Anne Rudloff Stanton loves romance. She loves the way it looks, the way it sounds, and the way it smells—but only when it’s found in the margins of 14th-century books. The professor of Art History and Archaeology describes one example—a small drawing of a man leaving a woman—and she leans forward as if she were talking about a mutual friend of ours. “There’s this long sequence of the story of Moses, who, as you may not know, was married before he married Zipporah,” she begins. “He first married the daughter of the king of Ethiopia.”
The Queen Mary Psalter is a book of psalms made in the early 14th century, most likely for a medieval queen, although it is now named after the book’s later owner, the queen some refer to as “Bloody Mary.” For art history professor Anne Rudloff Stanton, these miniscule images in the margins of this book provide insight into the medieval mind.
The decorations in the first capital letter of each page, as well as those in the margins, tell a story, although this narrative is separate from the words on the page. Such images were more personal and, in Stanton’s opinion, more interesting. “I think it was the pictures that really were intended to pull Queen Isabella through those prayers,” Stanton says. In this way, these tiny images can inform historians about the relationship between vision and prayer.