In pictures: Medieval women

From shepherdesses to queens; saints to nuns; farmers to housewives, readers can now explore the lives of women in the Middle Ages

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Medieval Women includes 100 colour illustrations from the British Library’s extensive medieval manuscript collection, and gives detailed explanations of the depictions of the women in the images.

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Now, we can find out who the women in these images are, what their jobs were, and discover how they saw themselves.

Here, we reveal some of our favourite images…

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The Three Living and the Three Dead. Miniature by the Madonna Master. (De Lisle Psalter, England, probably London, c1310–20. © British Library)

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Saint Anne and the Virgin Mary with Saints Catherine, Margaret, and Barbara; added prefatory miniatures (c1302–16). (The Alphonso Psalter, London, c1284. © British Library)

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Man mowing and two women raking. (The Dunois Hours, Paris. © British Library)

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Annunciation to the Shepherds. Shepherdesses do not appear in the earliest depictions of the subject, but they are represented in many 15th-century French miniatures. (Book of Hours. Tours, France, 15th century. © British Library)

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Temptation of Adam and Eve; Expulsion from Paradise; Speculum consciencie (Mirror of Conscience). The serpent is shown with the body of a reptile and the face of a woman. In his biblical commentary, the Historia scholastica (c1164), Peter Comestor stated that the serpent had ‘the face of a virgin’, and this idea had a lasting impact on the visual arts. (The Hours of Joanna I of Castile, S. Netherlands, Bruges or Ghent, between 1496 and 1506. © British Library)

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The young Virgin Mary, assisted by an angel, weaves in the temple in Jerusalem. According to an apocryphal story, dating back to the late second century, the Virgin Mary helped to make a new curtain for the temple. (The Bedford Hours, Paris, c1410–30. © British Library)

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Nuns attending mass and singing in procession. (La Sainte Abbaïe, France, c1290–1300. © British Library)

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Lancelot with Guinevere, King Arthur’s queen. (Lancelot, N. France, Saint-Omer, Tournai or Ghent, c1320. © British Library)

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Saint Anne and the Virgin Mary who concentrates on her book. (The Alphonso Psalter, London, c1284. © British Library)

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Margaret Beauchamp and her guardian angel. Prayers to guardian angels were included in books of hours from the late 14th century onwards. (The Beaufort/ Beauchamp Hours, London, c1430–40. © British Library)

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To find out more about Medieval Women by Deirdre Jackson, visit the British Library online bookshop here.