Mary Magdalene with a Book and an Ointment Jar (detail), about 1510–1520, Workshop of Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian. Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig IX 18, fol. 264v

Illuminating Women in the Medieval World


North Pavilion, Plaza Level

From damsels in distress to powerful patrons, from the Virgin Mary to the adulterous Bathsheba, a wide variety of female figures populated the pages of medieval manuscripts. Virtuous women such as biblical heroines, steadfast saints, and pious nuns were held up as models for proper behavior, while lascivious women were warnings against sinful conduct. Female figures fulfilled the romantic role of lovers, the social and political function of wives, and the nurturing capacity of mothers. They were also creators of manuscripts, as women of great wealth and high status exercised their authority and influence by commissioning books—and sometimes even illuminating them.

Learn more

Need help?

Contact us!

9 am–5 pm,
7 days a week

(310) 440-7300