Alphabetical order according to author’s name.

Emma of Blois: Affective Politics and Emotional Patronage

Mickey Abel, University of North Texas, Mickey.Abel@unt.edu

The study of the emotions has opened revealing lines of inquiry for historians, particularly in assessing the actions of politically prominent women. Emma of Blois (950-1003), wife of William IV, Duke of Aquitaine (r. 963-993), and mother of William Le Grande (r. 993-1030) was an emotional woman—or so we are told by Peter of Maillezais, writing between 1067 and 1072. Peter chronicles the dramatic exploits of the newly-married Emma as she is miraculously inspired to found (970) and build Maillezais Abbey on an island in the Gulf of Picton (Charente-Poitou). Unfortunately, for the abbey’s progress, the Duke is caught in an affair with a neighboring Vicountess, to which Emma responds violently, confronting the Vicountess, leaving the Duke, and abandoning her Abbey project. 

Peter tells Emma’s story in terms of revenge (she founds a rival abbey in her homeland), compassion (she argues passionately in support of her monks) and cold-hearted shrewdness (she reconciles her marriage through political negotiation). Examining Emma’s architectural patronage through the lens of “emotional communities” as defined by Rosenwein (2007) and Perfetti (2005) allows us to question the modern erasure of Emma’s political role, while we re-contextualize her actions in relation to the socio-political agendas of the men—the fathers, brothers, sons, and abbots--that surrounded her, but importantly within the multi-generational legacy of Poitivin noble women. 


Recognizing Women’s Agency in the Borders of the Bayeux Embroidery

Tricia Amato, Independent Scholar, Montana, amatotricia@gmail.com

As one of the few extant large-scale textiles from the Middle Ages, the Bayeux Embroidery continues to challenge scholars who endeavor to unlock its meaning, identify its function, and illuminate the circumstances of its production. The Embroidery can be experienced on many different levels—as a superb example of medieval craftsmanship; a heroic story of war, kingship, and conquest; a picture of post-conquest national identity; or a moralizing tale about breaking solemn oaths—and yet, when we look more closely, another layer begins to emerge. Incorporated into its borders, I suggest, is the story of the women of the embroidery workshop who added their viewpoints about the Conquest to the work in the form of marginal imagery. Relegated to the sidelines, the women who brought the Embroidery to life with needles and woolen thread provide the viewer with a series of disparate commentaries on the story of the Norman conquest of England by populating the borders with fanciful animals, fables, and a variety of characters and scenes.

Current scholarship generally assumes that the embroidery was designed by a single “master” who conferred with a patron, also male, in order to devise the entire composition—entrusting only the needlework to female laborers. I argue, however, that the borders depart markedly from the main narrative; and therefore, could not have been designed by the individual who conceived the principal tableau. Rather, a close analysis of style, composition and iconography reveals that the border imagery was designed by the female needleworkers who produced the piece.


Concubines, Eunuchs and Other Aristocrats in Early Islamic Córdoba: A Case Study for Women’s Patronage in a Caliphal Court

Glaire D. Anderson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, glaire.and@gmail.com

The narrative of Islamic art (especially for the caliphal period from 660 to 1236 CE) constructs the framework for artistic patronage almost exclusively through the figure of the ruler (caliph) and the dynasty. As a result it is difficult to discern a role for women and others whom historians have relegated to the margins due to gender and/or legal status (i.e. freeborn, enslaved, or freed), even when such women and men were part of the ruling class. This is the case for early Islamic Córdoba during the reign of the Andalusi Umayyads (r. 756-1031 CE), whose monuments (especially the Great Mosque of Córdoba) and artworks are canonical in early Islamic art history. Using Umayyad court chronicles and material evidence (monuments, objects, and epigraphy) I argue that court concubines were among the most active patrons of architecture in early Islamic Córdoba. Wealthy and influential, their commissions were conducted at the highest levels of patronage and formed part of the dramatic urban expansion of this celebrated medieval city in the ninth and tenth centuries. The article argues, therefore, that the caliphal period, usually seen as a period adverse to women's patronage, in fact provides an important context for their later active involvement in the arts in the early modern period. The Umayyad concubines nevertheless should not be seen in isolation, I will argue, but are part of a larger picture of art and architecture patronage and even design by other "marginalized" court elites, especially high-ranking eunuchs.


“Leide gern und sei gedultig.” Images of Spiritual Reform by and for Fifteenth-Century Nuns

Jane L. Carroll*, Dartmouth College, Jane.L.Carroll@Dartmouth.edu

At the end of the fourteenth century, the General of the Dominican Order was alarmed at the lack of observance among the religious communities under his control. Especially appalling were the arrangements favored by the Dominican nuns who resided in comfort, disregarding the goals of discipline and piety that were the core of the Dominican Order. The reform’s model convent was St. Katherine’s in Nuremberg. Although it twice had violently resisted reform, in 1428 the sisters there rededicated themselves to faithful devotion and practical work, including copying and illustrating of manuscripts.

My essay will examine an illuminated manuscript that was produced at St. Katherine’s during this reform, the Schwesternbuch von Töß by Elsbeth Stagel (Stadtbibliothek, Nuremberg, Cent V, 10a). The Töß stories, like all Schwesternbücher, recount the visions of mystical thirteenth-century Dominican sisters. The reformed sisters copied and decorated the Nuremberg Töß manuscript around 1454, creating the only known Schwesternbuch to be illustrated (twenty-three historiated initials). In general, the images in Töß reflect a language of persuasion whose chosen elements contemporized the mysticism of a past generation and remade Töß into a didactic tool advertising the rewards of faith. Its scenes reflect Hans Belting’s assertion that in the Late Medieval world, the theological and the emotional existed side by side. I will show that both elements can be conveyed through a female vocabulary.

The Nuremberg volume represents an unparalleled attempt to develop a visual imagery that pairs the didactic and polemical aims of the Schwesternbuch with the practical vision and devotional piety forming the core of the Dominican reform. In addition, Cent V. 10a provides us with an important example of an extensive illustration cycle created by females, for a female audience and concerning female religious subject matter. Finally, the volume allows us a glimpse into a late fifteenth-century female discourse on proper devotion


Women and City Pageants in Late Medieval England

Nicola Coldstream, Independent Scholar, London, nicola.coldstream@btopenworld.com

Although Tudor pageants have been examined in detail, art historians have neglected those of the medieval period; but there is useful evidence for city pageants in England from the late thirteenth century onwards. This chapter will examine city pageants in London and the English provinces from c. 1300 to the late fifteenth century, with reference to pageants in Paris and Flanders over the same period.
Unlike cycles of mystery plays, pageants had fixed stations and a theme unique to the event. They were staged for triumphal entries, by men – usually livery companies or craft guilds – but women were involved in them as honorands, actors, and makers. Pageants were staged in honour of a queen’s marriage, coronation, or city overlordship; and for entries in which a woman accompanied a husband who was himself being honoured. Honorands were always of royal blood or connection: this chapter will include the entries of queens but also such aristocrats as Anne, Duchess of Bedford. Lesser women and girls acted in pageants as angels, virgins, and allegorical figures. Craftswomen supplied materials and costumes.
Women were active participants, since as honorands they provided justification for the event. Although pageant themes sought to control and define women’s roles, women could exercise moral leverage through identification with the Virgin Mary and female saints personified on the staging. Pageants reflected the desired checks and balances within society as a whole.

The Patronage of Isabel, Princess of Portugal and Duchess of Burgundy (1397-1471)

Marisa Costa, Universidade de Lisboa, costa.misc@gmail.com

It is well known that the Portuguese princess Isabel (1397-1471), daughter of King João I and the English duchess Philippa of Lancaster, played a significant role in the European scenario of the fifteenth century. Known in historiography as ‘Isabelle de Portugal,’ this duchess of Burgundy is one of those noblewomen who, by means of her political and economic power as wife (in her case, of Philip the Good, 1396-1467), held a central position as patron of the arts. While it may seem that an analysis of her role in cultural patronage has already been done, the issue calls for an exhaustive, systematic examination. Little work has been carried out, for example, on Isabel's patronage in fifteenth-century Portuguese artistic history.

We have a variety of data, resulting from archival and material evidence, on her involvement in the fifteenth-century European artistic process. A fertile vein of inquiry, Isabel’s patronage raises many questions that have yet to be investigated. For a start, scholarship has taken for granted her sponsorship under the influence of the far better studied cultural deeds of her husband and her son, Charles the Bold. An investigation into the duchess's patronage must consider the course of her own life circumstances (princess, wife/duchess, mother, widow), addressing such issues within the complementary roles played by Isabel in art production, whether as facilitator or recipient.



Blandy-les-Tours (Seine-et-Marne): Women´s Interventions in the Castle and Village

Marie-Claire Coste, Conseil Général de Seine-et-Marne, marie-claire.coste@cg77.fr

Blandy-les-Tours is a fortified castle situated 50 km from Paris, near the royal city of Melun. This castle was built in the thirteenth century by the viscounts of Melun. The first viscounts belong to the family of Chailli, but soon, through alliances with illustrious families, they rose in importance and became close to the king of France. Having entered the family of Tancarville with Marguerite de Melun, they became allied to the family of Harcourt in 1417. Then in 1429, Marie, a woman of the Harcourt family, married Jean (the illegitimate son of the royal family of Orléans), called “Dunois”.

            But the role of women at Blandy really took off with Agnès of Savoy, the widow of François I of Orléans (d. 1491), count of Dunois and Longueville, who in 1508 drew up a 600-page document, called a terrier, which is the only written documentation to have reached us concerning the seigneury of Blandy. Their son, Louis I of Orléans, married Jeanne de Hochsberg, marchioness of Rothelin-en-Brigsau, in 1504. Jeanne brought the castle up to date in accord with current tastes, transforming it into a pleasant Renaissance residence (wall paintings, tin glazed stone floors) with all modern comforts (ceramic frying pans brought from her original region, the county of Neuchâtel).

            Finally, Jacqueline de Rohan, widow of François III of Orléans, who was converted to Protestantism in 1548, enlarged the parish church of Blandy where, in spite of her religious affiliation, she was interred.
            With written sources and archaeological evidence, therefore, it is possible to recognize several women’s contributions to the architecture of this castle and village in the late Middle Ages.


Women and the Architecture of al-Andalus: A Historiographical Analysis

María Elena Díez Jorge, Universidad de Granada, mdiez@ugr.es

The mythical image of al-Andalus has always aroused great interest amongst the travelers and scholars from different periods who have reflected on and analysed the most important monuments of andalusi architecture, almost from the very moment of their creation. In the first written sources and in subsequent studies there have often been references to patronage and to the uses given to the different areas of these buildings, but little interest has been shown in research into the specific field of uses according to gender, or even into the different areas occupied by women. There has also been very little analysis of possible collaborations between the two genders in the patronage of these constructions. The rare references to women have tended to view them from the object perspective rather than as subjects. It is therefore clear that in historiographical terms a serious reflection on the architecture of al-Andalus from a gender perspective has yet to be made.
In this article, we embark on a detailed journey through the different studies of both Islamic and Christian andalusi architecture over the ages (10th-16th c.), our aim being to rediscover the information and opinions “created” and compiled on this question, from the first comments made by early travelers and romantics to those of today’s specialists. Do the studies written hitherto make women visible as creators of architecture, in their different roles as patrons, users, or craftswomen? Have any gender-based criteria been established to distinguish between different conceptions of space and of architecture, depending on whether those participating in the construction or patronage of these monuments are men or women?

Asia in Aragón: Carpet Production in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain

Heather Ecker, Detroit Institute of Arts, ecker@dia.org

The carpet production of the Iberian Peninsula never matched that of Turkey, but it was important enough for its products to be exported around the Mediterranean and beyond, and especially for the Murcian production to come under Christian patronage, both royal and noble. From the surviving examples, and our understanding of their historical progression, it is clear that carpets produced in Spain were made at various levels, some rustic, others urban. What is also clear and truly remarkable is that, despite the disruptions of war, displacement, and forced religious conversion in the late medieval and early modern periods, carpet making remained a quintessential Islamic craft, transmitted over hundreds of years from mother to daughter in an unending chain until the expulsion of the Moriscos in the early 17th century.
            This paper will address the production of carpets (13th-16th c.) in the region of Murcia and Albacete. Prior to the 16th century, documentation is mostly limited to the appearance of such carpets in inventories, which provide valuable data on the volume of production and geographical distribution. However, they do not help to locate the carpets in their context of production, design transmission, craft traditions or mechanisms of patronage. For these, we must turn to the surviving carpets themselves, as well as to extrapolating from later documentary evidence—with the understanding that the means of patronage and design transmission changed over time—and from the parallel masculine industry of luster ceramic production, also in the Kingdom of Aragón.

Melisende of Jerusalem, Queen and Patron of Art in Crusader Jerusalem

Jaroslav Folda*, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , jfolda@email.unc.edu

Melisende (d. 1161) inherited the Latin Kingdom from her father and became queen, together with her husband, the new king, in a coronation ceremony held in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1131. William II, archbishop of Tyre and author of the History of Outremer, celebrates her rule as strong, wise, and judicious. He documents in detail her foundation and embellishment of a convent at Bethany with two churches for her sister, Yvetta. He also refers to the tomb of Melisende at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jehosaphat. No king of Jerusalem was given such a handsome burial chamber. William provides these selected references to the substantial art patronage of Melisende during her long and productive career as queen. But he does not mention the most famous work, the c. 1135 Psalter of Queen Melisende. This luxury prayerbook has been the object of intensive research as scholars have sought to understand exactly what Melisende's role was in its execution. Nor does William comment on Melisende’s involvement in other important commissions with which she was connected, namely, the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the abbey of St. Samuel, the Templum Domini, the church of the Ascension, the church of St. Anne, and the church of St. James. Why does William choose to mention just two works linked to Melisende’s patronage? What exactly was her role as patron in these and other projects between 1131 and 1161: initiator, sponsor, maker, facilitator, recipient?

In light of new research that has appeared since the publication of my 1995 book, I propose to reconsider and fully investigate the evidence for what I take to be Melisende’s role as the most important patron of the arts in the nearly two hundred year history of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Melisende was a great queen, equaling and perhaps even surpassing others better known in the twelfth century, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine. Melisende is less well known, but she deserves more: her role as patron in the Holy City, the center of the Christian world, at major holy sites central to the commemoration of the life of Christ, the Virgin and selected saints, is extraordinary and unique.


Queenship and the Power of Death: Blanche of Castille and the Twin Foundations of Maubuisson and Le Lys

Alexandra Gajewski, Independent Scholar, Nice, eremburg@talk21.com
Among medieval, aristocratic women who influenced artistic processes, Blanche of Castile (1188-1252) holds a special position due to the rare political power she exercised as regent and confidante of her son, Louis IX (r. 1226-1270). The difficulty in assessing the role played by patronage during the queen’s reign is demonstrated by her two Cistercian foundations, Maubuisson (1236), later used for the burial of Blanche’s body, and Le Lys (1248), where her heart was buried. The modest structure of the two abbey churches has been contrasted with the cathedral-like splendour of Cistercian Royaumont, founded by Blanche and Louis IX in 1228. The latter is considered an example of Louis’ own patronage, and regarded as a Cistercian version of the Königskirche that set the standard for what a royal Cistercian abbey should look like, thus sidelining scholarly interest in Maubuisson and Le Lys. Moreover, the emphasis on Louis’ close bonds with Royaumont has effaced Blanche’s central role in the foundation of the monastery. In fact, the patronage of Blanche and Louis cannot be disentangled and the three abbeys should be seen together, as examples of their joint ecclesiastical sponsorship. Despite the simplicity of the architecture of the female convents, all three abbey churches belong to the same stylistic milieu of Ile-de-France Rayonnant. The simplicity itself can be understood, not as an indication of lower status, but as a poignant signal, emphasising the virtue of humility in the interest of the image of rulership that was at the centre of Blanche’s interests.

Patterns of Patronage: Female Initiatives and Artistic Enterprises in England in the 13th and 14th Centuries

Loveday Lewes Gee*, Independent Scholar, Dyfed, Wales , LGLLANLLYR@aol.com


This paper will seek to identify how English women in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries expressed their concerns and priorities through their roles as commissioners and initiators of artistic objects, such as illuminated manuscripts, tombs, and seals. It will also examine their role in establishing various foundations, religious houses, and chantries. For female patronage, the impact of changes in religious practice after the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, as well as the influence of the Friars, current political circumstances, and wars with France, will be assessed in tracing the evolving patterns of patronage over the period.


While men and women shared a common culture and both were active as artistic patrons at this time, the way in which men and women identified themselves was different. Consequently there are certain themes and ideas that are particularly relevant to women, among them personal piety, family, and domestic circumstances. These will be examined in the social and spiritual context of their patronage. The women who were artistic patrons had similar interests and aims in their piety and social concerns, but their requirements were often very specific to themselves as individuals and reveal much about their personalities, priorities, circumstances and lives.

Gardens, Books, and Law-suits: Intersections of Power in the Strategies of Mahaut d'Artois (d. 1329)

Judith K Golden, Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, jkgolden@princeton.edu

As the study of women in the Middle Ages proceeds into the twenty-first century, it becomes ever more clear that women wielded greater influence and power in both governance and the arts than was previously assumed. One problem has been the lack of documentation: recorded information for any individual, male or female, outside of royal personages, is largely non-existent. Fortunately, both anecdotal and financial accounts, along with illuminated manuscripts that can be connected to Mahaut d’Artois (c. 1270-1329) exist, offering a view of a woman as ruler and donor. As countess, she is revealed to be tough and wily as she sidestepped the juridical efforts of her nephew to unseat her. Her sense of fun, sometimes at the expense of others, comes through in descriptions of the design of her gardens. And her aesthetics, along with the value she placed on art and learning, are visible in her many artistic commissions and the manuscripts with which she has been associated.

How much of what Mahaut carried out as patron was undertaken as a strategy to re-enforce her strength as ruler? This essay will review what is known of Mahaut and some of her contemporary noblewomen, with an eye toward intersections and expressions of her life as ruler in her activities as patron.


The Non-Gendered Appeal of Vierge Ouvrante Sculpturee: Audience, Patronage, and Purpose in Medieval Iberia

Melissa R. Katz, Brown University, Melissa_Katz@brown.edu

Pioneering scholarship on women's influence in the production and dissemination of art has revolutionized our understanding of the Middle Ages, especially with regard to the distinctive devotional experience of nuns. Yet, just as first-wave feminism gave way to new theories and strategies, the time has come to rethink gender-based approaches to medieval art, to assess past scholarship and retool methodologies for the next stage of informed analysis. This paper considers factors that may be missed or misread when approaching art through the lens of female devotional experience. It explores the Vierges ouvrantes, sculpted figures of the Virgin Mary that open to reveal religious imagery incorporated within the cavities of their bodies, which have been interpreted as works produced for monastic women. The fact that the earliest known owner of such sculpture was a woman—Violante de Aragón, queen of Castile—seems to further support a strictly gendered analysis.

My research demonstrates that these views, while reasonable given current scholarship on devotional art, do not accurately reflect the historical record. In-depth study reveals that the Vierges ouvrantes in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries appealed not to any particular gender, audience, or devotional practice, but rather to all simultaneously in areas ranging from Spain to Germany. This raises the question of how to make sense of patterns that contradict our assumptions of gendered appeal, authority, and agency. The collapse of seemingly stable categories encourages us to engage critically with current methods and formulate new perspectives that will energize and advance the field at a crucial point in its history

The Owners of the Medieval Haggadot

Katrin Kogman-Appel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, katrin@woobling.org

A considerable number of illustrated medieval Haggadot–small volumes containing the liturgical text to be recited during the Passover Seder–have come down to us. Almost none of them contains a colophon, and it is not known who commissioned them. What we do know is that the Haggadah is a family-owned book used within the private sphere of a ceremony at home. Accordingly we find numerous depictions of the family, including women, at various stages of preparations for the holiday and at the Seder table. This paper examines the role women play in the decoration programs of the medieval Haggadot (1280 to 1500) in all three realms where they were produced, Iberia, southern Germany, and northern Italy. Even though it was most likely the husband who paid for the manuscript, its use and function concern the entire family, addressing the women as well. This is very different from the commissioning of a study Bible, for example, or synagogal prayer books that were used exclusively by men. The involvement of women in the iconography of the Haggadot demonstrates that for these manuscripts ownership has to be viewed differently. Women used these books, not necessarily by reading them, but by listening to the recitation of the liturgical text, viewing images, and more.
The paper will focus on images of women, examining them against the background of what is known about the role women played in Jewish society. Rabbinic sources (abundantly extant from this period) about the Passover Holiday and the conduct of the members of the family during the preparation towards it and the festival itself will be examined in order to understand the full meaning of the representation of women in the illustrations and what they can tell us about the manifold uses of the books by the female members of the household.

Women in the Making: Medieval Signatures and Self-Portraits of Women Artists Pierre Alain

Pierre Alain Mariaux, Université de Neuchâtel , pierre-alain.mariaux@unine.ch

The work of women as cultural patrons and creators is now clearly recognized and valued, and it enables one to speak with Annemarie Weyl Carr of women as “arbiters of medieval culture”. Thus, women who sponsored or commissioned works of art did so, like their male counterparts, within definable conventions. Can the same be said of women artists?

A great part of what we know about medieval artists is based on the inventory and analysis of signed works and self-portraits (to say nothing of textual evidence). Yet, signatures give ambiguous information on the authorship of the work of art, since the artist, the designer, the entrepreneur, and the patron were all engaged in the process of “making”, and all may rightly be characterized as creators of the work. It is the aim of this chapter to study visual arts (portraits and self-portraits) and textual sources (mostly signatures, but also narratives, diplomatic sources, etc.) and to propose a “transverse” study of works “made” by women, crossing lexical, art historical, historical, and theological fields. In particular, my intention is to look closely at the implications of the use of the verb “facere” to describe art making. It is well known that books and textiles are the genres in which one most consistently finds women named, and so it is in these that one can best ponder the issues of women’s artistic productivity. But the ways in which women artists sign or represent themselves in their work remains uncertain. The creative gesture was valued, from the 11th century on, as a performative one copied from the sacerdotal gesture of benediction, and was even viewed / understood as homologous to the creation of the body of Christ at the altar. Yet women were excluded from the priesthood, and this very fact disqualifies them as teachers or mediators of the spiritual, such as their male counterparts. How are the signatures of, and self-portraits of women artists to be understood within such a dynamic?

A Widow’s Court: Elisenda de Montcada, the Poor Clares, and an Imperial Vision of Queenship

Eileen McKiernan Gonzalez, Berea College, Eileen_MckiernanGonzalez@berea.edu
Elisenda de Montcada (1292-1364) became the fourth wife of Jaume II (el Justo 1285-1327) in 1322. Just four years later she lay the foundations for a convent of poor Clares outside the city walls of Barcelona. She ordered built at its side a palace for her own use, one that she moved into the following year upon Jaume’s death. She was to live in her palace for 37 years until her own death. The palace was then torn down upon her specifications leaving the convent intact by removing the physical connection to the court. Elisenda’s burial has two effigies, one in the Clarissan habit, in the cloister, and the other abutting the space in the church in her queen’s regalia. The burial presents the twin roles Elisenda articulated in her widowhood as pious queen and advisor, and as protector of the community. Her foresight in political matters was extraordinary and the site survives today to a great degree due to her vision.
Elisenda had a particular vision for her complex, one that communicates in style the expanding borders of the Aragonese-Catalan crown. Jaume II, son of Constance of Sicily, was king of Sicily for 11 years, prior to his negotiations with the papacy over its governance. Elisenda was involved in all aspects of the construction and embellishment of this exquisite example of Mediterranean Gothic architecture. Rather than follow the example of Flamboyant French Gothic forms of the period, the stylistic connections are with Franciscan examples in Italy, particularly Naples, and the Italian repercussions of Rayonnant Gothic forms. The chapel of Sant Miquel also includes an early example of Italianate frescoes, commissioned of Ferrer Bassa, but likely carried out by an Italian artist. In her cloister and church, Elisenda articulates a role for herself separate from the court, yet present. Her stepson Alfonso IV and step-grandson Pere IV both visited her at Pedralbes to consult with her in matters of state. Elisenda carved out a space for herself that she could control.

‘Planters of Great Civility’: Female Patrons in Medieval Ireland

Rachel Moss, Trinity College, Dublin, rmoss@tcd.ie

Over the past twenty years or so the contribution of medieval Irish women to the arts c. 1200-1600 has been acknowledged in a number of texts, with a particular focus on visual expressions of piety and church patronage. Some of this activity found its reward in a prized, often highly visible intra-mural burial place, adorned with a carved effigy of the patroness. Depictions of medieval Irish women tend to represent them in unfashionable clothing, to the extent that an image of them as an unsophisticated provincial population has developed. However, this initial impression is at odds with surviving evidence, both in the historical and archaeological record, of the degree to which Irish women imported both objects and craftsmen from abroad. For example, in the early 16th century Margaret Fitzgerald whose ‘provincial’ effigy is preserved in St Canice’s cathedral Kilkenny brought weavers from Flanders to teach the local craftsmen how to weave and make ‘Turkey carpets’. The now bleak, defensive aspect of Greencastle Co Down gives little hint of the long list of luxury items imported there from Florence in the mid-14th century by the Countess of Ulster – from large tapestries for more public display to items used for personal devotion. This paper will examine the degree to which women, more than male patrons, were responsible for introducing new ideas and skills to Irish medieval art. It will focus in particular on evidence of works purchased or commissioned for domestic spaces and for personal use, areas which have previously received only scant attention.

Mere Embroiderers? Women and Art in Early Medieval Ireland

Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh, University College, Cork , J.NiGhradaigh@ucc.ie

‘The woman who embroiders earns more profit even than queens’, states a maxim from the early Irish law tract, Bretha im Fhuillema Gell. Yet for the learned class who wrote such tracts, the two categories, queen and embroiderer, must have blurred almost imperceptibly across the margin defined by birth, which made it not an art, but an elegant and appropriate accomplishment: embroidery was a skill taught only to aristocratic girls, as other legal texts make clear. The aristocratic woman’s defined role in early Irish society relegated the sphere of her activities to the domestic; her contractual capacities were far less than those of her husband, father or brothers, yet in the disposal of the work of her needle, and her jewels, she could take responsibility; likewise contracts entered into with craftsmen and poets were amongst the few which were binding without legal sureties, and which women could therefore make. The altar-cloths, jewels and small portable objects donated by women to the church were therefore the combined result of specific social and legal possibilities, and, to an extent, an appropriate femininity in terms of medium. To regard them, however, as lower in value than other more lasting works in stone, is a mistake, as revealed by the mournfully recorded lost or ‘drowned’ vestments of contemporary chronicles. But could women’s engagement with art go beyond this? Although sparse, a number of queens in ninth- to twelfth-century Ireland are recorded in hagiographical and chronicle sources as being actively involved in building work; hagiographies of female saints, moreover, indicate similar activities, while the legal tracts suggest the possibility of female craftsmen in stone or wood. 

This paper will trace the documentary evidence for women’s engagement with visual art from the earliest historical period up to c.1200 and beyond, taking into account recent methodological work on the role of women as poets and patrons of poetry and literature, in the same period. Where it is possible to identify the objects/buildings from the documentary sources, these will also be discussed.

Performing Piety: Medieval Welsh Women and the Patronage of Prayer

Karen Eileen Overbey, Tufts University, karen.overbey@tufts.edu

Studies of patronage in medieval Wales have focused on the heroic and the monumental—on courtly poetry, Cistercian monasteries, and royal castles—areas for which women’s roles are undocumented and, because of legal restrictions, unlikely. Inheritance laws meant that women’s wealth was in moveable goods rather than in land, and so major foundations were beyond the benefaction of even most noble women. But as Jane Cartwright has suggested, medieval Welsh women may have practiced more ‘local’ patronage, in donations to parish churches and in arrangements for prayers or requiem masses. In this essay, I propose that several thirteenth- and fourteenth-century tomb effigies represent noblewomen in this role, and that the iconography of female orans figures resonates with visual and literary depictions of prayer as a pious, protective, and specifically female social responsibility. My study considers the economic, legal, hagiographic, and religious discourses that shaped these representations, as well as the historiographic concerns that shaped their receptions, medieval and modern.
Objects to be examined include the relief effigy of Joan [Princess of Wales, wife of Llywelyn Fawr, daughter of John I of England], Church of St Mary, Beaumaris, Anglesey, c. 1237; the relief effigy of an unidentified woman, Church of St Mary, Cilcain, Flintshire, early 14th century; the effigies of Walter and Christina Awbrey, Priory Church of St John the Evangelist, Brecon, early 14th century; the relief effigy of Eva, Bangor Cathedral, Caernarfonshire, c. 1380; and the Llanbeblig Book of Hours [NLW MS 17520A], late 14th-early 15th century.

Religious Reform and Cultural Patronage in Fifteenth-Century Burgos: The Case of Mencía de Mendoza

Felipe Pereda Espeso, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid , felipe.pereda@uam.es

In 1482 the Condestable de Castilla, Pedro Fernández de Velasco, left Burgos to lead the Catholic Monarchs' army against the Kingdom of Granada. The Condestable (d. 1492) would invest the last ten years of his life in the war, while his wife Mencía de Mendoza (1422-1500) ran the family’s household in the far-away Castilian town of Burgos. Before leaving for Andalusia, the Condestable hastily wrote a document that gave Doña Mencía remarkably full powers over the administration of their wealth. The daughter of the Marquis of Santillana, Mencía belonged to one of the most important lineages of Castile; her patronage became very active after 1482, and even moreso in the final years of her life. During those two decades, she vigorously supported the reform of the Franciscan Order in Burgos, built the most exhuberant funerary chapel of her time (the so-called Capilla de los Condestables) in Burgos Cathedral, and completely rebuilt her family’s urban palace (Casa del Cordón). The last two initiatives led to a judiciary process against her first-born son, who felt that his mother was overtaking his heritage rights; the resulting documentation offers extremely interesting information for understanding the significance of Mencia’s enterprise.

In this paper, I will analyze Doña Mencia’s patronage in Burgos, giving special attention to the female social network of her personal relationships: from her friendship with the abbess of the Monastery of Las Huelgas, her step-sister Leonor de Mendoza, to that of Beatriz Manrique, her step-mother and reformer of the Clarissan monastery of Medina de Pomar. The contemporary stories of Leonor and Beatriz, just like that of Doña Mencía, were cases in which religious reform and artistic patronage developed hand in hand.


Women, Palaces, and Castles in Northern France (9th-10th and 12th-13th c.)

Annie Renoux, Université du Maine, Annie.Renoux@univ-lemans.fr

Barring a few very exceptional cases, written documentation from the ninth to thirteenth centuries makes only rare mention of the intervention of a woman (queen, princess, or other) in the construction of a palace or a castle, or indeed in the management or occupation of the various spaces of civil architecture. Such allusions may refer to direct involvement by women, as we have in the cases of the construction of the tower of Ivry by Aubrée, wife of Count Raoul of Ivry, or the decoration of the chamber of Adèle of Blois. However, these references are more commonly indirect allusions to such spaces as the children´s room. Two scenarios are possible: either the woman acts in her capacity as regent, or she exercises control over territory that is more strictly her own, such as dower lands.

The Treasuries of Isabel, Beatriz, Elisenda and Leonor. The Art Patronage of Some Queens of Portugal and Aragón in the 13th and 14th Centuries.

Ana Maria Seabra de Almeida Rodrigues, Universidade de Lisboa , anarodrigues@fl.ul.pt

Not much work has been done on the art patronage of the queens of Portugal in the Middle Ages. Yet we dispose of abundant material for the study of the treasuries of Queens Isabel (of Aragón, 1269?-1336) and Beatriz (of Castile, 1293-1359) and their respective husbands, the Kings of Portugal Dinis (1278-1325) and Afonso IV (1325-1347), and also of the monasteries they founded to house their mortal remains. In this paper, we will therefore compare the patronage of these queens and kings, along with the composition of their treasuries, in order to see the extent to which they were gender-determined. To perceive if there were regional and/or “national” differences, the comparison will be extended to the patronage and foundations of Elisenda (de Montcada, 1290?-1364) and Leonor (of Portugal, 1328-1348), queens of Aragón in the same period for whom there is the same kind of source material.

Women as Builders and Decorators of Churches: ca. 500-1100

Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg, University of Wisconsin-Madison, jschulenburg@dcs.wisc.edu

The formative role of women as “makers”—patrons, builders, and decorators of medieval churches—has not received the kind of attention it deserves. Over the years there has been an assumption by scholars that churchmen, kings, male aristocracy, and townsmen were responsible for most of the religious building activity in the Middle Ages. However, chronicles, saints’ lives and miracles, cartularies, correspondence, inscriptions, and other sources tell us something quite different: they underscore women’s major contributions to all aspects of the fabric of medieval churches. As sponsors and patrons they provided essential land, materials, money, and oversight for building projects. (In a few sources they were even said to have been involved in the actual construction process: they are described as transporting stones and sand to hurry the completion of their new buildings.) Moreover, these women dictated iconographic programs for wall paintings, sculpture, and embroideries; they decorated their churches with rich hangings, tapestries, and embroideries which they not infrequently made “with their own hands.” As avid collectors of relics, they also commissioned special reliquaries for their churches. Some of these art works contained portrayals of their female patrons along with their names.

This article explores the early involvement of laywomen, abbesses and nuns as “makers” of churches from ca. 500-1100. It discusses some of the patterns that emerge from a study of the following: the Merovingian wife of Namatius, bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, who was the donor and decorator of the church of Saint Stephen of Clermont-Ferrand; St. Rusticula, abbess and important builder of the monastery of St. Jean of Arles; the royal Anglo-Saxon St. Edith who built and decorated her monastic church at Wilton; the building activities of Edith, the wife of Edward the Confessor; and Sts. Cunegund, Adelheid, and Margaret of Scotland. This essay examines the function of gender, class, wealth, and religious profession in these artistic processes. It also looks at some of the strategies as well as subversive roles assumed by the female patrons and builders of these early churches.  


Women as Conceivers, Donors, Artists, and Embroiderers of Illustrated Textiles in Liturgical Furnishings and Church Decoration in the 13th and 14th Centuries

Stefanie Seeberg, Universität zu Köln, sseeberg@uni-koeln.de

An excellent example of the active roles women played in church decoration in the Middle Ages is the Premonstratensian nunnery of Altenberg in Hesse, Germany. From this monastery five large illustrated linen embroideries (about 150 to 400 cm) survive. They were made between 1270 and 1330, two of them during the time of magistra Gertrud (1227-1297), daughter of Saint Elizabeth (1207-1231), when the newly constructed church of the fast-growing nunnery got its first decoration. The first is a tomb cloth or catafalque cover, singular in its elaborate figural program with royal nimbed couples and prophets, and the second an embroidery with nine scenes from the life of Saint Elizabeth.

One generation after Gertrud’s death, three altarcloths with different pictorial programs in high quality drawing were made about 1330, together with an altarpiece—one of the earliest surviving winged examples. Unlike the altarpiece, the textiles show figures of donors as well as initials and names of women who dedicated their work to Jesus, as the inscriptions indicate. These embroideries, together with written sources and other liturgical objects, tell us about the furnishing of the high altar as a project of several women from the leading families connected to Altenberg - the landgraves of Thuringia and Hesse, the earls of Nassau, and others. Women from both within and outside the convent were involved in conceiving, financing, drawing, and embroidering the textiles. 

Together, all five textiles were made for the public space of the church, not the cloistered areas. Central elements of the decoration on high feast days when the church received many visitors and pilgrims, they give witness to the active roles played by women in the iconographic program of church decoration, as well as representing their cloister and the memoria of their families.

The First Queens of Portugal and the Building of the Realm

Miriam Shadis, Ohio University, shadis@ohio.edu

This essay will examine the patronage practices of the first queens of Portugal, from the hereditary Queen Teresa (d. 1130) to the queens Mafalda and Dulce (wives of Afonso Enriques and Sancho I respectively). Their patronage followed the trajectory of other royal patronage in Iberia and the wider European Continent: the introduction of the Cistercian Order (especially women's houses), linked to a particular devotion to the Virgin Mary, and then patronage of the new Mendicant Orders in the early thirteenth century. The “queenship,” however, of royal daughters (acknowledged as heirs and queens by their fathers) played an even greater role in the integration of the church and state of the new realm of Portugal, as these women founded, patronized or joined a number of monasteries there.

This study addresses a serious lacuna in scholarship on the relationship of the “making” of art and architecture to the “making” of the state, examining the foundation of the kingdom of Portugal as the context for the production of material culture, primarily religious architecture. While the conclusions of this work in progress are not yet firm, it appears that the common goal of state formation and the establishment of a ruling lineage created an arena in which men and women – rulers, religious, artists and architects – collaborated in vision and practice. Nonetheless, the result was often “feminine,” with royal daughters as directors, reformers and members of new foundations, creating a religio-political space for royal women.

Eleanor of Vermandois, the Widows of Saint-Quentin, and the Making of a Collegiate Church 1192-1214

Ellen M. Shortell, Massachusetts College of Art and Design , ellen.shortell@massart.edu

Although it bears important comparison to the cathedrals of Chartres, Soissons, and Reims, the collegiate church of Saint-Quentin has been a puzzle to architectural historians. Its date and thus its relationship to such major monuments of Gothic architecture have remained uncertain. One key to resolving this puzzle is recognizing the role played by several noblewomen, including Eleanor, Countess of Vermandois, in the initiation of construction of the church’s Gothic east end. Previous scholarship on Saint-Quentin has sought to identify the church’s design with Villard de Honnecourt and to see king Phillip Augustus providing the motivation and the resources for building. In formulating this still-popular but untenable thesis, scholars neglected both visual and documentary evidence that provide a date in the 1190s, coincident with the return of Eleanor, the last heir of the Vermandois’s leading family, to Saint-Quentin.

Like Eleanor, important noble families of the region regarded the collegiate church with a proprietary sense, as the chapter provided careers for many of their sons. Stained glass panels and previously unappreciated documents reveal the direct contributions of local noblewomen, including mothers of canons, to the building effort. This paper will ask whether there is a relationship between support of a traditional chapter of canons and female religious life, seeking to identify the choices and tensions that surrounded women’s participation in the rebuilding of Saint-Quentin. The terminal date for this study, 1214, marks not only Eleanor’s death and the political changes brought by the Battle of Bouvines, but also the reform of the chapter, civic riots, and most likely the beginning of a hiatus in construction

Signa et insigna nobilitatis. Women as Patrons of Medieval Art and Architecture and “Makers” of Aristocratic Consciousness: The Case of Sicily under Norman and Hohenstaufen Dynasties (12th-13th centuries)

Bérangère Soustre de Condat-Rabourdin, Université catholique de Louvain, berangeredecondat1@yahoo.fr

Questioning women’s roles in medieval art and architecture implies questioning individual and aristocratic self-awareness in the Middle Ages. Such Selbstbewußtsein will be addressed in this paper through the means of artistic commissions, documentary sources, and inscriptions. In the Realm of Sicily during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, women’s patronage was of great significance. The actions of noblewomen allowed them a place for display in the public arena—normally reserved for the men of their families—to express their personal power and the prestige of their own lineage. These women seem not to have questioned men’s rule; concerning especially their personal agency, their actions were not subversive. An examination of the works commissioned by these women demonstrates that their patronage reflected more their status within the aristocratic social structures than their gender. Women’s patronage was frequently connected to the question of aristocratic memoria, the individual defining herself with regards to a group formed by the dead and by the living, so that the remembrance of ancestors also contributed to the creation of an aristocratic kinship conveyed by the women. For Sicily, however, it cannot be asserted that women’s patronage differed radically from men’s; rather, patronage was above all one of the markers of aristocratic and familial consciousness.

Humbrina’s Artistic and Spiritual Project: Medieval Nuns-Artists in the Monastery of Santa Maria at Pontetetto (Lucca)

Loretta Vandi, Istituto Statale d’Arte – Scuola del Libro, Urbino , loretta@hi-net.it

This study concerns an artistic-religious project, devised and brought to completion between the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, by Humbrina (ca. 1056 - 1124), abbess and founder of the Monastery of Santa Maria at Pontetetto near Lucca, describing how an authoritative order - established under the Benedictine rule - was transformed into a creative spiritual development. During Humbrina’s lifetime, the Pontetetto nuns-artists produced a series of illuminated manuscripts - a collective enterprise including a Missal, a Commentary on the Song of Songs, and two Antiphonaries (now respectively in Florence, Pistoia, and Lucca) - whose liturgical function could have hardly exhausted their textual meaning. They provide documentary evidence of a painfully-reached awareness of what a genuine uplift of the soul might be. Once she understood that in her community liturgical sacred words played too objective a role, Humbrina began to revise the entire project. She suggested at first the use of images destined to mediate between the reader and the written prayers and, afterwards, the abbess proposed to substitute monologues and dialogues of female martyrs for the traditional narratives that had been employed up to that point. It was only with the latter step that the soul, through the heightening of emotional involvement, was finally brought much closer to the body than authority would ever have allowed.

Nimble-fingered Maidens in Scandinavia: Women as Artists and Patrons

Nancy L. Wicker, University of Mississippi, nwicker@olemiss.edu

One of the most famous runestones in Scandinavia was raised at Dynna in Norway by a mother to record that she had built a bridge to commemorate her daughter. The girl is memorialized on the stone as “the most nimble-fingered maiden in Hadeland,” perhaps for her weaving or embroidery. In the following paper, I will use this stone as a starting point to consider Scandinavian women from the Migration Period through the Viking Age (ca. 450–1050) as artists and patrons sponsoring runestones and perhaps making jewelry as well as textiles. Over 120 runestones record building a bridge, an act that facilitated transportation and communication during the conversion period. An elite woman who publicly sponsored a stone with such an inscription and explicitly Christian subject matter may have challenged those who had not yet converted and also dared her neighbors to compete. Besides its intriguing inscription, the Dynna stone is remarkable for its depiction of the Christian Nativity with the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men— scenes that some believe might record the daughter’s textile creations. In Viking society, skill in textiles was highly esteemed, not merely as a “minor” art but as the major art for decorating the interior of Viking halls. Similarly, jewelry was a focal point of Scandinavian artistic production, with women controlling wealth through metalwork as dowries.