Tuesday, August 30, 2011


(Prayer Bead, Flanders, 1500, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto)

This is a prayer bead.

Prayer beads have traditionally been used to help religious worshippers meditate on spiritual matters.

Specifically, this is a Christian prayer bead.

It was created around the year 1520.

Which places it smack dab in the middle of the Renaissance.

Or toward the end of the Renaissance......

depending on which art historian one chooses to believe.

It is said to have been carved in Flanders - the Duchy of Brabant.

That means that its origin is Northern Dutch.

The sculptor created this miracle of art from boxwood.

The bead comes complete with the ability to open and close.

It possesses both a hinge and a latch to allow those movements to happen.

Now for the mind-blowing part:

The prayer bead is 6.4 cm in diameter.

For all of us metric-phobes out there (and that includes me) that means that this bead is two and one half inches in diameter.

If you study both halves of the bead closely you will find that this genius sculptor has carved two Biblical stories into his bead.

The upper half depicts "The Queen of Sheba Visiting King Solomon."

The lower portion contains his carving of "The Adoration of the Magi."

Now I'm going to ask you to do something.

Grab a magnifying glass.

Next, plant your magnifying glass directly over one half of the bead.

Finally, remember that this masterpiece was sculpted in a two and one half inch space.

Actually.....less than that.

If you count the space allotted to the outer rims.

And the circles next to the rims containing the Latin inscriptions.

Is your mouth open?

Is it in gaping form?

Pardon my arrogance but if it isn't it should be.

I stood in front of this minuscule beauty at the Art Gallery of Ontario just weeks ago.

It was lying on a rich velvet fabric.

The color of the fabric was burgundy.

Soft lighting streamed down gently upon it.

Very "Renaissancy," indeed.

The very minute my eyes landed on this piece, I automatically opened my mouth.

More correctly, I stood with my mouth gaping as I viewed its incredible artistry.

Soon my mind wandered to the Renaissance sculptor who possessed the artful knowledge, the refined skill and the long-suffering patience to create this magnificent bead.

Perhaps the sculptor created the prayer bead for his or her own personal devotions.

I'd like to think that anyway.

After studying the bead for several minutes, I decided to move along before any tale-tell tears fell from my adoring eyes.

And that, dear readers, is what art brings to my life.

What does it bring to yours?

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