16×20″ oil on linen. – private collection

Mary

Believing that abundance was a breeding ground for boredom, she resorted to simplify her life when her parents had passed on, leaving her a modest house and income. Opting for an existence of piety, Mary had all the furniture and objects cleared away, until, ‘nothing but surfaces of stone, wood, and few linen sheets remained’ according to the housekeeper. It was anyone’s guess how she contracted small pox in this environment. The servant’s child? A beggar? The priest? When tinctures of yarrow flower did no good, a cure of wolf skin wrapped around the infected areas was ordered. Believing this to be too decadent, Mary opted for a fox instead. It was not the flies or the raw infection that caused her death only days later, but simply a case of bronchitis. The wise women of the town shook their heads, ‘she should have chosen the wolf skin!’