the Golden Gate; Charlemagne
Jean Hey (Master of Moulins)

The Virgin Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, embrace at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. Long childless, they had been told by an angel that they would have a daughter. On the right is Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Franks.

This was the left side of a large altarpiece; the right side was an Annunciation (Art Institute of Chicago). The central section, now lost, would have been about 48 to 50 cm wide and the whole painting about 160 cm wide. We aren't sure what was shown in the central section – perhaps Saint Anne teaching the Virgin to read in front of a red and gold cloth of honour, the edge of which you can see over the battlements at the right.

The altarpiece was possibly painted for Anne de Beaujeu, Duchess of Bourbon. The Bourbons were especially interested in Mary’s conception and had set up an altar to it in the church at Moulins, their hometown, in the 1470s; this altarpiece might have been intended for this location.

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