Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange

Photograph of Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange

Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Lecturer in History of Art
Head of Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies

Contact details

Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Room G23A
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My teaching and research focuses on the art and culture of the late medieval and early modern period, especially illuminated manuscripts and book culture, and French and Burgundian court art. Within these areas, I work specifically on women as subjects and consumers of visual cultures, text-image relations, and the querelle des femmes. My research addresses, for instance, questions of maternity, power, gender and identity in relation to women’s patronage in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The approaches I employ engage with contemporary gender studies and explore their application to the medieval and early modern periods. 


  • BA (University of Leeds)
  • MA (University of Leeds)
  • PhD (University of Leeds)


I have a BA in English Language and Literature (European), an MA in Medieval Studies, and a PhD in History of Art from the University of Leeds. Before joining the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies at the University of Birmingham in 2011, I was based at the University of Liège in Belgium, where I held post-doctoral fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust (2004-2006) and the Fonds national de recherche scientifique (2007-2010). In 2011, I spent three months in Rome as a recipient of a research grant from the Fondation Darchis.

I have previously received grants from the Medieval Academy of America, the Newberry Library, Chicago, the Scouloudi Foundation (IHR), and the British Academy Neil Ker Memorial Fund. From September 2017 to January 2018, I was a fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Paris where I worked on a chapter of my new book on Anne de Graville.


I teach across the Art History curriculum at Birmingham, including the first-year module Writing Art’s Histories I, the second-year modules Power, Society, Politics: Religious Art in Northern Europe, c. 1400-1600, and Engaging Art History, and two third-year special subject modules, Women and Artistic Culture in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods, and Turning the Pages: Manuscript and Print, Past and Present. I also contribute to the MA in Medieval Studies and supervise dissertations at BA, MA, and PhD level in History of Art and Medieval Studies.

I have previously taught on a range of other modules including Debates and Methods in the History of Art and Research Techniques, and co-led the second year Study Trip to Rome.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students wishing to research areas that overlap with my research and teaching interests, including medieval gender studies, manuscript and book history, women’s patronage and court art.

Current PhD Students

  • Xie Chen, The Tang Court Collection and Patronage of the Arts, College of Arts and Law Doctoral Funding, 2015 – (co-supervised with Professor Naomi Standen in History)
  • Pamela Cox, The Antwerp Mannerists, 2016 – (co-supervised with Dr David Hemsoll)
  • Lauren Wainwright,  Portraits of Power: Female Imperial Imagery in the Byzantine Empire, AHRC M3C Funding, 2014 – (co-supervised with Professor Leslie Brubaker, Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies

Find out more - our PhD History of Art  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research focuses on the art and culture of the medieval and early modern periods (c. 1350-1600) with a particular emphasis on illuminated manuscripts, book history, and on questions of gender in visual culture. In 2008 I published Holy Motherhood: Gender, Dynasty and Visual Culture in the Late Middle Ages (MUP, 2008) which won the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship’s First Book Prize in 2010. This study of maternal imagery in books of hours owned by aristocratic women and its relationship to the material culture of childbearing has led to other articles on the patronage of women at the French court, including Anne of Brittany, Anne of France, and Anne de Graville. In Holy Motherhood and in other articles on deschi da parto (birth trays) and carved ivory objects, I have also drawn on contemporary gender studies to inform my methodological approaches to assessing women’s agency as viewers.

I am now working on a book-length study of Anne de Graville (c. 1490-1540), who amassed an impressive personal library and who rewrote two well-known texts by medieval male authors, Boccaccio’s Teseida and Alain Chartier’s Belle dame sans mercy for Queen Claude of France. This project involves reconstructing Anne’s library to assess the kinds of books she was reading and commissioning as well as analysing how her own works engaged with, and contributed to, literary debate at the French court, notably the querelle des femmes. I have published an article on the text and images in the Beau roman, Anne’s rewriting of the Teseida in 2015, and another on her copy of the pseudo-Berosus Chaldean Histories in Renaissance Studies in 2016.

In 2017-18 I awarded a five-month fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Paris to carry out research into Anne’s rewriting of Chartier’s Belle Dame sans mercy.

I am also interested in broader questions of gender and sexuality in the medieval and early modern periods, and have co-edited two collections of essays: Re-Presenting Medieval Genders and Sexualities: Construction, Transformation (Ashgate, 2011) with Alison More, and Le mécénat féminin en France et en Bourgogne, XIVe-XVIe (a special issue of Le Moyen Age journal, 2011) with Laure Fagnart. In 2015 I co-organised an international conference on Mary of Burgundy which took place in Birmingham’s Brussels Office and in the Groeningen Museum in Bruges, the proceedings of which will be published by Brepols. The conference programme is available at maryofburgundy2015.wordpress.com/.

In 2018 I was awarded a ‘special commendation’ by the CARMEN medieval network in their annual Project Prize for my entry on ‘Reassessing Women and the Book, c. 800-1600’.

This project, run in collaboration with Dr Emily Wingfield in EDACS, seeks to reassess the field of women’s book ownership in the middle ages, taking as its starting point the legacy of Susan Groag Bell’s 1982 article ‘Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture’ (Signs, 7). Whereas Bell’s article helped to set in motion a very large field of research into the ways in which commissioned, acquired, inherited and bequeathed books, its overarching focus on English and French aristocratic women of the later middle ages has also led to women’s book ownership in other geographical and chronological areas, and amongst non-Christian women, being neglected. Engaging with current debates within medieval studies more generally about the decentring and globalising of the discipline, this project aims to expand our understanding not only of women’s book ownership in a more diverse context, but also to critically reassess the historiography of book history.

The project has a twitter handle @womenandthebook and a website www.womenandthebook.wordpress.com where an online bibliography provides a first step in showcasing research in fields outside the traditional Anglo-French axis. 

I have successfully applied for three Undergraduate and two Postgraduate Research placements within the College of Arts and Law to support my research on illuminated manuscripts, Anne de Graville, and women’s book ownership. This has enabled UG and PG students to work with me for five weeks over the summer to gain experience of an academic research project. The students investigated various lines of enquiry, compiled annotated bibliographies, sourced new readings, wrote blog posts, and worked with manuscripts themselves.

Other activities

I am Head of Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies. I have previously held the roles of Undergraduate Admissions Tutor and Director of Undergraduate Studies. I have also served as Welfare Tutor and Web Officer and, with our postgraduates, helped to found our highly successful blog, The Golovine (thegolovine.wordpress.com).

I am a member of the advisory board of Renaissance Studies and have previously been an editorial assistant for the Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes. In addition, I regularly review books for journals, including Art History, Medieval Feminist Forum, Material Religion, Oxford Art Journal, Bulletin du bibliophile, and French Studies.

At Birmingham, I am part of the steering committee for the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages and am a member of the Birmingham Centre for Translation; beyond Birmingham, I am a member of the Group for Early Modern Cultural Analysis at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve (gemca.fltr.ucl.ac.be).



  • Holy Motherhood: Gender, Dynasty, and Visual Culture in the Later Middle Ages (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008; reprinted 2013) – winner of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship’s First Book Prize, 2010

Edited collections

  • Co-editor, with Jonathan Dumont, Samuel Mareel, and Michael Depreter, Mary of Burgundy: The Reign, the ‘Persona’, and the Legacy of a European Princess. Proceedings of the International Conference, 4-6 March 2015 (Brepols, forthcoming)
  • Co-editor, with Laure Fagnart, Le mécénat féminin en France et en Bourgogne, XIV-XVIe, special issue of the peer‐reviewed journal Le Moyen Âge, 117 (2011)
  • Co-editor, with Alison More, Representing European Genders and Sexualities, 600–1530: Construction, Transformation, and Subversion (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011); also available as an e-book

Journal articles and book chapters

  • ‘“Un étrange moyen de seduction”: Anne de Graville’s Chaldean Histories and her role in literary culture at the French Court in the early sixteenth century’, Renaissance Studies, 30 (2016), 708-28 (DOI: 10.1111/rest12170)
  • ‘« Translaté de vieil langaige et prose en nouveau et rime »: la Théséide de Boccace et Le Beau roman d’Anne de Graville’, in Boccace et la France, ed. by Philippe Guérin and Anne Robin (Florence: Franco Cesati, 2017), pp. 293-306
  • ‘Re-presenting the Teseida for a Queen: Anne de Graville’s Beau roman for Claude of France (Arsenal MS 5116)’, in Text-Image Relations in Late Medieval French Culture, ed. by Rosalind Brown-Grant and Rebecca Dixon (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 187-207
  • ‘Beyond the 1520s: A Bellemare Group Manuscript in Liège (MS Wittert 29)?’, in Re-inventing  Traditions: On the Transmission of Artistic Patterns in Late Medieval Manuscript Illumination, ed. Joris Corin Heyder and Christine Seidel (Civilizations and History, 34; Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2015), 195-216.
  • Co-author, with Rachel Dressler, Marian Bleeke, Jennifer Borland and Martha Easton, ‘Artistic Representations’, in A Cultural History of Women in the Middle Ages, ed. by K. M. Phillips (London: Berg, 2012), pp. 179-271
  • ‘Topsy-Turvy Gender Relations in Fifteenth‐Century Italian Households’, in Representing European Genders and Sexualities, 600–1530: Construction, Transformation, and Subversion, ed. by A. More and E. L’Estrange (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), p. 128-44
  • ‘“Quant femme enfante…”: remèdes et charmes pour l’accouchement au Moyen Âge’, in Femmes en Fleurs: Santé, Sexualité et Génération du Moyen Âge aux Lumières, ed. by C. McClive and N. Pellegrin (St‐Étienne: Presse Universitaire de St‐Étienne, 2010), pp. 167‐83
  • ‘Penitence, Motherhood and Passion Devotion: Contextualising Anne of Brittany’s Prayer Book, Chicago, Newberry Library, MS 83’, in The Cultural and Political Legacy of Anne de Bretagne: Negotiating Convention in Books & Documents, ed. by C. Brown (Cambridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2010), pp. 81‐98
  • ‘Gazing at Gawain: Reconsidering Tournaments, Courtly Love, and the Lady Who Looks’, Medieval Feminist Forum, 42 (2009), 74‐96
  • ‘Images de maternité sainte dans deux livres appartenant aux duchesses de Bretagne’, in Livres et lectures des femmes: Entre moyen âge et renaissance, ed. by A.‐M. Legaré (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), pp. 35‐47
  • ‘Sainte Anne et le mécénat d’Anne de France’, in Patronnes et mécènes en France à la Renaissance, ed. by K. Wilson‐Chevalier (St‐Étienne: Presse Universitaire de St‐Étienne, 2007), pp. 135‐54
  • ‘Le mécénat d’Anne de Bretagne’, in Patronnes et mécènes en France à la Renaissance, ed. by K. Wilson‐Chevalier (St‐Étienne: Presse Universitaire de St‐Étienne, 2007), pp. 169‐94
  • ‘Anna peperit Mariam, Elizabeth Johannem, Maria Christum: Images of Childbirth in Late‐Medieval Manuscripts’, in Manuscripts in Transition: Recycling Manuscripts, Texts and Images, ed. by B. Dekeyzer and J. Van der Stock (Leuven: Peeters, 2005), pp. 335‐46

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