Date of Award

8-11-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Art and Design

First Advisor

John Decker

Abstract

The Night Nativity by Geertgen tot Sint Jans depicts the birth of Christ in a manner that emphasizes the role of the Virgin as mother and Christ as the enlightener of the world. In this paper, I will argue that the Night Nativity was directed primarily toward meeting the devotional needs and interests of the nuns of the Convent of Our Lady of the Visitation near Haarlem. This convent is of particular interest because it is associated with the Windesheim Congregation of the Modern Devotion, which was a religious movement that privileged certain forms of lay spirituality. In particular, the adherents of the Modern Devotion seemed to have preferred various forms of affective devotion often associated with “women’s spirituality.” Geertgen’s image, I believe, appealed to the women in the convent because it focuses on the role of the Virgin and, in doing so, activated well-known tropes of female spirituality.

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