Picturing Maternal Anxiety in the Miracle of the Jew of Bourges
Late medieval English books of hours and illustrated miracle texts hold the most complex examples of the Miracle of the Jew of Bourges, whereby the Virgin saves a young Jewish boy after his father throws him into a fiery oven upon learning he attended a Christian mass. Few images of this miracle include the boy’s mother, and in each the violence of the tale is illustrated through her anxious reaction to it. Investigating the visual power of the boy’s mother provides an opportunity to question the visualization of the non-biblical Jewish woman in medieval art. Artists engineered this mother to complicate existing vocabularies of anti-Semitism by creating a complementary character, whose accessibility to Christian audiences further defined the male Jew as an immutable monster.