MS M.917/945, pp. 306–307

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St. Agatha

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. 306–307

Holding her attribute, a pair of pincers with one of her severed breasts, Agatha stands before a textile embroidered repeatedly in gold with a phoenix rising from flames. The motif is appropriate to Agnes as the patron of forging and casting. The cast jewelry in the bottom border provides further reference to this patronage.


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