Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, W. 72The 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.