Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Rosary Terminal Bead with Lovers and Death's Head

ca. 1500–1525
Made in North France or South Netherlands
North French or South Netherlandish
Ivory, with emerald pendant, silver-gilt mount
Overall: 5 3/8 x 1 9/16 x 1 11/16 in. (13.6 x 4 x 4.3 cm) ivory only: 2 13/16 x 1 9/16 x 1 11/16 in. (7.2 x 4 x 4.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 306
A string of beads is used as a memory aid in the recitation of the rosary, a multipart devotion to the Virgin. Here, the striking terminal bead announces the constant proximity of death by joining a skull to the pair of vivacious lovers. Such an image is known as a memento mori (reminder of death), as it encourages one to reflect on the transience of life.
J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (until 1917)
Weber, Frederick Parkes. Aspects of Death and Correlated Aspects of Life in Art, Epigram, and Poetry: Contributions Towards an Anthology and an Iconography of the Subject. 3rd ed. New York: Paul B. Hoeber, 1918. pp. 716–17.

Europe in Torment, 1450–1550. Providence: Brown University, 1974. no. 41.2, pp. 108–09.

Husband, Timothy B., and Jane Hayward, ed. The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. no. 254, p. 259.

"Selected Recent Acquisitions." Bulletin of The Detroit Institute of Arts 66, no. 4 (1991). p. 50.

Barnet, Peter, ed. Images In Ivory: Precious Objects of the Gothic Age. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1997. no. 79, p. 278.

Lipton, Sara. "Images and Their Uses." In The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 4, Christianity in Western Europe, c.1100–c.1500, edited by Miri Rubin, and Walter Simons. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 279, fig. 17.6.

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