MASTER of the Aix Annunciation
(active in 1440s)
Painter active in France. He is named after a panel of the Annunciation (Aix-en-Provence, Ste Marie-Madeleine). The painting has been connected with a series of wills executed on behalf of the draper Pierre Corpici (b ?1388; d before ?1465), an inhabitant of Aix. In the earliest surviving will, dated 9 December 1442, known only from a copy made by Henri Requin (Labande), Corpici expressed a wish to be buried in Aix Cathedral and bequeathed 100 florins to pay for an altarpiece depicting the Annunciation or the Virgin Annunciate. The painting was to have a supercelo (crowning panel) and a scabelo (predella) and bear both the Corpici arms and the sign of his shop. Although not a contract, the will is quite specific regarding the subject-matter of the altarpiece. There is no mention, however, of it being a triptych with wings nor of the name of the artist who was to execute the work. On 5 January 1443, Corpici was granted permission by the cathedral chapter to construct an altar (destr. 1618), which was located to the right of the entrance of the west choir (built c. 1285-c. 1425). A further will of 14 July 1445 reiterates Corpici's desire to be buried in the cathedral; no reference is made to the altarpiece in this document, suggesting it was completed by this date. Further wills of 13 February 1449, 19 April 1458 and a final one of 8 November 1465 refer to the 'altar of the Annunciation', indicating that the altarpiece was installed by then.
Numerous attempts have been made to identify the artist of the Annunciation or determine his nationality. An early attribution was to the Neapolitan Niccolo Colantonio on the basis of the resemblance to his St Jerome in his Study Removing a Thorn from the Lion's Paw (Capodimonte, Naples), but this has long since been discounted. The painter of the Annunciation was a near contemporary of the Master of Flémalle, Jan van Eyck, Stephan Lochner, Konrad Witz and Lukas Moser, and the painting bears a stylistic relationship with the work of these artists, for example with Witz's SS Catherine and Mary Magdalene in a Church (Musée d'Oeuvre Notre Dame, Strasbourg) and with the Annunciation (Prado, Madrid) attributed to the Master of Flémalle, although whether the relationship is due to direct influence or common prototypes is unclear. Comparisons have also been drawn with the work of the sculptor Claus Sluter, for example his Weepers from the tomb of Philip the Bold (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon) have been compared with the Prophet panels. The Annunciation is stylistically conservative, and the diversity of theories as to its origins is the result of its eclectic character. Whether the painter was Netherlandish, Burgundian, Provençal or from further afield is a matter of conjecture.
The artist has been tentatively identified with several artists including the Provençal Jean Chapus and three Flemish artists active in Provence: Guillaume Dombet, Arnoul de Cats [Arnolet de Catz] (fl 1430-35) and Barthélemy D'Eyck.