Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Miniature Coffin

early 16th century
Open: 4 × 1 1/4 × 2 3/8 in. (10.1 × 3.2 × 6.1 cm) Closed: 2 7/16 × 1 × 11/16 in. (6.2 × 2.5 × 1.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Ruth Blumka, in honor of Ashton Hawkins, 1985
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 10
Most surviving boxwood carvings from this period are in the form of miniature altarpieces and rosary beads. This memento mori, or reminder of the inevitability of death, is unusual. The tiny coffin depicts scenes from the parable in the gospel of Saint Luke (16:22– 31) concerning the rich man who refused charity to Lazarus. In the Middle Ages, that man came to be identified with the name Dives (Latin for rich), and inside this casket, we see an image of Dives suffering the torments of hell.
Inscription: At top of outer lid: IN PVNCTO
At top of exterior of inner lid: AD INFER / NA
At top of interior of outer lid: DESCEND / VNT
(In a moment they go down to hell [Job 21:13]).
Around the cover of the coffin on the inside of inner lid: FILI RECORDARE QVIA RECEPISTI BONA IN VITA TVA LAZARVS SIMILIT[er] M[ala]
(Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things [Luke 16:25]).
On banderole around body: pater abraham miser[ere] mei mitte lazarum
(Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus [Luke 16:24]).
Addie W. Kahn(Mogmar Art Foundation), New York (sold 1943, to Brummer) ; [ Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1943–sold 1949)] ; Joseph Brummer Collection sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York (May 11–14, 1949) ; Ruth and Leopold Blumka, New York (likely 1949–until 1985)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "One Hundred Fifteenth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year July 1, 1984, through June 30, 1985." Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 115 (1985). p. 44.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Recent Acquisitions, 1985-1986 (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1986). p. 18.

Wixom, William D., ed. Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. no. 283, p. 223.

Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 114, pp. 157, 199.

Evans, Helen C., ed. The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions – Online Catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.

Schmidt, Suzanne Karr. "Memento Mori: The Deadly Art of Interaction." In Push Me, Pull You: Physical and Spatial Interaction in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Art, edited by Sarah Blick, and Laura D. Gelfand. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions 156, Vol. 2. Leiden: Brill, 2011. p. 265.

Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. 75th Anniversary ed. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. p. 165.

Scholten, Frits. "The Boxwood Carvers of the Late Gothic Netherlands." In Small Wonders: Late-Gothic Boxwood Micro-Carvings from the Low Countries, edited by Frits Scholten. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2016. pp. 42–43, fig. 34.

Scholten, Frits, ed. Small Wonders: Late-Gothic Boxwood Micro-Carvings from the Low Countries. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2016. no. 58, pp. 628–29.

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