Very few copies of Jacobus de Voragine’s Latin “best seller,” the Legenda aurea, were supplied with illustrations. Yet a large number of its vernacular translations were generously illustrated. Accordingly, these “visual narratives” must also be “read” and interpreted. For, as Mieke Bal observed, an illustration “does not replace a text, it is one.” The image of St. Agnes painted in 1362 for the earliest German translation is a surprising example unlike any other depiction of the saint before or after it. Examining what was behind this image casts light on alternative ways in which different medieval audiences understood the text.

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