Noen refleksjoner omkring dyder og laster, kvinnelig og mannlig i middelalderens ikonografi

  • Kristin B. Aavitsland Medieval Culture and Church History, Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo


In mediaeval art, personifications of virtues and vices are often represented as women. This article addresses the issue of gender in medieval representation of moral categories. A survey of the iconography of the virtues and vices from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries reveals a certain gender variation. In Carolingian art, especially in the illuminated manuscripts of Prudentius’ Psychomachia, virtues and vices are commonly represented as males, even though their femininity plays a decisive role in the literary text which they illustrate. From the ninth to the eleventh centuries contrasts in body language and appearance seems more significant than gender in the representation of virtues and vices. To the degree sex plays a role, the contrast between asexual virtues and perverse, often hermaphrodite vices are more important than female characteristics. But from the twelfth century on, the personifications are increasingly represented as female, and the contrast between vice and virtue are connected to the different female roles in society. The virgin, nun and widow represent virtuous roles, whereas the married and thus sexually active woman is latently vicious. Some aspects of High medieval culture are briefly suggested to explain this development, such as the increasing impact of lay piety, the idealisation of women in courtly literature and the emphasis on the feminine in Bernardine spirituality.
How to Cite
AAVITSLAND, Kristin B.. Noen refleksjoner omkring dyder og laster, kvinnelig og mannlig i middelalderens ikonografi. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 3, p. 6-20, nov. 2014. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 05 feb. 2023.


Virtues, Vices, Prudentius, Psychomachia, Bamberg Apocalypse, Gender, Iconography