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Publication Date

Fall 2007

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Design


Anne Simonson

Subject Areas

Art History


This thesis identifies a group of thirty Annunciation images dating from 1365--1530 that depict the Virgin Mary not only as a reader but as a scholar. This thesis asks why Mary was pictured as a scholar, at a time when most scholars were men and female learning was a point of contention.By incorporating pertinent information from religious literature, iconography, the social context, and available provenance information this thesis explains why Mary was pictured as a scholar, what it meant to the contemporary viewer, and why it ceased.The study reveals that the image of Mary had been transformed into that of an aristocrat and a means to illustrate this was to picture her as a learned woman. Depicting her in this manner explained the miracle of the Incarnation in the most intellectual terms for a learned humanist audience.