Showing posts with label Rosary bead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rosary bead. Show all posts

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Rosary Bead, Carved in Boxwood

Rosary bead, carved in boxwood Bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild

A rosary bead (sometimes referred to as a 'prayer nut' or 'paternoster bead') is characteristic of the minutely detailed, small-scale boxwood carvings used for private devotion. These types of delicate and complex objects were owned by members of the nobility or wealthy merchant classes in northern Europe, and were highly prized as masterpieces of carving and invention. A complete rosary, bearing the arms of England and probably dating to the first third of the sixteenth century, survives in the collections of the Dukes of Devonshire.

Renaissance jewellery was both decorative and functional. Rosary beads were used as memory aids for saying a series of prayers dedicated to the Virgin Mary. When not in use, they could be worn around the neck or waist. Even very religious people who shunned bodily adornment approved of rosary beads. During the Reformation, the practice fell out of favour in the Protestant countries but it remained popular among Catholics.

This spherical bead from the Waddesdon bequest in the British Museum is carved on the outside with Gothic architectural detail, while the interiors are carved variously with scenes from the Old Testament and the New Testament. This boxwood rosary bead is only 2 5/8 inches (6.7cm) in diameter

The upper half is fitted with two doors, carved on both the inner and outer panels, which open to reveal the Crucifixion, crowded with miniscule figures in high relief. 

The Crucifixion

The lower half is fitted with one door, carved on both sides and opening to reveal a complex scene showing the Bearing of the Cross.

The Annunciation
The Bearing of the Cross

The achievement of these perspectives in both low relief and in high relief attests to the great skill of the craftsman, who probably had to work using a magnifying glass.

The word, ‘rosary’ is derived from the Latin rosarium, meaning a ‘garland of roses’ or ‘rose garden’, and denotes a set of prayer beads or the devotional prayer itself. A rosary provides a physical method of keeping track of the number of prayers said and is used in many religions for this purpose and also for meditation and even to relieve stress.

With kind permission from The British Museum