Rosary bead


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 520

Rendered in virtuoso detail, this rosary bead juxtaposes images of life and death. The boxwood bead opens to reveal Death appearing unannounced at a meal beneath an image of the Last Judgment in the upper hemisphere. The Latin inscription reads, "Stay awake, for you do now know at which hour your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:42).

Dinner guests are stunned as Death flies in to spoil the party. A jug on the table is overturned in the confusion, and one man breathes his last. Above, angels sound the trumpets of the Last Judgment. The inscriptions, warning of final judgment, are similar in message and placement to those carved in wood on other beads, suggesting that the silver case was an upgrade to an original boxwood shell. The tiny holes in the metal signal that it may have contained a perfumed substance.

Rosary bead, Boxwood, gilded silver, Flemish

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