?Holy Motherhood’: Gender, Dynasty and Visual Culture in the Later Middle Ages

Elizabeth L’ESTRANGE

Manchester, Manchester UP, 2008

This book brings images of holy motherhood and childbearing into the centre of an art-historical enquiry. By focusing on images of St Anne and the Holy Kinship in Books of Hours made for aristocratic women in relation to the dynastic importance of heirs, it reassesses the role of the female viewer as an active agent in the interpretation of pictures and popular devotional rites.

Holy Motherhood combines an innovative methodology that draws on art-historical and contemporary gender studies with empirical evidence from fifteenth-century manuscripts, to show how images worked not only to script and maintain gender and social roles within patriarchal society but also to offer viewers ways of managing those roles. Some of the manuscripts discussed are relatively unknown and their images and texts are made available to readers for the first time.

The study begins by problematising the notion that intimate, post-partum images of holy childbirth found in Books of Hours provide a window onto the ‘medieval past’ and ‘women’s’ viewing habits. Through an adaptation of Baxandall’s ‘period eye’ the first part of the book considers the many ‘cognitive habits’ acquired by aristocratic lay women – and men – through familiarity with prayers for childbirth, the lying-in ceremony, and the rite of churching. The second part uses this methodology to interpret the images and prayers in six bespoke manuscripts, including the Fitzwilliam Hours owned by several Angevin and Breton duchesses, and the Hours of Marguerite of Foix.
The book will appeal to advanced students, academics and researchers of Art History, Illuminated Manuscripts, Medieval History and Gender Studies.

– List of illustrations
– List of figures
– Preface and acknowledgements
– Family trees of the houses of France, Anjou, Brittany and Burgundy

Part I Gender, agency and the interpretation of material culture

– 1.The situational eye: viewing, gender and response in the later middle ages
– 2.De conceptione ad partum: saints, treatises and prayers for successful childbirth
– 3.The lying-in month and the rite of churching: post-partum rituals and the material culture of childbearing
Part II Manuscript case studies from the houses of Anjou, Brittany and France

– 4.Holy mothers, sainted monarchs and beata stirps: the Fitzwilliam Hours and Books of Hours for the house of Anjou
– 5.Steriles fecundas fecisti: viewing and reading holy motherhood in the manuscripts of four duchesses of Brittany
– Conclusion
– Appendix I: prayer and translation from the Hours of Marguerite of Foix
– Appendix II: prayer and translation from the Prayer Book of Anne of Brittany
– Bibliography
– Index

Elizabeth L’Estrange is an FNRS Post-Doctoral Researcher in History of Art at the University of Liège in Belgium

216x138mm 320pp
01 March 2008
hb 9780719075438 £60.00
16 colour plates; 52 black and white illustrations