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Depictions of the blind in artwork of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (I'm more interested in finding how the illustrator or artist depicted contemporary blind men and women, rather than exclusively biblical images, since those tend to rely more on an imagined from far-off antiquity, rather than some understanding of how the blind would have dressed and/or got around in their own time.)

There is a noticeable similarity in several of these illustrations to the clothing of pilgrims on pilgrimage; whether the illustrator means to suggest that these specific blind men and women are on pilgrimage (which, in some cases, they are, e.g. BNF NAL 868, fol. 28v, showing a blind pilgrim healed at the tomb of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia) or whether it's meant simply to indicate a generic sort of beggar's clothing, is subject to some degree of interpretation.

Several of these illustrations show a blind man guided by a dog on a leash.

Detailed descriptions have been added to these illustrations in order to facilitate interpretation by those who cannot actually view the illustrations. (Just in case there actually are any blind people who would like to use the information on this page.)

  • Healing a blind man, the Maastricht Hours (Brit. Lib. Stowe 17, fol. 135r), 1st quarter of the 14th century
    The blind man wears a loose, hooded brown garment over a brown tunic. He wears a white coif on his head, and has a beard. He carries a staff. He leads a white dog on a chain, which is attached to the man's forearm.
  • The miracle at Mont St. Michel, the Luttrell Psalter (Brit. Lib. Add. 42130, fol. 104r), c. 1325-1340
    The blind man wears an ankle-length tunic in a pale yellow color; it appears to be worn with a belt at the waist. He carries a staff. He wears a blue hood with a red lining. He is barefoot.
  • Agnès de Pointoise, Vie de St. Louis (BNF Fr. 5716, fol. 634), c. 1330-1340
    Agnès is shown in three scenes; in each, she wears a pale green silken hairnet over her hair. In the first scene, she sits on a bench, wearing a long grey kirtle, as two standing men (presumably physicians) examine her. In the second, she wears a dark blue kirtle with a pink sideless surcoat; with one hand, she holds the dress of an older woman (who touches Agnès’ shoulder and whispers in her ear) and with the other, she holds part of her surcoat to raise the hem, making it easier to walk. In the third, Agnès (now wearing a simple red kirtle, and sitting with a young boy at prayer) raises her hand towards a priest who is elevating a communion wafer during Mass.
  • The goldsmith of Arras, Miracles de Nostre Dame (BNF NAF 24541, fol. 160v), c. 1330-1340
    Apparently a scene of pilgrimage in which a blind boy has come to a holy reliquary to pray to have his eyesight restored. A blind boy in a long red tunic and blue hood, with a white staff that is about as high as his shoulders, walks towards a golden reliquary on a cloth-covered stand. Behind him stands an adult in travelling clothing (including a pink hat worn over a green hood, and a long overgarment like a gardecorps). A third figure, wearing a white coif and pink cloak, stands behind the reliquary.
  • Blind men misled (fol. 74v) and blind men and their dogs (fol. 77v), Romance of Alexander (Bodley 264), 1338-1344
    In both illustrations, the blind men wear brown broad-brimmed hats over a hood; a loose tunic-like overgarment with shoulder-length sleeves over a fitted long-sleeved garment; colored hose; and black shoes. Most of the men have beards. They carry a club or cane that is approximately the size and color of a wooden baseball bat.
    On the left side of fol. 74v, a group of four blind men each hold a club in one hand, and the arm of the next blind man in the other hand. The man in front holds the shoulder of a grinning boy who appears to be up to some mischief.
    On the right side of fol. 74v, the four blind men are unsuccessfully trying to kill a boar. The two men on the right hold their clubs ready; the man at far left is falling over the boar, as the last man hits him over the head, apparently thinking that he has actually struck the boar.
    Fol. 77v shows two men, attired similarly to those in 74v, holding a club in one hand, and the leash of a spotted black-and-white dog in the other. On the left, the dog is approaching a small bowl that has been set on the ground; on the right, he is eating from the bowl.
  • Several bas-de-page illustrations in the Smithfield Decretals (British Library Royal 10 E IV), c. 1340, including ff. 110r, 217v, 218r, 218v, and 219r
    Fol. 110r shows a blind beggar. He wears a long russet tunic, almost down to his ankles, with pendant sleeves; there are several large patches all over the garment. He wears a broad-brimmed black hat over a light brown hood, and has a beard. Across his body, he carries a black satchel. In one hand, he holds a staff or cane, almost as tall as he is, with a round knop at the top; in his other, he holds a leash (probably a rope) attached to a large brown dog which is leading him.
    The other illustrations seem to show the misadventures of another blind man, who wears a long tunic (either red or pink) and a blue hood, and carries a white cane that seems to be about half as tall as the man himself. In fol. 217v, a boy is stealing from the blind man's bowl. In fol. 218r, he is walking, led by another man, who carries loaves of bread in the skirts of his tunic. In fol. 218v, a boy (apparently a different boy than the thief in fol. 217v) leads the blind man to a woman, who seems to be giving them a loaf of bread. In fol. 219r, the man and boy eat while sitting on a bench in front of a church.
  • Dog leads blind beggar, eyes closed, wearing wide-brimmed hat, holding leash, Avis aus Roys (PML M.456, fol. 89r), mid-14th century
    The blind man, wearing a long blue tunic, blue hood, black broad-brimmed hat, and black shoes, carries a bowl in his right hand and a wooden cane in his left hand; the leash of his small white dog seems to be wrapped around his right wrist. (Four other figures in the illustration: a male servant bends to left, left hand low to ground and right hand raised; two male figures exchange money, a man wearing a coif puts his left hand in the right palm of the other man; a male figure (possibly a sergeant), wears shoulder belt with sword attached, and stands, raising left hand.)
  • Cecus sive Cecitas, Omne Bonum (British Library Royal 6 E VI, fol. 245), c. 1360-1375
    An illustration accompanying a definition of blindness. In an illuminated letter C, Christ heals two blind men, both of whom are dressed in similar thigh-length tunics with long blue-black hose; the blind men are kneeling with their hands clasped together in prayer. Their clothing is no different from that of most of the secular men throughout the document.
  • A blind man feels his way with a staff, Piers Plowman (Douce 104, fol. 43), 1427
    The man has white hair and a beard; on his head he wears a black coif, and a faded brown hood covers his neck and shoulders. He wears a tunic (or gown) of approximately knee-length, with full sleeves; the color has faded, but was perhaps a pink or pale brown. He wears a black belt at his waist. On his legs he wears blue-green hose and black ankle-high boots. He clutches his staff with both hands; it is brown and wooden, about as high as the man's chest.
  • A blind woman is healed, Miracles de Nostre Dame (Douce 374, fol. 86r), c. 1456
    This illustration combines several different episodes from the same story in one scene; I'll describe it as best as I can, but may correct it later if I get a better understanding of what exactly is going on. At right, a blind woman and her companions kneel in prayer in the wildneress. At left, the group approaches a building; the companions seem to talk amongst themselves while a fat man looks out a doorway. In the foreground, the blind woman (now healed?) kneels in front of a priest who sits at a bench. The blind woman wears an unusual headdress which appears to be a square perched on top of her loose hair; her dress is very large, and pooches over her torso where it is cinched in with an unseen belt.
  • St. Josaphat, the leper, and the blind man, Speculum historiale (BNF Fr. 51, fol. 171), 1463
    As with the previous illustration, this one also combines several episodes in one illustration; I'll just tell you about the blind man in this one, rather than get into everything else going on, which is far too confusing (and includes a morris dancing troupe). The blind man stands next to a leper (who carries a clapper and bowl); they are apparently begging together. The blind beggar wears a round-brimmed brown hat at an odd angle. He has scruffy dark hair and a beard. He wears a grey tunic which has clearly been torn at the bottom hem. He seems to be wearing brown hose. He holds his hand outstretched, in hopes of begging from Josaphat, who is dressed as a king.
  • Thomas, a seven-year-old blind boy, on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Louis, Life and Miracles of Saint Louis (BNF Fr. 2829, fol. C), end of the 15th century
    In yet another illustration combining several episodes from the same story, Thomas is dressed in a long russet gown (in a style typical for young boys of the later 15th century); he also wears a pilgrim's broad-brimmed hat (featuring a pilgrim's badge, possibly a shell of Santiago de Compostela) and carries a wooden cane or staff about as high as his navel, and carries a wooden bowl for alms. He also carries a brown bag around his waist (similar to a shepherd's budget) and a costrel is hung around his neck. In the left background, Thomas and a man walk in the street; in left foreground, the man (also wearing a pilgrim's hat and carrying a pilgrim's walking-staff) helps to guide Thomas; at right foreground, a bearded man holds something out to Thomas; in right background, Thomas kneels near an altar, next to a reliquary.
  • St. Bernard heals a blind boy, Jörg Breu the Elder, c. 1495-1505
    The boy, who seems to be about four or five years old, wears a long loose red tunic or gown (similar to those of other children his age in 15th century artwork) and carries a red hat with a folded brim. He wears simple black shoes; by his feet sits a small white dog. (St. Bernard, dressed in long black monastic robes, is also shown healing a boy on crutches; behind them is a country landscape, with trees sprouting out of a rocky hill, and a man fishing from a bridge.)
  • Jesus heals a blind man by Lucas van Leyden
    The blind man wears ragged clothing; his shirt has a hole in the elbow, his knee-length jerkin is torn at the shoulder and bottom hem, his hose have a hole in the knee. He is led by a small boy in similarly-tattered clothing, who holds the bottom of his jerkin. The blind man has a satchel slung across his body, though the bag itself seems to be somewhere near his back. The blind man faces Christ and points towards his own eyes; in his other hand, he holds a staff nearly as tall as he is. He wears a soft cap of some sort that seems to cover his hair. Behind Christ and the blind man, a few unpleasant and grumpy-looking figures seem to argue amongst themselves. In the background, a large castle sprawls just beyond a group of tall trees.
  • Parable of the blind leading the blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568
    A line of six blind men, each of whom holds onto the man in front of him. The lead man (at far right) has fallen on the ground; the next is in the process of tripping over him; and the next seems distressed and has realized that his predecessor is falling, and that he too will fall. The men all wear very different outfits, the only similarity being their black shoes and wooden walking-sticks, though most seem to be wearing some sort of coif with a broad-brimmed hat over top. Most seem to wear loose outer garments (including coats and cloaks), and hose. Some of the interesting details: second from the left wears a wooden set of rosary beads and a cross around his neck; third from the left has a belt-pouch and leather jerkin visible under his grey cloak; third from the left (the distressed man) carries his hat in his hand, wears some sort of shin-guard over his hose, and has a wooden bowl and set of rosary beads hanging from his belt; the man on the ground (at far right) seems to have been carrying a musical instrument, possibly a hurdy-gurdy. Unlike many of the blind men in these illustrations, only one of the blind men here has a beard.
  • Drawing of a blind beggar by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
    The beggar sits, holding a small ceramic pot to beg for alms. He appears to be wearing a long, tattered hooded cloak; a patched tunic; and a pair of hardy shoes or boots. He has a scraggly beard