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Rosary, 13 beads, 2 and 3 faces (chapelet)

Rosary, 13 beads, 2 and 3 faces (chapelet)
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Pendant, face 3

Pendant, face 1

Pendant, face 2

Secular. Memento mori.

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London, Victoria and Albert Museum



Height: 370 mm (total)
Depth: 43mm

Two-sided bead: saint John the Evangelist with the poisoned cup; Virgin in bust.
Small beads with 3 faces (from top to bottom):
1. head of a bearded man; head of a lady; head of a jester. 2. head of a bearded man; head of a lady; head of a youth. 3. head of a bearded man; head of a lady; head of a bearded man. 4. head of a soldier (David?); head of a lady; head of a man. 5. head of a bearded man; head of a lady; head of a youth. 6. head of a cardinal; head of a bishop; head of a magistrate (?). 7. head of a youth; head of a lay; skull (Death). 8. head of a tomsured monk; head of a nun; head of a hooded monk. 9. head of an empress; head of a queen; head of a duchess (?). 10. head of a youth; head of a lady (2).
Larger bead: pope wearing a tiara; king holding a sceptre; emperor holding a sceptre (with the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece).
Pendant with 3 faces:
Face 1: head of lady with a laurel wreath.
Face 2: head of bearded man with a laurel wreath.
Face 3: skull (Death) with a laurel wreath; worms; vermin.
Foliated decoration; border of dentils; columns.

Longhurst 1929: Flanders or France (North), 16th century.
Williamson and Davies 2014: French or South Netherlandish, c. 1530, with mid-19th-century insertion.


Carved in the round.

Object Condition
The uppermost bead is a modern insertion, made between 1850 and 1860 (see Williamson and Davies 2014).

Préaux collection, Paris, until 1850: his sale, Paris, 10 January 1850, lot 154; collection of Louis Fould (b. 1794, d. 1858), Paris: his sale, Paris, 4 June 1860 and following days, lot 1850; purchased by John Webb (b. 1799, d. 1880), London: purchased from him by the Museum in 1867.

Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and more recent periods on loan at the South Kensington Museum, June 1862..., revised edition, exhibition catalogue (London, 1863), no. 121.
Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged according to the dates of their acquisition (London, 1868), I, p. 6.
W. Maskell, Ivories Ancient and Mediaeval in the South Kensington Museum (London, 1872), p. 115.
M. Longhurst, Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2 vols (London, 1927 and 1929), II (1929), p. 71, pl. LXV.
L. Grodecki, Ivoires français (Paris, 1947), p. 128.
O. Beigbeder, Ivory (New York, 1965), p. 97, fig. 90 (strung differently).
P. Williamson, 'Medieval Ivory Carvings in the Wernher Collection', in Apollo (May 2002), pp. 21-22, fig. 16.
Zum Sterben schön! Alter, Totentanz und Sterbekunst von 1500 bis heute, ed. by A. von Hülsen-Esch and H. Westermann-Angerhausen, Cologne, Schnütgen Museum, 2006, p. 77.
J. Cherry and J. Lowden, Medieval Ivories and Works of Art: The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, 2008), p. 132.
P. Malgouyres, Ivoires de la Renaissance et des Temps Modernes. La Collection du Musée du Louvre (Paris, 2010), p. 309.
P. Williamson and G. Davies, Medieval Ivory Carvings 1200-1550 (London, 2014), no. 166.


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