Small in scale, yet teeming with life, miniature boxwood carvings have been a source of wonder since their creation in the Netherlands in the 16th century. On these intricately carved objects—some measuring a mere two inches (five centimeters) in diameter—the miracles and drama of the Bible unfold on a tiny stage. The execution of these prayer beads and diminutive altarpieces is as miraculous as the stories they tell.
This exhibition, the first of its kind, features nearly 50 of these tiny treasures. Among the highlights is a complete carved boxwood rosary made for King Henry VIII of England and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, before his notorious efforts to dissolve the marriage and his break from the Catholic Church.
The ingenious techniques of the artists who created these precious panoramas have defied comprehension for centuries. Now, through the joint efforts of conservators at The Met and the Art Gallery of Ontario, the carvers' secrets have at last been revealed.
The exhibition is made possible by the Michel David-Weill Fund.
It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Rosary, 1500–1539. Netherlandish. Boxwood, L: 20 7/8 in. (52.8 cm). Musée du Louvre, Département des Objects d'art, Paris. © Musée du Louvre, Photo: Craig Boyko/Ian Lefebvre