The Madonna of Humility

Development, Dissemination and Reception, c.1340-1400

Beth Williamson

Detailed analysis of an iconographic motif of huge significance in European art.
Date Published :
February 2009
Publisher :
Boydell and Brewer
Series :
Bristol Studies in Medieval Cultures
Illustration :
8 color, 40 black and white
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781843834199
Pages : 212
Dimensions : 9.5 x 6.75 inches

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The image of the `Madonna of Humility', the Virgin and Child seated on the ground, is widespread in European art, yet it remains mysterious. This book provides a detailed and accessible investigation and explication of the theme's multiple significances, and of other associated images (including the Virgin suckling the Child, the Woman of the Apocalypse and the Virgin Annunciate). It takes issue with the orthodox view of the origins of the image lying in the work of Simone Martini at Avignon, suggesting a longer process of development, with a key role for manuscript illumination in Metz. Subsequent chapters pursue the assimilation, appropriation, and adjustment of the image in a number of regions across Europe, challenging the simplistic idea of unequivocal iconographic meaning determined solely by the context of the image's genesis. The book argues for an essential fluidity and negotiability of meaning in the visual arts, challenging the very idea of unitary and unequivocal iconographic readings; and its examination of the multi-layered functions of the image in different contexts and different regions provides not just an iconographical case-study, but a cultural history of a devotional resource with Europe-wide implications

Dr BETH WILLIAMSON teaches in the Department of Art History, University of Bristol.


The Madonna of Humility: Descriptions and Definitions
The Madonna of Humility in Avignon
Early Appearances of the Image
Siena and Florence
Image and Ideal
Using the Madonna of Humility
Responding to the Madonna of Humility

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