Book Series Studies and Texts, vol. 215

Imagining the Miraculous: Miraculous Images of the Virgin Mary in French Illuminated Manuscripts, ca. 1250–ca. 1450

Anna Russakoff

  • Pages: xvii + 194 p.
  • Size:205 x 255 mm
  • Illustrations:94 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2019

  • ISBN: 978-0-88844-215-4
  • Hardback
  • Available


« Sur ce point, le livre d’A.R. offre des perspectives particulièrement stimulantes aux historiens de l’art. » (Bertrand Cosnet, dans Le Moyen Âge, 1, 2020, p. 193)

“(…) beautifully presented and richly illustrated book (…) Russakoff fully succeeds in putting across her central claim (…)” (Claire M. Waters, in The Medieval Review, 36.08.2020)

“Russakoff’s book is beautifully illustrated with full-color images that reinforce the author’s close attention to the visual details (…) Russakoff’s study compellingly shows the contribution of manuscript illuminations to our understanding of the role of miraculous images in Marian devotion. Text and image draw the reader into the narratives, blurring the distinctions between art and life and between image and prototype. The illuminators grapple with the visual representation of animate objects and miraculous moments and reveal contemporary views of non-Christians. Ultimately, Russakoff’s book is a welcome addition to studies of the cult of the Virgin and the role of images in Marian devotion.” (Ashley Laverock, in College Art Association Reviews, 86, 2021)




This is not a book about miraculous images of the Virgin Mary (be they icons, sculptures, altarpieces, or reliquaries) but about their representations in French illuminated manuscripts from ca. 1250 to ca. 1450. Most of these depictions of the Virgin Mary cannot be identified even tangentially with particular surviving images (such as the Virgins of Rocamadour, Soissons, Chartres, and Laon). Rather, these illustrations point to the ubiquity of local miraculous Marian images in devotional practices from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century in French-speaking regions. This book analyzes depictions of material images and the animated miracles they perform, and traces their evolution from the earliest narratives of Marian miracles written in Old French to texts and images produced at the Burgundian court of the late Middle Ages.

Beginning with the most extensive compilation of Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles de Nostre Dame, the study then examines lesser-known anonymous works such as the Vie des Pères and encyclopedic collections including the French version of Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum historiale and the Ci nous dit, as well as a theatrical production of the Miracles de Nostre Dame par personnages, before concluding with the prose rendering of the Miracles by Jean Miélot.

Imagining the Miraculous explores the ways in which these works depict physical images, such as panel paintings and sculptures, on the manuscript page. Each chapter provides a detailed iconographical analysis of the miniatures and the diverse techniques of visual narrative they harness, serving also to show how attentive reading of their reception can help us understand how the miniatures themselves might have led viewers to imagine the miraculous moment when an image comes to life.