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RELIGION: The life of a virgin

Meester van de Magdalena Legende, Virgin and Child with Saints

During the late-Middle Ages, the inner experiential world, religion and the material world form a three-in-one essence. The life of virgins in religious institutions and as independent religious figures were on a spititual level were refined from the life of the worldly population. From a female standpoint, devotion and spirituality goes with virginity. The life pattern of the ‘holy virgin' served as a universal example. They embody the Christian ideals of chastity and steadfast belief.

Depictions of the saints, holy virgins and martyrs give the user a protective feel. The paintings of the Flemish primitives show the virginal women with a garment, a hairdress and attributes, the colour given to their state, or appear to give meaning to their life choice meaning. They were portrayed alone and as chief personages of a biblical tableau. Sometimes additional figures clarify the religious tableau. In other cases, the virigins flank the personages as patron saints. Often the virgins help reconstruct the origin of the painting, to illuminate the background of the choice of iconography or to explain the order of the work.

Sibylla Goegebuer