Letter P with the Legend of Saint Philip


On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 14

At the dawn of the sixteenth century, artists working with boxwood conceived something entirely new: intricate, tiny carvings, the likes of which had never been seen or imagined before. Among them, this Letter P is one of only three in the form of its first owner’s initial. A personal emblem to hold in the hand, it carries the implicit protection of Saint Philip, whose action-packed legend appears inside. The newly discovered Letter was likely made for Philip the Handsome, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy and Brabant and King of Castile. This tiny treasure is a tribute to the ingenuity of woodcarvers working in the Burgundian Netherlands, over which Philip ruled from the age of three until his untimely death at age twenty-eight.

Letter P with the Legend of Saint Philip, Boxwood; later (18th century) embroidered silk pouch, Netherlandish

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