Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in Images

Anna and Joachim, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Because of the massive popularity of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in the Western European Middle Ages, visual arts based on this apocryphon may be found in many contexts. This page is an attempt to catalogue images that have been digitized and made available online.

In some cases, these images are based on Pseudo-Matthew and later medieval additions to it, such as episodes from a Latin translation of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. In other cases, it’s difficult to establish if the images are based directly on Pseudo-Matthew, the adaptation known as the Nativity of Mary, or common iconographic traditions. Yet, in all cases, these artistic representations are based on scenes that ultimately derive from Pseudo-Matthew.

As I hope is clear, this is a work in progress, and will be ever changing. I’m especially interested in expanding this list based on others’ recommendations–so if you know of an image, please let me know!

Depictions in Sequential Art

Sacramentary of Robert of Jumièges (Rouen, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 274 (Y6)), 1014-1023

This late Anglo-Saxon sacramentary contains a series of depictions with details indebted to Pseudo-Matthew. Folio 32v depicts Jesus’ Nativity with a midwife standing by in the upper register, and Joseph with an ox and ass nearby the Nativity in the lower register. Folio 33r depicts the annunciation of Jesus’ Nativity to the shepherds in the upper register, and the holy family’s flight into Egypt in the bottom register, featuring Jesus’ childhood miracle of bending a palm tree for its fruit as in Pseudo-Matthew.

Life of the Virgin stained glass window cycle in Chartres Cathedral, 12th century

This series of images depicts various scenes from Mary’s life. Especially notable about these images are the close associations between the Nativity of Mary, Fulbert of Chartres (c.960-1028)–a major promoter of this work and its role in the development of the Feast for the Nativity of Mary–and the reconstruction of Chartres Cathedral after a fire destroyed it in 1020.

Flight into Egypt and Fall of the Idols wall paintings in Hardham, Sussex, 12th century

As part of an entire program of wall paintings depicting the life of Jesus, a series of images depicts the Flight into Egypt and the idols falling when Jesus enters an Egyptian Temple, as at the end of Pseudo-Matthew. The website found at the link provides summary description and discussion.

Flight into Egypt and Fall of the Idols wall paintings in Brook, Kent, c.1250

As part of an entire program of wall paintings depicting the the lives of Mary and Jesus, these two images in particular stand out. Both depictions are indebted to episodes in Pseudo-Matthew. In fact, while the Flight into Egypt is found in the Gospel of Matthew, the depiction in this wall painting includes the added detail of a palm tree, which Jesus commands to bend down for Mary in Pseudo-Matthew. The other painting depicts the idols falling when Jesus enters an Egyptian Temple, as at the end of Pseudo-Matthew. The website found at the link provides summary description and discussion, although it does not link the palm tree in the image of the Flight into Egypt to the episode in Pseudo-Matthew.

Jesus’ Childhood in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Selden Supra 38, pt. 1, c.1315-1325

This manuscript contains a French narrative of Jesus’ childhood known as the Gesta infantiae salvatoris, accompanied by a series of images. Both the narrative and images are based on Pseudo-Matthew and later additions. Some of the visual depictions include Jesus’ Nativity, the Flight into Egypt with the palm tree episode, the Fall of the Idols in an Egyptian temple, Jesus playing with seven pools, Jesus teaching his rabbis, and his other childhood miracles.

Holkham Bible Picture Book (London, British Library, Additional 47682), c.1327-1335

BL Add 47682 Detail

This picture book contains scenes from the Bible, including images of the Creation to Noah in Genesis; genealogies of Mary and Jesus and the Life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Ascension; and the Last Judgment. These scenes are accompanied by explanations, mainly in Anglo-Norman, but some in Middle English. Folios 14v-15v contain miniatures of the Flight into Egypt and Jesus’ childhood miracles, based on Pseudo-Matthew and later additions to the text, with explanations in Anglo-Norman.
(Right: Detail from folio 15r: Jesus’ miracle of the palm tree.)

Taymouth Hours (London, British Library, Yates Thompson 13), c.1325-c.1350

This manuscript is highly decorated throughout with scenes from the Bible, apocrypha, and saints’ lives. Folios 55v-59v contain a sequence of images in the base-de-page, based on Pseudo-Matthew, depicting the life of Anna and Joachim and the life of Mary; folios 95v-96r contain a similar sequence depicting the Flight into Egypt, and Jesus’ childhood miracles.

Tring Tiles (London, British Museum), c.1330

The Tring Tiles tiles depict various scenes from later additions to Pseudo-Matthew, some based on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and some with unknown origins. Depictions include Jesus resurrecting a playmate by kicking him in the rump; Jesus schooling his rabbis (multiple times); and Jesus saving a child from being locked in a tower by pulling him through a keyhole.

Klosterneuburger Evangelienwerk (Schaffhausen, Stadtbibliothek, Gen. 8), c.1340

Schaffhausen, Stadtbibliothek, Gen. 8 Folio 21v Detail

This is the oldest copy of a German synthesis of biblical and apocryphal stories about Jesus and the apostles, with over 400 pencil drawings illustrating the text in the margins. On folios 20r-29r, the text relates events in Jesus’ childhood based on Pseudo-Matthew and later additions to the text, accompanied by marginal illustrations.
(Left: Detail from folio 21v: Baby Jesus gets a bath.)

London, British Library, Add. 50005, Dutch Book of Hours, c.1410-c.1420

This manuscript contains series of 66 full-page miniatures, accompanied by textual explanations of the scenes. Many of these images derive from Pseudo-Matthew and later additions to the text: the life of Anna and Joachim, the life of Mary, Jesus’ Nativity, the Flight into Egypt, and Jesus’ childhood miracles.

Dunois Hours (London, British Library, Yates Thompson 3), c.1439-c.1450

Folio 37r includes a series of images in the border, surrounding a miniature of the Annunciation for the Hours of the Virgin (counter-clockwise from upper left image): Joachim’s offering refused in the temple; Annunciation to Joachim; Annunciation to Anna; Anna and Joachim reunited at the Golden Gate; birth of Mary; Presentation of Mary at the temple; Mary’s betrothal to Joseph.

Utopia, ACB 111 Folio 55v Detail

Book of Hours of King Charles VIII (Utopia, armarium codicum bibliophilorum, Cod. 111), c.1488

This manuscript is highly decorated throughout with scenes from the Bible, apocrypha, and saints’ lives. Folios 54v-60r contain border decorations with images and brief descriptions of the life of Anna and Joachim and the life of Mary based on Pseudo-Matthew.
(Right: detail from folio 55v: Mary climbs the temple steps.)

Other Images

The Meeting of Joachim and Anna oak sculpture, Master of Joachim and Anne, c. 1470, now held by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (object ; see the image at the top of the page).

Images of Anna and Joachim at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Drawing of the heads of Anna and Joachim in the margin of London, British Library, Arundel 36, folio 13r.

Nativity of Mary, with Anna and Joachim, in London, British Library, Harley 629, folio 1v.

Anna and Joachim reunited at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem (as in Pseudo-Matthew 3:5), most for the Feast of the Conception of Mary on December 8, listed roughly in chronological order of creation:

London, British Library, Sloane 2732 B, folio 14r.

London, British Library, Sloane 961 or 2467, folio 13r.

Winchester Psalter (or Psalter of Henry of Blois; London, British Library, Cotton MS Nero C.iv; 12th-13th cent.), folio 8r, which also contains the Annunciation to Anna; folio 4r also includes the Annunciation to Joachim.

Bohun Psalter (London, British Library, Egerton 3277; 14th cent), folio 164v.

Hours of René of Anjou (London, British Library, Egerton 1070; 15th cent.), folio 81v.

Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend, Geneva, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. fr. 57 (c.1402), folio 400r.

Antiphonarium Lausannense (Estavayer-le-Lac, Paroisse catholique Saint-Laurent; 1489/90), vol. 1, folio 241r.

Breviary of Jost von Silenen (Zurich, Swiss National Museum, LM 4624.1; 1493), folio 273r.

London Rothschild Book of Hours (London, British Library, Add. 35313; c.1500), folio 7r.

Book of Hours of Bénigne Serre (Utopia, armarium codicum bibliophilorum, Cod. 103; 1524), folio 47v.

Acknowledgements

For tips, information, and discussion about these images, I am grateful to Tony Burke, David Milman, and Janet Spittler.

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