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Rosary Terminal Bead with Lovers and Death's Head

Date:
ca. 1500–1525
Geography:
Made in North France or South Netherlands
Culture:
North French or South Netherlandish
Medium:
Ivory, with emerald pendant, silver-gilt mount
Dimensions:
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)
Classification:
Ivories
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.305
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)
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: Dutton Publishing, 1975. no. 254, p. 259.

Barnet, Peter. "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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