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A painting on canvas _Fig by tyndale


									The Cloisters Double Intercession
The Virgin as co-redemptrix

Beth Williamson

Apollo November 2000
A painting on canvas (Fig. 1), now in the Cloisters in New York, but originally located over an altar on the reverse
facade of the Duomo in Florence, depicts possibly the earliest Italian example of the double intercession of Christ
and the Virgin Mary. The painting is usually attributed to an unknown Florentine painter, 1 and is usually dated
around 1400.2 At the apex of the painting, God the Father is shown half-length on a bank of clouds, set against a
series of concentric circles, which represent the heavens. Below him, to the right, is the Virgin, holding her breast in
her left hand, offering it as a means of intercession, and indicating, with her right hand, a group of eight diminutive
figures (Fig. 5), laymen and -women, who kneel in supplication, gazing up at Christ. The Virgin, too, gazes steadily
across at her son. Christ, on the other hand, looks towards his father, while gesturing with his left hand towards his
mother. With his right hand, he indicates the wound in his side, effecting a visual parallel between the wound and
the breast as means of intercession.

Christ is dressed in a reddish mantle, while the Virgin is dressed not in her characteristic blue, but in a white robe. It
had been tentatively suggested by Millard Meiss, in his 1954 article on the Cloisters painting, that the colour of the
garments worn by Christ and the Virgin corresponded to the blood of Christ's wounds, and the milk of the Virgin's
breasts.3 He then pulled back from the suggestion by noting that depict the Virgin in her traditional blue would 'in
any event present a problem against the blue ground.4 However, it was perfectly possible for images of the Virgin to
employ a blue background, and still retain the blue mantle, using a different shade for each, as in a Madonna of
Humility by Bartolomeo da Camogli (Fig. 2).5 This fact indicates that the decision of the painter to present the
Virgin in white rather than in blue in the Cloisters Double Intercession is likely to have been deliberate.

A further examination of the iconography of this painting, together with a brief enquiry into the origins of the
concept of the double intercession, will show that Meiss's tentative suggestion is correct and must be supported: the
colours of the garments worn by Christ and the Virgin do indeed correspond to the blood of his wound, and the milk
of her breast. Furthermore, it is the blood and the milk specifically-not simply the wound and the breast -which are
most important here.

The image of the double intercession has been examined before, 6 but in this article I will seek to explore further
some theological and cultural background to the concept of the double intercession as expressed in this particular
image, by looking at the painting in the wider context of the Virgo lactans, or suckling Virgin. The visual reference
to the Virgin's breast in this painting, and the textual reference to her milk in the inscription which is discussed more
fully below are crucial elements contributing to the meaning of this image. By giving proper attention to those
elements and by exploring the Cloisters Double Intercession in the context of the Virgo lactans, I will seek to
explain why it is that an image of the Virgin which refers to her motherhood in general, but more specifically to her
milk, imbues her with particularly effective intercessory capabilities. 7 Finally, I will broaden the field of
investigation to look at some of the ways in which the painting's placement upon an altar might have bestowed
further layers of meaning upon the imagery, which present the Virgin to the viewer not only as intercessor, but also
as Co-Redemptrix, through the close association of the Virgin's milk with the blood of Christ.

A hierarchy of intercession is indicated in the Cloisters painting. The Virgin does not appeal directly to God the
Father, but to her Son, as the direction of her gaze and of the inscription indicate. The inscription itself reads
son, because of the milk that I gave you have mercy on them'). Christ then appeals to his Father, taking into account
his mother's plea, on behalf of the mortals kneeling beside the Virgin: PADRE MIO SIENO SALVI CHOSTORO
PEQVALI TV/ VOLESTI CHIO PATISSI PASSIONE. ('My Father, let those be saved for whom you wished that I
suffer the passion'). Again the direction of the inscription and of Christ's gaze indicate that it is only Christ who is
engaged in direct dialogue with God the Father, although it is clear that the intercession of Christ and of the Virgin
is to be seen as part of the same process.

The effectiveness of the Virgin's intercession was a favourite subject for theologians and writers. The Benedictine
Geoffrey of Vendome (d. 1132) discussed the Virgin's capacity for intercession, emphasizing her motherhood as
giving her the power to intercede.8 Guibert of Nogent, a Benedictine abbot, and follower of St Anselm, developed
ideas on the Virgin and her intercession, which attribute to her what Hilda Graef calls 'quasi-divine properties'.9 It is
the Virgin's maternal relationship with Christ which is stressed most in this context. 10 She is even called saviour
(salvatricem)11 and Guibert declares that without her childbirth there would have been no Redemption. 12 In
Guibert's work, the Virgin appears as something more than simply a mediator: she is presented as sharing, crucially,
in the Redemption. These ideas develop the theme of the Virgin as mediator between her son and those who pray to
her, identifying her as in some senses working beside Christ, for the salvation of mortals, almost on a par with Him.

This intercession of the Virgin was regarded not only as effective, but as practically foolproof. As Guibert of
Nogent declared, what the Virgin asked was bound to come to pass, and the view became current that the Virgin
could provide salvation where Christ, in his judgement, would have condemned the sinner. That it was the Virgin,
rather than Christ, to whom the sinner should turn for salvation was a view quite widely held. 13

This, then, is the theological context for the idea of the Virgin as mediatrix. The Virgin's crucial maternal
relationship with Christ is, of course, vividly represented in the Cloisters image, both by the visual emphasis upon
her breast, but also by the reference in her inscription to the milk which she gave to Christ. This stress upon the milk
of the Virgin here requires that the image of the Virgin interceding with her breast be understood as a Virgo lactans,
even though in this context she is not accompanied by the suckling child. But why is it the Virgo lactans which is
seen to be a particularly effective intercessory image? The answer seems to lie in the fact that the image of the
Virgin interceding with her breast indicates more than just that simple maternal relationship. It indicates her
physical connection with Christ, and because of this the Virgo lactans is seen to have an active physical connection
with the blood sacrifice made by Christ at the time of the Crucifixion, as we shall observe. It is this which lies at the
heart of the image of the double intercession.

As has been noted several times in the literature,14 the origins of this scene of double intercession lay in the writings
of Arnaud, abbot of Bonneval (d. after 1156), who is also known as Ernaldus of Chartres. In his Libellus de
Laudibus B. Mariae Virginis, Ernaldus wrote:

Man has now secure access to God where he has the son as a mediator for his cause before the Father and the
mother before the Son. Christ, his flank exposed, shows the Father his side and wounds; Mary shows Christ her
heart and breasts; and nor is it possible in any way, when [Christ and Mary] come together and plead very
eloquently in every tongue, for these monuments of mercy and signs of charity to be repulsed. The mother and Son
divide the office of piety in the presence of the Father. . Mary sacrifices herself to Christ in spirit and entreats [for]
the salvation of the world, the Son requests it, the Father pardons.15
The concept of double intercession expressed in Arnaud's Libellus De Laudibus was popularised by a text, written
in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, which was rapidly disseminated, and became one of the most popular
and widely-read of all religious texts. According to M.R. James,16 this text, the Speculum Humanae Salvationis, was
a summary of the typological aspect of Christian art. It showed how the Incarnation and Passion of Christ had been
prefigured, especially in the history of Israel. Chapter thirty-nine of the Speculum is devoted to the theme of
intercession. Illustrated versions of the Speculum, of which there are many,17 show the Virgin exposing her breast to
Christ in one picture and, in a separate image Christ, his arms raised in an orans posture, exhibiting his wounds to
God (Figs. 3 and 4). As Millard Meiss noted, the illustrations of the Speculum keep these two images separate.
Meiss identified the Cloisters picture as 'the earliest instance of such a combination', and while other earlier
examples of the theme have since been identified, 18 the Cloisters canvas does, nevertheless, seem to be the earliest
Italian example of the theme.19 It appears to illustrate exactly the concepts developed by Arnaud of Bonneval, and
to build logically upon the arrangement in the Speculum Humanae Salvationis.

However, the Cloisters image does not simply compare the breast of the Virgin and wound of Christ. We see from
the text of the inscriptions that it actually compares her milk and his blood. Christ's inscription, and his pointing to
his wound in his side, mean that the Passion is here exemplified by the shedding of blood. This makes sense,
especially in the context of ever-increasing devotion to the eucharistic blood during the fourteenth century.20

Thus the Cloisters Double Intercession illustrates its inscribed reference to the Passion by means of visual
references to Christ's eucharistic blood, with Christ's gesturing towards the wound in his side, and also, crucially,
with the red mantle which he wears. In a similar way, the painting does not simply stress the Virgin's motherhood,
or her action of giving birth and feeding. It specifically emphasises her milk, and makes both visual and verbal
reference to that milk with the Virgin's unusual white garment, and with the inscription. The giving of the Virgin's
milk to the infant Christ foreshadows, and is linked with, the sacrificial gift of his blood at the Crucifixion. More
than that, the perceived links between the Virgin's milk and Christ's blood give the Virgo lactans a share in the
blood-sacrifice of Christ's Crucifixion, and makes her Co-redemptrix.
All human children were known to receive their bodily matter from their mothers. Therefore, if Christ was to be
regarded as fully human, then his body must have been formed in and of the Virgin's womb. Medieval scientific
theory identified menstrual blood as the matter which formed the child in the womb, because the menstrual flow
stopped during pregnancy and was therefore perceived to be providing the bodily matter of the child. Menstrual
blood also provided food for the child while it grew in the womb. According to the theory expounded in
Bartolomaeus Anglicus's encyclopaedic De Proprietatibus Rerum, on the birth of a baby, the blood was thought to
go via a special vein to the mother's breasts, where it was converted into milk and thus provided another form of
food for the child: 'For blood comes by a hollow vein to the heart, and then to the chest, and penetrates at last to the
breasts'.21 These physiological theories about the connections between blood and milk were well attested in the
medical literature of the day, and seem to have been widely known among parents and those charged with the care
of children. One of the primary concerns of wet nurses, and of those hiring wet nurses, was the connection between
the blood of the mother or nurse, and the milk which was to feed the child. It was widely accepted that pregnancy
resulted in poorer-quality breast milk because the' good blood' would be going to the uterus to feed the foetus, and
only the 'bad blood' would be left to be converted into breast milk. Recent research on child rearing and nursing
practices, particularly in late medieval and renaissance Italy, addresses these concerns on the part of parents and
nurses, and suggests that the close identity between a mother's blood and her breast milk was universally accepted. 22
We can therefore assume that a high proportion of viewers of the Cloisters painting would have made the same
These theories had several implications for such an image, and for the Virgin's intercession. First, they allowed the
image to be seen as symbolizing the very physical nature of the Virgin's motherhood, and emphasizing her part in
the Incarnation. They also linked the Virgin's milk with Christ's blood, not only in the biological sense, but also in
terms of a sacrificial and saving fluid. For if the Virgin's blood formed the body of Christ in the womb, and his
blood was thus one with hers, then the Virgin's milk, being nothing more than her own converted blood, was also
one with the saving blood of Christ.

It is this physical identity between the blood of Christ and the blood of the Virgin (and by extension, obviously,
between the blood of Christ and the milk of the Virgin) which allows the double intercession to operate. The
effectiveness of the Virgin's intercession, and her identity as Co-redemptrix, rests not just upon her identity as the
mother of Christ, but upon the very physical nature of that motherhood. It is that physical mother/son relationship
which provides an explanation for the Virgin's status as Co-redemptrix. The traditional view of the Virgin as Co-
redemptrix was based upon the idea of her compassio, her suffering along with Christ on Calvary.23 However, it is
not only the Virgin's compassionate suffering at the time of the Crucifixion which makes her the Co-redemptrix. In
fact, the milk is to be understood as identical with the blood of Christ and therefore gains some salvatory aspect in
its own right.24
Let us now consider some of the ways in which this direct parallel between Christ's blood and the Virgin's milk in
this painting might have been understood and interpreted by the early fifteenth-century viewer, in the context of the
painting's placement. As we shall see, the feeding aspect of the Virgo lactans gives this image of the double
intercession several different layers of meaning when placed upon an altar.

We cannot be absolutely certain that this painting was designed for an altar.25 However, we know that at some point
reasonably early on in its history it was placed on the altar on the inside of the facade of the Duomo, to the left of
the main portal as one entered, and that it had probably been there for several hundred years by the time it was first
recorded there in 1757. It was very probably on the altar as early as 1409. 26

The altar itself was dedicated to the Trinity, and -as Meiss has observed-the painting does represent 'in one aspect at
least, the Trinity'.27 That this painting could be described as such is confirmed by a reference from 1439 identifying
the altar as that 'of the Trinity or Pieta', although the painting clearly does not represent the usual Trinity
iconography. But apart from representing the particular type of Trinity wherein the Second son appears as a Man of
Son exhibiting his wound, what else did this painting convey to the viewer? Most obviously, there is the addition of
the figure of the Virgin to this Trinity. She is not merely an observer of the dialogue between the Persons of the
Trinity, as she herself is involved in that dialogue; the direction of the speech-inscriptions, the gesture of Christ and
the Virgin's own gesture clearly indicate that involvement. Obviously, one of the primary messages to be
understood from this painting is that the Virgin has the power, and the inclination, to intercede for human souls. The
painting illustrates the effectiveness of her intercession by showing Christ interceding with God the Father, and the
Father, by implication, bestows his blessing on Christ's request, by the sending down of the Holy Spirit in the form
of a dove. There are other nuances found in this particular image, however, which relate to the position of the image
on an altar, and which depend on the ideas, outlined above, about the bodily connections between the Virgin and her
Son, and the physical identity of their bodies and blood.

As the cult of the eucharist grew during the thirteenth and fourteenth Centuries, and as the humanity       of Christ
was increasingly stressed, a greater interest developed in the real, human conception of the body of the Christ Child
in the womb of the Virgin, and in the quality of the Virgin's maternal relationship with Christ. Since the body of
Christ was formed from the body of the Virgin, she was more than a simple vessel or container. The Virgin was the
'provider of human salvation in two senses: the literal -having conceived, given birth to, and provided life for the
human Christ -and the symbolic, or liturgical sense, because that human body, which she formed and carried in her
womb, became, in the sacrament of the mass, the bread of life.

The notion of the Virgin as provider of the sacramental bread allowed viewers at the mass to see her as intimately
connected with the moment of the consecration. As the eucharist was deemed to be the real body of Christ, so the
moment of the consecration paralleled, or re-enacted, the moment of the Christ Child's Incarnation in the Virgin's
womb. Although the death of Christ on the cross provided salvation because it atoned for human sins, it was not
primarily Christ's Passion and Crucifixion that were emphasised in the context of the liturgy of the mass, but the
mystery of his Incarnation, which allowed that sacrifice to take place. It was the phrase 'Et incarnatus est, de Spirito
Sancto, de Virgine Maria, et homo factus est' which was the liturgical high point of the creed, requiring
genuflection, not the following 'Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato' .28

The other obvious high point of the mass liturgy is the consecration, at which the priest effects the transformation of
the host into Christ's body with the words 'Hoc est corpus meum', echoing Christ's own words at the Last Supper.
The actual moment at which the consecration was deemed to have taken place was at the elevation of the host. 29
This became the climax of the liturgy, the time when the congregation could actually gaze upon their God incarnate.
At this point also genuflection was required, both by the priest and by the congregation, and the ringing of bells
indicated that the high point of the whole mass had been reached (this practice remains a part of the Catholic
liturgy). Genuflection at this moment provided a liturgical link between the consecration and the mention of the
Incarnation, during the creed, at which the congregation were also required to kneel. 30

Prayers were written to be recited at the moment of the elevation, to concentrate the mind of the observer upon the
import of the scene taking place, and the majority of these prayers dwelt upon the reality of Christ's body in the
consecrated host. The Anima Christi, published by Pope John XXII at Avignon in 1330, came to be recommended
for use at the elevation, along with other prayers in a similar vein.31 The prayer which came to be the most popular
was the Ave verum corpus.32 Miri Rubin noted the existence of an Italian Book of Hours which attached three years'
indulgence to this prayer, if said devoutly at the elevation. 33 This prayer in particular, when recited at the elevation,
linked the consecration with the incarnation, and emphasised the motherhood of the Virgin:

Ave verum corpus
Natum de Maria Virgine
Vere passum,
immolatum in cruce pro homine.34

The recitation of such a prayer at the elevation could surely only reinforce the knowledge that it was in the Virgin's
body that the eucharistic body of Christ had its origin. Therefore, while the words of the liturgy proper do not, at
this point, emphasise the Virgin's part in the Incarnation and eucharist, focussing instead on Christ's words at the
Last Supper, the para-liturgical accretions and prayers could serve to provide this link between the Virgin and the
eucharist in the mind of the ordinary lay person.
What do all these ideas contribute to a reading of the Cloisters painting as an altarpiece? An image which
emphasises the Virgin's milk, placed above an altar, as the background to the visual spectacle of the elevation,
brought the viewer into the centre of a sacramental relationship with Christ, and with the Virgin. The viewer could
read in this painting the message that the body of Christ, held up as the source of human salvation, came directly
from the body of the Virgin. Therefore the Virgo lactans could attain a status as the source of the eucharistic body.
As the importance of the eucharist itself increased, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, following the
formulation of the doctrine of transubstantiation, so access to the sacrament became more problematic and

The visual spectacle of the elevation therefore came to be seen as possessing some sacramental efficacy, and it
came to provide something of a substitute for actual communion. The elevation, which was becoming increasingly
dramatised within the liturgy, and which offered the opportunity to gaze upon the host, became the climax of the
mass. It provided a moment of contact with God, albeit visual contact only. Ideas developed which taught that
communion could be experienced by seeing, without tasting, the body of Christ. Gazing at the host thus offered an
alternative to the physical reception of communion, and a concept of spiritual communion by sacramental viewing,
or manducatio per visum, eating through sight, was further developed, having been formulated in the twelfth
century. This form of communion, as opposed to manducatio per gustum, eating through taste, was strictly non-
sacramental, but was imbued with great quasi-sacramental importance by the ordinary non-communicant laity.36

When communion was received only spiritually, or visually, in this way, with the liturgy taking place in front of an
image such as the Cloisters painting, the communicant was offered, by way of a substitute for actual communion,
the visual spectacle of the elevation of the host, against the backdrop of an image of the maternal care and spiritual
sustenance which the Virgin, as mother of all, provided for all believers, as well as for her son. And it must be
remembered that prayers such as the Ave Verum Corpus, the recitation of which was encouraged at the elevation,
made specific links between the eucharistic body of Christ and the Virgin. Even when only experiencing 'spiritual
communion', in front of an image such as this, the spectator would have been moved to think about feeding and
about receiving spiritual sustenance from the eucharist, regardless of the fact that the host was not received
physically. The image of the Virgo lactans reminded the viewer that spiritual feeding, available simply by
attendance at the mass, and observation of the consecration ritual, was both beneficial and efficacious.

The image of the double intercession in the Cloisters painting, seen in the context of the eucharistic liturgy, would
have reminded the viewer not only that this spiritual sustenance was available as a substitute for infrequently-
received communion, but also that the Virgin's care and intercession on behalf of souls was constant. An image of
the Co-redemptrix which explains the Virgin's ability and inclination to intercede in terms of her physical
connection with Christ's eucharistic body would surely have eased the tension inherent in a religious climate in
which devotion to the eucharist was increasing in parallel with the restriction of opportunities for the ordinary
communicant to receive that eucharist.

In the Cloisters painting, then, the Virgin's importance for human salvation may be interpreted in a number of ways,
depending on the context in which it is viewed. By the presentation of the wound and the breast as parallel in this
way, and by the use of colour to emphasise the 'signs of charity' -the Virgin's milk and Christ's blood -the artist of
the Cloisters painting produced an image of the double intercession which could have several layers of meani ng.
The Virgin is seen interceding with her Son, because she is his mother, and he will be inclined to grant her wishes.
But the presentation of the Virgin in white, as compared to the red of Christ's robe, seems to emphasise especially
the connections between his blood and her milk, and to present the two as parallel. In the context of the sacrament
of the mass, to which this image would form a backdrop, this parallel links the Virgin not only with the Incarnation
and the Crucifixion, but also with the continuing process of Christ's re-incarnation and re-sacrifice at the mass,
especially when the physical experience of receiving the eucharistic sacrament was increasingly being replaced by
the visual experience. Writers on the Virgin's intercession had stressed the efficacy of her interventions on behalf of
sinners, even to the extent of suggesting that sinners could circumvent the justice of Christ by appealing to the
Virgin's mercy directly. In a similar way, the intercessory aspect of the Virgin as shown in the Cloisters painting
emphasised that devotees did not need to fear the fact that their reception of Christ's eucharistic body was
infrequent, since they would be helped to salvation by the Virgin's maternal intercession. This made the Virgin
crucially important as an intercessor, and as Co-redemptrix, even if, in this image, the hierarchy of intercession is
still carefu1ly observed, by the relationship of gestures, glances and inscribed speeches.

The material which forms the basis of this article first appeared in my doctoral thesis, The Virgin Lactans and the
Madonna of Humility: Image and Devotion in Italy, Metz and Avignon in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries,
unpublished PhD dissertation, Courtauld Institute, University of London, 1996. The dissertation was written under
the supervision of Dr. Joanna Cannon, to whom I am extremely grateful for her help and support. The research for
this dissertation was carried out with the financial assistance of a three-year studentship from the British Academy,
and I thank the Academy also for their support. I would like to thank Pat Rubin and Dale Kinney for several useful
suggestions concerning this article.

1 Federico Zeri, Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art -Florentine
School, New York, 1971, p. 59, identified the style of this painting as that of a late follower of Andrea Orcagna, and
declared that 'in its linear rhythms it is strongly reminiscent of that of the early Lorenzo Monaco'. He did not,
however, attribute it to Lorenzo Monaco, and decided that 'in spite of the importance of this commission no other
work by the same hand is at present known'. At the time, scholarly opinion was divided, with several authorities
attributing the work to Niccolo di Pietro Gerini. Marvin Eisenberg, Lorenzo Monaco, Princeton, 1989, p. 185,
rejected any attribution to the early Lorenzo Monaco, or to Niccolo di Pietro Gerini, and confirmed that there was a
critical consensus that no known painter seemed securely associable with the work (therefore supporting Zeri's
opinion of 1971). Eisenberg proposed that the work has stylistic features which mark it out as a product of the
stylistic milieu that represents 'the principal late-century survival of the formalism of the Cioni, the admixture of
Gerinesque elements, and an explicit Giottesque revival'. It seems most reasonable to regard this work as being by a
follower of Niccolo di Pietro Gerini, from the same milieu as, but not identical with, Lorenzo Monaco.

2 See Millard Meiss, 'An Early Altarpiece From the Cathedral of Florence', Metropolitan Museum Bulletin, vol. XII,
1954, pp. 302-17, where a date of c. 1402 is given. The canvas has now been backed by a panel.

3 Ibid., p. 308, 'the painter has perhaps suggested the different nature of the "proofs" offered by the two -the milk
and the wound -by the color of their garments'

4 Ibid., p. 308
5 For another example of a blue mantle against a blue background, see a Madonna by the Maestro delle Tempere
Francescane in Naples (F .Bologna, I Pittori alla Corte nella Angioina di Napoli, 1266-1414, Rome, 1969, p. 333,
plate 32).

6 See Meiss, op. cit., p. 306; Barbara G. Lane, 'The "Symbolic Crucifixion" in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves',
Oud-Holland, vol. LXXXVII, 1973, pp.4-26.

7 Early examples of the double intercession theme concentrate specifically on the Virgin's breast as the instrument
of her intercession. Later examples, such as that by the Master of the Sherman Predella of c. 1425-1435 (for which,
see Seven Highly Important Pictures, exh. cat., Richard L. Feigen & Co., n.d., no.1), while they may retain their
emphasis on Christ's side wound, lessen their concentration on the breast of the Virgin, and instead show her with
her hand pressed to her chest or heart in a much more general way. This shift may correspond to a decline in
popularity of the theme of the Virgo lactans as a whole. Later examples still, such as Federico Barocci's Madonna
del Popolo of 1579 in the Uffizi, Florence, abandon even the emphasis on Christ's wound.
8 He found biblical support for this in the miracle of the Marriage at Cana, where the Virgin asked her Son to
provide a solution to the host's difficulties. Hilda Graef paraphrases Geoffrey's Eighth Sermon as follows: 'through
her mother's command she can obtain from Christ whatever she desires, and she will never be defrauded of her
maternal rights. Though God is, indeed, omnipotent, he has never been able to refuse her anything: See Hilda Graef,
Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, 2 vols., London, 1963, vol. I, p. 226.

9 Ibid., p. 224.
10 Guibert declares that the Virgin's intercession is effective because 'as a good son in this world so respects his
mother's authority that she commands rather than asks, so he who undoubtedly was once subject to her cannot, I am
sure, refuse her anything; and what (1 speak humanly) she demands, not by asking but by commanding, will surely
come to pass': Et cum penes liberalum Filium in hoc saeculo soleat in tantum praeeminere matris auctoritate, ut
magis jubeat quam exoret; ille qui quondam se ei fuisse non diffitetur subditum, non poterit, securus dico, in omni
re ille praestabilem negare seipsum; et quod, ut humanitas loquar, non prece, sed nutu illa intulerit, procul dubio
constanserit'; De Laude S. Mariae, chapter 9, J. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Latina [hereafter PL), vol. CLVI, col. 564A
(translation in Graef, op. cit., vol. I, p. 225). He further adds that it behoves her not to ask but to command: 'tibi
enim non orare, sed ubique imperare praesto est', De Laude S. Mariae; chapter 14, PL, vol. CLVI, col. 577A.

11 Ibid., PL, vol. CLVI, plate 156, col. 5778.
12 'Se ipsa non genuisset, quae redemptionis mentio exsistisset' , ibid., chapter 4, PL, vol. CL VI, col. 543c.

13 As Eadmer (d. 1124), a follower of St Anselm of Canterbury, put it' 'Sometimes salvation is quicker if we
remember Mary's name than if we invoke the name of the Lord Jesus' ('Velociorque est nonnunquam salus
memorato nomine ejus quam invocato nomine Domini Jesu unici filii ejius'), Book on the Excellence of the Virgin
Mary, PL, vol. CLIX, col. 570A.

14 I. Lutz and P. Petdrizet, Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 2 vols., Mulhouse and Leipzig, 1907-1909, vol. 1, p.
302; E, Male, L 'art religieux de la fin du moyen age en France, Paris, 1922, p, 162, note 4; 0. von Sirnson,
'Compassio and Co-redemptio in Roger van der Weyden's Descent from the Cross', Art Bulletin, vol. xxxv, 1953,
pp. 9-16, especially p. 12; Meiss, op. cit.;p. 306; Lane, op. cit., p. 10.
15 PL, vol. CLXXXIX, cols. 1726-27: 'Securum accessum jam habet homo ad Deum, ubi mediatorem causae suae
Filium habet ante Patrem, et ante Filium matrem. Christus, nudato latere, Patri ostendit latus et vulnera; Maria
Christo pectus et ubera; nec potest ullo modo esse repulsa, ubi concurrent et orant omni lingua disertius haec
clementiae monumenta et charitatis insignia. Dividunt coram Patre inter se mater et Filius pietatis officia...Maria
Christo se spiritu immolat et promundi salute obsecrat, Filius impetrat, Pater condonat: (English translation in Lane,
op. cit., p. 10.)

16 M.R. James, Speculum Humanae Salvationis: Being a Reproduction of an Italian Manuscript of the Fourteenth
Century, Oxford, 1926, p. 5.

17 About one quarter of the three hundred and eighty or so surviving manuscripts are illustrated. See, for example,
that published by James, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS lat. 9584. At the time of James's study, only two
hundred and five manuscripts were known.

18 Meiss believed that the Cloisters picture was the earliest example of the combination of the two images, thus
making a double intercession in one image. In fact, as Barbara Lane has shown (Lane, op. cit., p. 16, fig. 16), there
are earlier examples of the theme, dating from the second half of the fourteenth century, in Northern Europe.

19 The popularity -or lack of it -of the Speculum Humanae Salvationis in Italy is much debated. James, op. cit., p.
10, declared that it had 'no great vogue' in Italy, whereas Evelyn Silber, 'The Reconstructed Speculum Humanae
Salvationis: The Italian Connection in the Early Fourteenth Century' , Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld
Institutes, vol. LXIII, 1980, pp. 33-51, has suggested that, although few Italian copies of the manuscript are known,
and although no translation ever seems to have appeared in Italian, several early copies of the text appear to have
Bolognese connections. Therefore she hypothesised an Italian origin for the text in the first quarter of the fourteenth

20 See (among others) Caroline Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval
Women, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1987, pp. 55-56, 161-80, 270-74, 280.

21 Bartolomaeus Anglicus, De Proprietatibus Rerum, W. Richter (ed.), Strasbourg, 1601, Book 5, chapter 34, De
mamilla, 'Nam sanguis per concavam venam ad cor veniens, et deinde ad pectus tendens ad mamillas penetrat.' See
also V. Bullough, 'Medieval medical and scientific views of women', Viator, vol. IV, 1973, pp. 48793, and Charles
T. Wood, 'The Doctor's Dilemma: Sin, Salvation, and the Menstrual Cycle in Medieval Thought', Speculum, vol.
LVI, no.4, 1981, pp. 710-27.

22 See, in particular, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, 'Blood Parents and Milk Parents: Wet Nursing in Florence, 1300-
1530', in Women, Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy, Chicago, 1985, pp.132-64, and Williamson, op. cit.,
chapter 7. See also Mary M. McLaughlin, 'Surrogates and Survivors: Children and Parents from the Ninth to the
Thirteenth Centuries', and James Bruce Ross, 'The Middle Class Child in Urban Italy, Fourteenth to Early Sixteenth
Century', both in Lloyd de Mause (ed.), The History of Childhood, New York, 1974, pp. 101-81, and pp. 183-228

23 For the Virgin's compassio, see A. Vacant and E. Mangenot, Dictionnaire de theologie catholique, Paris, 1927,
vol. IX, part 2, pp. 2392-93; A. Wilmart, Auteurs spirituels et textes devots du moyen age latin, Paris, 1932, pp.
505-36; von Simson, op. at.; J.B. Carol, De coredemptione B. Virginis Mariae, Vatican City, 1950.
24 Her physical identity with Christ means that when Christ's blood is shed at the Crucifixion, it is also, in some
senses, the Virgin's own blood which is shed. Therefore, the Virgin shares in the sacrifice. But the depiction of the
Virgin in white here, as compared to the red of Christ's robe, together with the mention of milk in the inscription,
particularly emphasises her milk, and presents the blood and milk as parallel.

25 Caroline Villers, 'Paintings on Canvas in Fourteenth Century Italy', Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte, vol. LVIII,
1995, pp. 338-58, has suggested that the unusual form and iconography of this painting may indicate that it had a
funerary function. She suggests (p. 349) that 'the strongly intercessionary subject, the vernacular inscription and the
fact that it shows a single family could support this hypothesis.' However, the intercessory or funerary subject-
matter would not preclude the painting's being used as an altarpiece, and therefore being seen in the context of the
26 Meiss, op. cit., pp. 310-12.

Notes are gifs from now on as the quality of the photocopy wasn't good enough to scan very small print.

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