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Depictions Of Chastity: Virtue Made Visible

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Chapter Summary

In the Middle Ages chastity was an allpervading and multivalent concept that regulated the lives of lay men and women, and clergy alike. The ideals of chastity were expressed verbally by churchmen, theologians, philosophers, poets, and heads of family-and recorded in sermons, Saints' Lives, advice manuals for rulers, courtesy books, and poems of courtly romance. As an art historian, the author explores how the notion of chastity can be represented visually, and what circumstances provoke its illustration. The author's main source has been the manuscript illuminations to various texts, and these will be supplemented by comparable examples of art in monumental format. These images, besides their role as illustration or decoration support religious ideas, instruct or frighten the viewer, and sometimes even amuse. Men resisted physical and psychological attacks by their intelligence, while women were seen to be ruled by their emotions and were more inclined to indulge them.

Keywords:chastity; courtly romance; manuscript



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