Tenth Anniversary Special Issue
This article discusses the narrative ambiguities surrounding Igraine, King Arthur’s mother, which are inherent in the two earliest medieval British Arthurian texts: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and Laȝamon’s Brut. Although Igraine is the pivot around which all political action turns at the beginning of these sequences, her voice is left unnarrated. Since these chronicles favour genealogy over characterisation, narrative ambiguities arise out of Igraine’s silence which are the result of a public sublimation of her private identity. The process of translation from Geoffrey’s to Laȝamon’s work creates spaces within the narrative as the story is adapted, in which allusions to the disjunction of public and private life in the Arthurian court can be seen.
This article studies a 16th century illustrated liturgical psalter from the Brigittine abbey of Mariënwater in the northern Netherlands, held at the Houghton Library (MS Typ 197, Cambridge, MA). With its two paintings, Saint Anne with the Virgin and Child and the Man of Sorrows with the Instruments of the Passion, as well as the additional text of St. Birgitta’s Sermo Angelicus, this work raises issues of the production and consumption of religious texts within convents in the northern Netherlands. In particular, it highlights issues of female spirituality within the Brigittine order, as well as the relationship between print culture and manuscript production. The manuscript is an example of how prints, which are copied to be made widely available, are re-appropriated as paintings in a manuscript that is made in and for a smaller female audience. The two prints are thus recontextualized when seen in the context of the whole manuscript, and in the context of Brigittine devotion. I look first at the relationship of the two miniatures to each other and to Brigittine devotion within the larger context of female spirituality. I suggest that the manuscript was made for a female audience, and that the two images seen together portray ideas of Brigittine devotion, in particular the idea of the predestination of Mary and the growing cult of St. Anne. Second, I look at the relationship of the paintings to prints within a larger context of a cross-referential visual culture in the Low Countries in the late middle ages.