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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Rosary Terminal Bead with Lovers and Death's Head

ca. 1500–1525
Made in North France or South Netherlands
North French or South Netherlandish
Ivory, with emerald pendant, silver-gilt mount
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)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
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)
New York. The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. "The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages," March 28, 1975–June 15, 1975.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklański Selects from the Met Collection," March 17–June 14, 2015.

Brunswick, Me. Bowdoin College Museum of Art. "The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe," June 24–November 26, 2017.

Weber, Frederick Parkes. Aspects of Death and Correlated Aspects of Life in Art, Epigram, and Poetry: Contributions Towards an Anthology and an Iconography of the Subject. 3rd ed. New York: Paul B. Hoeber, 1918. pp. 716–17.

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: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. no. 254, p. 259.

"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.

Perkinson, Stephen. The Ivory Mirror : The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe. Brunswick, Maine: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2017. pp. 55–56, 59, 61–62, pl. 34.

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