MS H.8, fols. 186v–187r

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St. Anne: Anne Instructing the Virgin

Hours of Henry VIII
Illuminated by Jean Poyer

France, Tours
ca. 1500
256 x 180 mm

Gift of the Heineman Foundation, 1977

MS H.8, fols. 186v–187r

St. Anne: Anne Instructing the Virgin
Border: Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (fol. 186v)

In the later Middle Ages (with its increased literary levels) Anne is often depicted, as here, instructing the Virgin in her reading. The scene takes place in a domestic interior that also includes other students, but Mary is distinguished by her primacy as well as her halo.

According to the apocryphal Gospel of James, the Virgin Mary's parents, Anne and Joachim, were an elderly and childless couple. An angel answered their prayers for a child, telling them that their offspring would become famous. Anne vowed to dedicate the infant Mary to the Lord, and at the age of three, the girl was presented in the temple, where she was raised in the service of God. Once Mary was old enough to marry, the priests sent her home so that she might find a husband.

According to the Golden Legend, Anne married twice after Joachim's death: first to Cleophas and then Salome, bearing a daughter named Mary to each of them. Each of her daughters named Mary, respectively, bore one, four, and two sons, making Anne the grandmother of Jesus; Sts. Simon, Jude, Joseph the Just, and James the Less; and Sts. John the Evangelist and James the Great.

The Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne (see also M.50), also illustrated by Poyer, includes a Suffrage (different from the one here) mentioning Anne's trio of husbands; the accompanying illustration also depicts St. Anne instructing the Virgin (M.50, fol. 13). (Feast day: July 26)

Poyer's border depicts Mary's presentation at the Temple. The three-year-old child, followed, but not assisted, by Anne and Joachim, has begun to climb the fifteen steps leading to the temple. Zacharias, priest and father of John the Baptist, waits to receive her in the doorway.