Magazine article Sculpture

Metropolitan Museum of Art-The Cloisters

Magazine article Sculpture

Metropolitan Museum of Art-The Cloisters

Article excerpt

New York

Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures

Through May 21, 2017

Impossibly small in scale, yet teeming with life, miniature boxwood sculptures-prayer beads, tiny altarpieces, and other devotional and functional accessories-have been a source of wonder since their appearance in the Netherlands in the early 16th century. Carving the surface wasn't enough: many prayer beads are constructed like puzzleboxes, deliberately veiling, then revealing devotional mysteries, whose miraculous nature is reinforced (or eclipsed) by the otherworldly achievement of their creation. These tour-de-force examples of skill and patience split open into intricate narrative scenes, their high reliefs piercing curved depths with fearless perspectival bravado. Greater dramas remain hidden until paired wings (carved on both sides) swing back. All of this attention is lavished on objects that may measure no more than two inches in diameter-an almost incomprehensible commitment to craft in these days of deliberate de-skilling in art, and in life. …

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