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«« Old Dutch, Saint Wilgefortis

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26 1/2 x 21 1/5, oil on canvas, 2010        sold

According to the narrative, sometimes set in Portugal, a teen-aged noblewoman named Wilgefortis had been promised in marriage by her father to a pagan king. To thwart the unwanted wedding, she had taken a vow of virginity, and prayed that she would be made repulsive. In answer to her prayers she sprouted a beard, which ended the engagement. In anger, Wilgefortis’s father had her crucified.

Wilgefortis was venerated by people seeking relief from tribulations, in particular by women who wished to be liberated (”disencumbered”) from abusive husbands. A folk etymology derives her name from virgo fortis, “strong virgin.”