MS M.917/945, pp. 230–231

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St. Matthew

The Netherlands, Utrecht
ca. 1440
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm)

Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963

MS M.917/945, pp. 230–231

Here Matthew holds a Gospel Book, referencing his role as evangelist, and a carpenter's square (which he also holds in the bottom border of p. 262). The connection of Matthew with woodworking is unusual but receives reinforcement here from the border that simulates an elaborately carved wood frame. Starting at the lower left, an inscription enclosing the frame at each corner describes why Matthew was assigned the symbol of a man:

Forma[m] viri da[n]t Matheo/ quia spripsit [sic: for scripsit] sic de Deo/ sicud [sic: for sicut] descendit ab eo/ quem formavit ho[m]i[n]em.


Suffrages are short prayers to individual saints. As protectors of medieval people, saints were their doctor in plague, their midwife at childbirth, their guardian when traveling, and their nurse during toothache. If the Virgin was the figure to whom one addressed the all-important petition for eternal salvation, it was from saints that one sought more basic or temporal kinds of help. While the Virgin became, as the Mother of God, almost a goddess herself, saints retained more of their humanity and thus their approachability.


Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern