Gothic Boxwood Miniatures.

Pure amazement and awe here. If you have the chance to take this in, take it!

Gothic Boxwood Miniatures.

Gothic Boxwood Miniatures.

In the video, Pete Dandridge, conservator and administrator in the Department of Objects Conservation, reveals the wizardry behind the creation of a miniature boxwood prayer bead. Through his collaboration with Lisa Ellis—conservator of sculpture and decorative arts at the Art Gallery of Ontario—the techniques of the 16th-century carvers are fully understood for the first time.

Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures, on view at The Met Cloisters from February 22 through May 21, 2017.

Featured Object:
Prayer bead with the Adoration of the Magi and the Crucifixion, early 16th century. Netherlandish. Boxwood, Open: 4 1/2 x 3 1/4 x 1 1/8 in. (11.2 × 8.1 × 2.7 cm); Closed: 2 3/8 x 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (5.8 x 5.5 x 5.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.475)


That’s not all! There’s a virtual reality tour of these tiny wonders, too.

In Small Wonders: The VR Experience, now at Met Cloisters in New York City, visitors are presented with one of these boxwood carvings—created some 500 years ago by an unknown artist—that is blown up to a much larger proportion. It can be exploded and collapsed, and participants are free to walk in and around it. The incredibly small details are now large enough that viewers can see just how this artwork, which depicts Heaven and Hell, was carved and assembled into a sphere that opens like a locket. * Small Wonders: The VR experience.


  1. kestrel says

    That is AMAZING. And I don’t think they had X-Acto knives when this was made… I wonder if the person who made it, also made their own tools. I do miniature work (nothing like this, though!!) and I often have to resort to making my own tools.

    That would make a great show: tools made for specialized art work.

  2. says

    Wood carving was at a height of magnificence then, (1500) and I’d bet they had a full range of woodworking tools. A lot of those tools really haven’t changed much over the centuries. I’d love to know just how long it took for the artist to do one locket bead.

    Long days ago, I used to paint miniatures, and it’s excruciating work.

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