Women of the Burgundian Court
Mary of Burgundy
The great seals commissioned by Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, claimed political authority by reference to the equestrian seals of her ducal forbears. The dukes appear in combat while she is shown as a hunter. This project offers a series of historicized interpretations of Mary’s seals to reveal how viewers responded to the imagery, and why. Some of the readings I offer corresponded to her objectives as the ruler of Burgundy, but others did not. Those in the latter category throw into question the utility of Mary’s imagery on the political landscape, not only in her lifetime but after her death when her husband and heir, Maximilian of Austria, was capitalizing on her image.
This new way of thinking about Mary’s seals carries the discussion beyond a single sealer to the culture of seals at large, in an early step to realign the emphases of sigillography through reception. Mary’s political situation may have been unprecedented in many ways, but the social fragility of her seals and sealing practices was hardly unique. Burgundian sealing was, in fact, a troubled enterprise.
“Rulership, Ridership, and the Perils of Sealing,” in Marie de Bourgogne: Figure, Principat et Postérité d’une Duchesse Tardo-Médiévale/Mary of Burgundy: Reign, ‘Persona’, and Legacy of a Late Medieval Duchess, ed. Michael Depreter, Jonathan Dumont, Elizabeth L’Estrange, and Samuel Mareel, 119-47. Turnhout: Brepols, 2021.
“Gender and the Utility of Mary of Burgundy’s Equestrian Seals,” presented at “Mary of Burgundy: The Reign, the Persona, and the Legacy,” Brussels and Bruges, 2015.
Margaret of York
A devotional catechism commissioned by Margaret of York (1446-1503), Duchess of Burgundy, is embellished with a frontispiece that inflects the noli me tangere. In arrangement unprecedented in Burgundian court portraiture, it depicts a living subject – namely Margaret – in the guise of Mary Magdalene. My essay published in Gesta argues that Margaret grafted onto the Magdalene a complex range of gendered traits and personas promoted through textual sources known to her and through expectations for piety and procreation as Duchess of Burgundy.
Andrea Pearson, “Gendered Subject, Gendered Spectator: Mary Magdalen in the Gaze of Margaret of York,” Gesta 44/1: 47-66.
(An earlier version of the essay was published in the Publication du Centre Europeen d’Etudes Bourguignonnes (XIVe – XVIe s.) 44 (2004): 113-135.)
See also: Catalogue entry for Le dyalogue de la duchesse de Bourgogne à Jésus Christ (British Library, London, MS 7907) in Women of Distinction: Margaret of York/Margaret of Austria, ed. Dagmar Eichberger, no. 83, pp. 244-45. Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2005.
Article of the Month prize for “Gendered Subject/Gendered Spectator” from Feminae, an index on women and gender in the Middle Ages compiled at Haverford University with the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship, January 2006.