Marvelous miniatures give up some — but not all — their secrets

Some clarity resulted. Thomson
  “Small Wonders: The VR Experience” is an immersive experience that takes museum patrons inside a miniature, 16th-century carved wooden prayer bead using micro-CT imaging technology and a VR headset. The Rev. “In the immensity of the universe,” he said, “we’re like that — we’re a speck of dust. Pete Dandridge, the show’s New York conservator, feels certain that “they were all made in one generation. Some of the pieces slotted into thin grooves; others were attached with pins the size of a sesame seed. But he preferred the boxwood beads tiny, the way the 16th-century genius carved them. David Convertino of the Friary of St. The Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself that for our salvation
He hides himself under an
ordinary piece of bread!”
(David Van Biema is a New York-based correspondent)
Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Employing a micro-CT scan more commonly used by the military, curators from the Art Gallery of Ontario noninvasively captured up to 3,000 digital “slices” of each bead’s interior. O sublime humility, O humble sublimity! Francis of Assisi in Manhattan explores the interior of an intricately carved prayer bead using a VR headset at The Met Cloisters museum in New York City on April 3, 2017. Not long after, his Church of England banned rosaries altogether. That the immensity of God’s love could love something as small as ourselves … ” Seubert quoted a letter about another instance of big things made small by his order’s founder, who practiced a mystical poverty that was very un-Henry-the-VIII:
“O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity! Netherlandish Prayer Bead with the Adoration of the Magi and the Crucifixion, early 16th century, boxwood. At the top of one of the hardwood sculptures currently on view at The Met Cloisters in Manhattan stands Jesus, flanked by saints and angels, two of whom are blowing the final trumpets. Having walked right up to the figure of Jesus, Brother Ramon Razon said: “That will stick. Ontario Gallery curator Alexandra Suda recalls one expert sputtering that since scholars think 16th-century optics only allowed for 5x magnification, “history as written does not allow for these things to be made.”
“I told her, ‘I think we have to consider that the history isn’t exactly accurate,’” Suda said. Xavier Seubert, an art historian, theologian and superior (or “guardian”) of the New York City Franciscan friary, brought along several fellow Franciscans. An inscription on one reads, “Adam Theodoric made me,” but the curators agree that Theodoric could have been a patron rather than the artist. Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The carvings, which date to the years 1500 to 1530, mimic huge altarpieces being produced at the time in the southern Netherlands — but on a Lilliputian scale and with a virtuoso’s restless touch. Henry appears to have returned his when he pulled England out of Roman Catholicism, partly to end his marriage to Catherine. The fact that viewers could not see the back, and sometimes even their front, didn’t trouble their maker: A tiny, fully realized portrait of Henry and Catherine sitting in a gallery was invisible to the actual king and queen, or anyone else. RNS photo by Steve Remich
One by one they donned goggles and found themselves strolling through a Last Judgment bead, among its Jesus, angels, demons and the newly resurrected dead clambering from their graves. One human being.” Some of his colleagues prefer the idea of a workshop employing artisans of varying skill. But the beads’ eventual 21st-century distribution in small collections across Europe and North America made comparative study difficult, and no one could figure out how they were made. One artist. Their most famous, over-the-top example is all 10 beads of a short rosary that was a wedding gift to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in 1509. Beneath them, carved in deep relief, are souls in purgatory, prodded by demons, moaning as their fate is decided. They remained well-known in their respective locales. This was enough information to support the current show. At the sculpture’s base is the gaping maw of hell consuming someone. The most important question, though, may be whether the beads still have the power to inspire faith today. (For instance: Out of the 130 beads that have survived to the present, 30 portray Jesus carrying his cross — but no two are exactly alike.)
The beads were once the ultimate luxury item: a bit like a gold-plated Lamborghini, but to take you to heaven rather than the latest hot club. It’ll be one of my visualizations of God.”

“This was a wonderful experience,” said Seubert. “These objects are disruptors.”

The identity of the master of the beads is also still up for grabs. The virtual-reality experience
An answer to the current-day faith question was evident on a recent spring morning. Despite these wafers’ impossible thinness, many were carved in three-quarter-inch relief, and even in the round. Instead of one or even two overlapping layers of shallowly carved wood, the beads contained up to five, stacked like flats in a stage set, which explained why simple X-rays failed. But questions remained. Even if this were a normal-size work of art, the detailed, perfectly balanced presentation of its 50-plus figures would be remarkable. Or, for that matter, did they move the 16th-century royalty and plutocrats who snapped them up? Never before seen
Then, in 2014, modern technology caught up with medieval sleight of hand. Every few weeks (the next dates are May 12-14) the museum enhances the miniatures exhibit by offering a 3-D virtual-reality tour of one of the beads, scaled so the figures are life-size. Too small to snake an endoscopic camera into, they also foiled standard X-rays, which came out oddly blotchy. NEW YORK (RNS) It’s an artistic rendering of the Last Judgment, with all the trimmings. The Rev.