This article centers upon the miniature of St. Anne with the Virgin in an English psalter from circa 1275, now in the Marciana Library in Venice. The illumination anchors a set of relationships with other miniatures, historiated initials, and calendar illustrations in the manuscript that fashion St. Anne into a paragon of matriarchal piety and authority. For the book owner, likely the noblewoman depicted in prayer at Psalm 101, the imagery would have responded to concerns about status, lineage and property that often preoccupied elite families at the time. Heraldry framing a miniature of the Tree of Jesse suggests that the psalter was made for a female relative of Francis de Bohun of Midhurst in Sussex, perhaps his second wife, Nichole de la Chapelle. As a remarried woman with only a daughter, Nichole—or a woman in comparable circumstances—might have seen in St. Anne a particularly apt ideal, since the saint herself had only daughters and had married three times according to a prevailing hagiographic interpretation. Furthermore, the visual similarities between St. Anne and a pair of thirteenth-century seals made for elite English widows imply that the book was also produced for a noble widow who had assumed chief responsibility for guiding her family’s fortunes. Regardless of the book owner’s exact situation, however, St. Anne in the psalter ultimately modeled an ideal of female power derived from linking and perpetuating male noble lineages.
"Matriarchy and Authority in a Thirteenth-Century English Psalter,"
Studies in Iconography: Vol. 44, Article 3.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/studies_in_iconography/vol44/iss1/3