What to Expect When Saints are Expecting: Holy Motherhood in a Visitation Antependium
In many medieval Visitation images, the Virgin Mary greets her cousin Elisabeth while John and Jesus—still in the womb—also greet each other. This seemingly unconventional image was popular in medieval Germany in the fifteenth-century. It directly relates to medieval ideas about maternity, childhood, pregnancy, and reproduction in general. It may also be related to the events of destruction occurring at the time, particularly the Black Plague. This presentation will consider an antependium from Strasbourg (1410), which is currently held in the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt but has been nearly forgotten in scholarly literature. This antependium, however, deserves analysis both as an individual work of art and as a part of a larger context of affective Marian imagery and Visitation images for a lay audience. This antependium follows trends of late medieval German spirituality and art. Focusing on lay viewers, this presentation will discuss how the Strasbourg antependium combines traditional medieval expectations regarding women with the theme of holy motherhood to elevate the status of pregnancy and encourage population growth in uncertain times.