Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Roman Siege of Jerusalem with Infanticide and Isabel de Byron between the Arms of Neville of Hornby and those of Byron
  • Creator:
  • Description: This scene of the siege of Jerusalem is based on a story told by Josephus in the Jewish War, his account of how Roman troops under Vespasian and Titus conquered fortresses in Judaea. During the long siege of Jersualem, a woman named Mary of Bethezuba suffered starvation, lost hope, and, in despair, ate her baby. This figure of the cannibalistic mother became a theme in later medieval literature and art connected with God’s rejection of the Jews. Here two women eat their children, while city defenders respond to a shower of arrows with only small rocks. At the top of the city wall, Isabel de Byron, wearing a black widow's veil, appears with defending soldiers. She stands between two standards, the one on the left displaying the arms of Neville of Hornby, and the one on the right displaying the arms of Byron. Isabel, co-heiress with her sister to her father’s lands, was the wife of Roger de Neville, a career soldier and member of the gentry. Kathryn Ann Smith argues that Isabel was the sole or principal patron of the Neville of Hornby Hours, as she is repeatedly portrayed in its pages and when she is represented with her husband accompanying a sacred figure, she occupies the dexter side which is accorded greater honor.
  • Source: British Library
  • Rights: Public Domain
  • Subject (See Also): Books of Hours   Cannibalism   Infanticide   Isabel de Byron, Wife of Robert I de Neville of Hornby Manor   Jerusalem, Israel/West Bank   Mothers   Violence   Warfare and Warriors
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
  • Date: ca. 1335-1340
  • Related Work: Neville of Hornby Hours; Additional images available from The British Library: http://molcat1.bl.uk/illcat/record.asp?MSID=8838&CollID=28&NStart=2781
  • Current Location: London, British Library Egerton MS 2781, fol. 190
  • Original Location:
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital Images; Manuscript Illuminations
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Vellum (Parchment); Paint
  • Donor: Laywoman; Isabel de Byron, Wife of Robert I de Neville of Hornby Manor
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 17/11/
  • Inscription:
  • Related Resources:

    Boyarin, Adrienne Williams. The Christian Jew and the Unmarked Jewess: The Polemics of Sameness in Medieval English Anti-Judaism. University of Pennsylvania press, 2021. Pages 161-172

    Smith, Kathryn A. Art, Identity, and Devotion in Fourteenth-century England: Three Women and Their Books of Hours. British Library and University of Toronto Press, 2003. Pages 131-134.

    Smith, Kathryn A., "The Destruction of Jerusalem Miniatures in the Neville of Hornby Hours and Their Visual, Literary and Devotional Contexts," The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art: Studies in Honor of Bezalel Narkiss on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday. Edited by Bianca Kuhnel. Center for Jewish Art, 1998. Pages 179-202.