South Netherlandish (Brabant)
Boxwood; Diam. 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.475)
Rosary beads, miniature altars, and other small devotional objects produced in Brabant in the early sixteenth century inspire awe by the detail and minuteness of their carving. Produced in relatively large numbers, these rosary beads were carved of many pieces of fine-grained boxwood that were then fitted together, presumably with the aid of a magnifying glass. On the outside of this bead is the crown of thorns among pierced Gothic arches and circles accompanied by biblical inscriptions. The upper interior depicts Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge when closed; when opened, a triptych is formed, with depictions of, on the left, the Journey to Nazareth and the Nativity; in the center, the Journey with the Adoration of the Kings in the background; and, on the right, the Presentation and the Offering of Doves. In the lower half is the Crucifixion with ancillary scenes of the Agony in the Garden and Peter cutting off the ear of Malachus.