The Education of the Virgin by Saint Anne

c. 1540
North-Eastern France, Troyes
clear, blue, green and purple glass with silver stain and vitreous paint
56.2 × 53.9 cm

The theme of the Education of the Virgin spread across Western Europe as part of the rising fashion for Marian devotion during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, encouraged by the Devotio Moderna movement of the Low Countries and the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in France (and soon after also in Spain). Although it was an invention of the Middle Ages and has no basis in canonical or apocryphal texts, its imagery helped late-Medieval theologians anchor the figure of Christ’s mother within a carefully prescribed notion of lineage and ancestry, embedded in the Old Testament and indicative of not only Christ’s, but also the Virgin’s immaculacy. It also helped to cement the notion of a special, pure form of diligence and motherhood, that late-Medieval devotees associated with the Virgin Mary and Saint Anne.

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Sam Fogg
Art of the Middle Ages