Lieven van Lathem (Flemish, about 1430 - 1493)
Ghent (written) Belgium Antwerp (illuminated) Belgium (Place created)
Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, silver paint, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 12.4 x 9.2 cm (4 7/8 x 3 5/8 in.)
According to medieval legend, Saint Margaret was an early Christian convert who was tortured and put in jail when she refused to renounce her Christian beliefs. While in jail, she prayed to God to show her the enemy who was fighting her, and a great dragon appeared and swallowed her whole. While inside the beast, Margaret made the sign of the cross, at which point the dragon's belly burst open and she emerged unscathed. This image of Margaret rising unharmed from the belly of a dragon accompanies the suffrage of Saint Margaret. A golden cross appears above Margaret's clasped hands, a symbol of her faith and a physical representation of the sign she made while inside the dragon.
Saint Margaret was a popular saint in the Middle Ages, often invoked by women in childbirth. According to her legend, just before her death by beheading, she prayed that any woman faced with a difficult labor who invoked her aid would give birth to a healthy child, just as she herself was safely delivered from the belly of the dragon.