It is very hard to distinguish between the art of men and women in the middle ages. Most of the time the work was anonymous, a man took credit for a woman's wok, or it was a collaborative effort. However, it is proven that women's religious orders had great influences on the art of the middle ages. Nuns had visions that were the inspirations for several works by male artists, and sometimes they actually did the work themselves.
A German nun at the Weissfauen Convent of the twelfth century named Guda was a scribe and artist. She wrote and illuminated a manuscript called Homiliary of Saint Bartholomew. She was one of few women artists that included a self-portrait and signed their work. As with most manuscript illuminations the initial letter was made into a piece of artwork. In Guda's manuscript, the initial was a G inside which she made a self-portrait and signd within the letter "Guda peccatrix mulier scripsit et pinxit hunc librum" which mean Guda, a sinner wrote and painted this book (Harksen 46)."Self portrait in G" by Guda from Homiliary of Saint Bartholomew
Another women who signed and painted a self-portrait within their manuscript was Claricia. She painted herself swinging from the initial letter Q and signed her name as a halo aboveher head in a German Psalter from Augburg (Peterson & Wilson 11). She worked in the twelfth century convent scriptorium in Bavavia, but was not a nun (Heller 12)."Swinging from the Q" by Claricia from a German Psalter
Ende was another inportant woman artist of the Middle Ages. She was a Spanish nun in the tenth century. She illustrated a Spanish Romanesque manuscritt called Beautus Apocalypse of Gerona. The subject of the manuscript was the end of the world which was a definite inspiration for her colorful, imaginative illustrations. She signed her work "Ende pintrix et dei aiutrix" or Ende, woman painter and servant of God. Unlike, Claricia and Guda, she did not include a self-portrait (Peterson & Wilson 13)"The Great Whore" by Ende from Beautus Apocalypse of Gerona "The Pantocrator" by Ende from Beautus Apocalypse of Gerona "The Battle of the Dragon with the Child of the Woman" by Ende from Beautus Apocalypse
Sabina von Steinbach worked asa stonecutter in the early fourteenth century. She made statues for the Strasbourg Cathedral. Her statue of St. John holds a scroll that reads "Gratia divinae pietatis adesto savinae de petra dura per quam sum facta figura" which means Thanks be to the holy piety of this woman, Sabina, who from this hard stone gave me form (Peterson & Wilson 20).Left image is "The Synagogue" from the south portal of Strasbourg Cathedral. The right image is "Ecclesia" also from the south portal of Strasbourg Cathedral
Several women artists are mentioned only with brief examples of their contributions. Maria Ormani also has a self portrait and an inscription on her work. The manuscript inscription says "Maria Ormani, daughter, wrote this." This portrait appears in the breviary at the bottom of the page instead of in the initial letter (Peterson & Wilson 11). Diemund, a nun at Wessobrun from 1057 to 1130, produced 45 manuscritpts (Peterson & Wilson 13). Margarete was beguine who made her living as an artist and scribe. A book was found in a convent that said "...written by sister Margareta, Carthusian, and illumintated by Barbara, Gewichtmacherin" (Harksen 46). Another scribe was Clara Hatzerlin, who made a famous collection of German folk-songs called Volkslieder (Harksen 46). Marcia was a Roman artist depicted in a manuscript as painting her self-portrait (Peterson &Wilson 1) . One of the most important illuminated manuscripts, Gospel Book from this time period was from the Abbess of Regensburg, Uta (Peterson & Wilson 15).Marcia painting self portrait Maria Ormani's self portrait from a medieval breviary "The Crucifixion" by the Abbess Uta from the Gospel Book
There are several names of women artists mentioned in books, but examples of their work are not given. Some of these women are Aelflaed, Abbess of Whitby, Aethelrith, Abbess of Ely, Christina of Mergate, Eustadiola of Bourges, Hitda of Meschede, Agnes of Quedlinburg, Ada (sister of Charlemagne), Adahlhoud, St. Giselle, and St. Ruthrude (Peterson & Wilson 14).
Visions of women were important in the creation of several works even though they themselves did not do the art work. The Abbess of Hohenburg, Herrade of Landsperg gave orders of what the pictures for her book Hortus Deliciarum, or The Garden of Delights, should look like (Peterson & Wilson 16). This was a book intened for the teaching of nuns containing stories from the ible. It was in a sense an almanac and encyclopedia containing 636 miniatures of biblical scenes, visions and gardening tips (Harksen 46). The most famous of these cases is Hildegard von Bingen whose visions were illustrated by the nuns of her convent (Peterson & Wilson 15).Composite of portraits of fellow nuns who worked with Herrade in creating the manuscript, The Garden of Delights"Superbia" by Herrade from The Garden of Delights"Women Musicians" by Herrade from The Garden of Delights
Women's visions were also important in the creation of tapestries. Unlike the illumintaions, women were always known to have been directly involved with their creations whether or not it was an individual or collaborative work (Peterson & Wilson 16). The Abbess Kunigunde is believed to have embroidered tapestries of her own (Harksen 47). Furthermore, Queen Mathilda created Bayeux Tapestry with her court ladies while William was off conquering England (Peterson & Wilson 17+)."Bayeux Tapestry" by Queen Mathilda