The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary

Netherlandish (Brussels) Painter Netherlandish

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 601

In the later Middle Ages, Christian worshippers began to use strings of beads, known as rosaries, to help them count off prayers in a set number and sequence. While praying, they meditated upon a series of events in the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary known as the "fifteen mysteries." This altarpiece depicts the mysteries as separate scenes, arrayed like rosary beads across the top three registers of the altarpiece. The larger image at the bottom shows the Virgin and Christ Child adorned with a garland of red and white roses in the form of an enormous rosary. The background landscape portrays the Coudenberg Palace in Brussels, suggesting that the picture was commissioned by a member of the Habsburg court.

The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary, Netherlandish (Brussels) Painter, Oil on wood

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