Prayer, pregnancy and print
in Religion and life cycles in early modern England
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Claude Mellan’s engraving of the Holy Face and François Mauriceau’s engraving of the foetus in the uterine membranes might, initially, seem to have little in common beyond their use of the same spiralling engraving technique. However, by taking a closer look at the culture of image use in seventeenth-century Europe, this chapter shows how these two prints were interlinked through a shared engagement in the life-cycle event of pregnancy and childbirth. In the early modern period, the epistemologies of religion and medicine both held strong sway over understandings of generation, pregnancy and childbirth. While historians today tend to treat these different realms of knowledge separately, this chapter employs a close study of two prints, one from each side of the divide, to show how fundamentally interlinked they were. By exploring how each image pointed to the other, how each could inform the viewer’s understanding of the generative body, and how each could become an object of prayer, this chapter explores what wider conclusions we can draw about the medico-religious culture of early modern childbirth, and the role of the printed image in negotiating meaning and providing agency.

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