A Nostalgic Filter: A University of Pittsburgh Exhibition

Speculum Virginum

Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, W. 72

The text of the ‘Mirror for Virgins’ was written as a manual of sorts to inspire piety in monastic women and instruct them in their devotion to God. Though the emphasis on virginity may seem repressive to modern sensibilities – and for good cause – for aristocratic medieval women who would have otherwise faced political marriages and the dangers of childbirth, a life of chastity offered a different kind of liberation. This is evident, for example, in the image of Humility skewering Pride with a sword; she is flanked by Judith and Jael, two heroines from the Hebrew Bible shown standing on the heads of the men they vanquished. A printed facsimile of the Speculum Virginum has yet to be published but the book has been fully digitized by the Walters Art Museum, offering an important counterexample of a women’s book that survives intact from the time of Scivias and the Hortus Deliciarum.

This manuscript has been fully digitized and is available at the website of the Walters Art Museum.

This page has paths:

This page references: