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)
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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.
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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.