Ambiguous Women in Medieval Art


Edited by Mónica Ann Walker Vadillo

ISBN 978-615-81222-0-7                                            Paperback, €28.00

eISBN 978-615-81222-1-4                                          Hardcover, €99.00

DOI: 10.22618/TP.HAA.20193                                    eBook, €28.00

March, 2019

In colour, pp. 221

 You can read this book in open access.


Ambiguous Women in Medieval Art brings together the work of seven researchers who, coming from different perspectives, and in some cases different disciplines, approach the question of ambiguity in relation to different case-studies where the represented women do not follow the ever-present dichotomy exemplified by Eve and Mary. In doing so, they demonstrate the complexities of a topic that is as contemporary as it is ancient. Through them, we can get valuable insights on the understanding and experience of gender in the past and the ways in which these experiences have shaped our own understanding of this topic.



By Mónica Ann Walker Vadillo

The Disease Woman: A Neutral Representation of Health?

Author(s): Sara Öberg Strådal

Abstract: This essay discusses the Disease Woman schema on folio 52v in Wellcome MS 290, a medical illustration often neglected in modern scholarship, and considers how it related to late medieval ideas about the gendered human body. The figure is positioned within its original manuscript context and compared to the other (male) bodies depicted, as well as discussed in relationship to other medical illustrations and contemporary scientific and theological theories. Through close study of formal features and intervisual analysis, this essay shows that the Disease Woman functioned not just to describe illness or ailments, but also to emphasise women’s inferior bodies and status.

The Woman in Labour: A Twelfth-Century Navarrese Relief from the Church of San Martin de Tours, Artáiz

Author(s): Dilshat Harman

Abstract: Among other corbels on the façade of the Church of San Martin de Tours in Artáiz (Navarra - Spain, twelfth century), an interesting relief depicts a woman while giving birth. Childbirth in medieval art is a fascinating subject, as it can portray the differences between medieval and contemporary attitudes regarding sex and gender. How is childbirth depicted? Why is it depicted at all? This essay will analyze the meaning and scope of the childbirth relief within the context of early Medieval culture and recent research in Romanesque marginal art.

Bathsheba's Bath and the Seven Deadly Sins: A New Interpretation of a Visual Narrative Strategy in Late Medieval Books of Hours

Author(s): Mónica Ann Walker Vadillo

Abstract: When the story of Bathsheba's Bath appeared in Late Medieval Books of Hours, it always prefaced the Penitential Psalms in these manuscripts. Traditionally, these Penitential Psalms were associated with the Deadly Sins. This article will explore the visual and textual implications of this iconography in relation to its placement in Books of Hours and it will emphasize the visual narrative strategies that the artists used to prepare the reader-viewer for the appropriate performance of penitence.

King Solomon’s Ambiguous Wife in the Queste del Saint Graal

Author(s): Anastasija Ropa

Abstract: Solomon’s wife is one of the most ambiguous female characters introduced in the anonymous French Queste del Saint Graal, an early-thirteenth-century Arthurian romance. She appears in an account that relates the prehistory of the Ship of Solomon and that is embedded in the Grail quest narrative. Subsequent versions of the narrative, such as Thomas Malory’s “Tale of the Sankgreal,” transform her into an “evil,” sinful wife. This paper explores the representation of Solomon’s wife in two late medieval illuminated manuscripts of the Lancelot-Graal cycle.

Saint Eugenia Outside-Inside-Outside Rome: An Iconographic Continuity?

Author(s): Andrea-Bianka Znorovszky

Abstract: This essay deals with the iconography of Saint Eugenia demonstrating both the continuity and the development of her visual characteristics as a martyr, with special emphasis on the area of Rome, Italy. Her cult contributed to the promotion and multiplication of her imagery in Rome and northern Italy. Thus, Eugenia’s iconography from Ravenna becomes a starting point for the reconstruction of her early sixth-seventh-century depictions in Rome. This research concludes that although this holy woman belongs to the group of cross-dressed saints, Saint Eugenia is (visually and textually) constructed as a woman due to her positioning into groups of female saints.

Doubly crowned: The Public and Private Image of Two Fourteenth-Century Hungarian Queens

Author(s): Christopher Mielke

Abstract: Art as propaganda is traditionally thought to be used as a tool of monarchs in cementing their role. In addition to coins with the king’s face and seals featuring the king in majesty, the king’s face could also appear on public art such as statues, stained glass, and even frescoes. This essay seeks to understand four pieces of stonework visible to the medieval public which would have featured two fourteenth-century queens of Hungary: Elizabeth of Poland (d. 1380), wife of Charles I Robert, and Elizabeth of Bosnia (d. 1387), wife of Louis I ‘the Great’ (r. 1342-1382).

Material and Temporal Ambiguity at Santiago de Compostela: The Case of the South Portal’s Woman with the Skull

Author(s): Karen Webb

Abstract: The Romanesque sculpture from Santiago de Compostela’s Puerta de las Platerías, known as the Woman with the Skull, presents questions of origin. Using the competing methods of conceptual design prior to material execution and material priority over a conceptual construct which loom large in the portal’s formation, iconographical and historical content are related. The question of process points to polemical ideas that suspend the Woman between papal design and royal appropriation. Additionally, she is suspended between categorical identities like Luxuria and fanciful product of the chansons de gestes and historical identities like the wife, sister, and daughter of Alfonso VI.

Specific References

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