Woodcut in black, hand colored with brush, stencil, and watercolor on laid paper, wood, iron, leatherexpand_more
The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fundexpand_more 2016.14
This rare Gothic French coffer, or traveling box, sheds light on an important early use of prints from the dawn of printmaking. A hand-colored 15th-century woodcut representing the Annunciation is pasted inside the cover of the large interior compartment. The attractive wooden box, covered with leather and reinforced with iron fittings, was carried as a backpack or traveling case. The coffer has two compartments, one large one (decorated with the print), and a second, smaller “secret” compartment thought to be used to carry relics, religious objects, traveling papers, or valuables. While the precise contents of these traveling cases are not known, the function of the woodcut is clear. It served a devotional purpose, providing a small altar to its owner on his or her travels. Just over 100 such boxes survive, all dating between 1480 and 1510, all French, all likely produced in Paris.