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This article explores the depiction of St. Anne in the late medieval stained glass of three York parish churches. Focusing on two iconographic subjects, St. Anne teaching the Virgin Mary and St. Anne with her extended family, it argues that the representation of St. Anne in these contexts speaks to the conscious orientation of iconography towards female members of the laity. Images of St. Anne may have served to reinforce specific roles and values by providing a focus for performative identification. In addition, they reflect women’s status within the family, the parish, and society as a whole. This under-explored area of enquiry, namely the depiction of women in stained glass, is shown to serve as a useful lens through which to examine women’s reception of devotional imagery. By addressing the relative scarcity of women in discussions of medieval stained glass, this article contributes to the ongoing expansion of art-historical methodologies to embrace gender and women's studies. The analysis of medieval stained glass from a gendered perspective is in its infancy, and this article shows that further research into the ways in which late medieval women perceived, interpreted, and embodied the stained glass images they encountered in their local parish churches would be both revelatory and fruitful.


St. Anne; Virgin Mary; York; stained glass; medieval women; art history; performative identification.



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