A & A spacer courtauld institute of art
quick search advanced search browse temp folder

Rosary bead or rosary pendant, 2 faces (chapelet) (Side 2)

Rosary bead or rosary pendant, 2 faces (chapelet) (Side 2)
enlarge image zoom image

Side 1

Secular. Memento mori.

Repository Institution

To purchase an image

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts


Ivory (or bone?)

Height: 76mm

Side 1: couple embracing (lovers); wall.
Side 2: bust-length skeleton (Death).
Inscription on the base: 'O MORS QUAM AMARA EST MEMORIA' ('Death, how bitter it is to be reminded of you').
Foliated decoration.

Ann Arbor 1975: French or Flemish, c. 1520.
Detroit 1997: Franco-Flemish style, 19th century (?).
Museum's opinion 2011: c. 1500-1550.


Carved in the round.

The authenticity of this piece has been questioned by Barnet because the base and the object are made from a single piece of ivory, which does not agree with medieval practice, and because the piece is not carved for suspension, but has an ivory loop at the top (Detroit 1997).

M. H. Drey, Ltd., London (in 1957); sold in 1957 by Drey to the Museum of Fine Arts for $1,000 (William E. Nickerson Fund).

R. von Forrer, 'Memento Mori - Kleinkunstwerke', in Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Archaeologie und Kunstgeschichte 2 (1940), pp. 129-33.
Europe in Torment: 1450-1550, exhibition catalogue, Providence, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 6 March-7 April 1974, no. 41-1.
The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages, exhibition catalogue, New York, The Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975, p. 259 (in relation to no. 254).
Images of Love and Death in Renaissance and Late Medieval Art, exhibition catalogue, ed. by W. R. Levin, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, November 1975-January 1976, no. 82, pl. XXXIX.
Images in Ivory. Precious Objects of the Gothic Age, ed. by Peter Barnet, exhibition catalogue, Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, and Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, 1997, p. 278.


Photograph © 15 July 2012 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Credit Line: William E. Nickerson Fund.

All images on this website are made available exclusively for scholarly and educational purposes and may not be used commercially.

spacer spacer spacer spacer
Please remember to acknowledge any use of the site in publications and lectures as: 'Gothic Ivories Project at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, www.gothicivories.courtauld.ac.uk', followed by the date you accessed the site.