MS M.917/945, pp. 290–291

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St. Alexis

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. 290–291

Alexis stands barefoot before a beautiful red and green patterned textile, holding a small ladder, his attribute. Despite his bare feet, he is well dressed, wearing a brown tiered hat and a mauve cape over a blue robe. In the border, Alexis lies dead on his straw-covered pallet beneath the stairs of his father's palace. He lived there as a beggar, unknown until the scroll clutched in his lifeless fingers revealed his identity as the son of the house.


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