High steeples and colourful stained glasses of huge cathedrals are generally the first elements that come to mind when it comes to Gothic Art. However there are certain rare gothic artworks which are so small to easily fit a hand.
In reality this was the actual purpose of these precious wooden sculptures, created by unknown artists as objects of personal worship, destined to the noble people of the time.
These incredible boxwood miniatures were produced, we believe in a limited number (only 150 pieces are left today), between the 15th and 16th century, especially in the Netherlands and the Flanders.
Every piece is overwhelming, extracted from a unique part of boxwood. This type of wood was a hard material but with a fine grain which would make it particularly fitting for being engraved and pleasurable to the touch after the polishing.
Externally they could look as simple wooden spheres or decorative objects, but once opened they would reveal an incredible work of inlay, which precision was not appreciable to the naked eye.
The intricate reliefs represent the episodes of the Old and New Testament (Adoration of the Magi, Jesus entering into Jerusalem), as well as the narrations not from the Bible, such as the Coronation of the Virgin.
Religiously significant, these objects appear precious for the incredible amount of details which required an extremely long work. According to the art historians Lisa Ellis and Alexandra Suda, to complete each miniature it could take up to 30 years on average.
They were therefore luxury goods, status symbol produced mostly on commission for people of an extremely high rank: Henry VIII of England, Catherine of Aragon, Charles VI were some of the owners of such treasures of art.
Today, these tiny artworks can be admired in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Metropolitan Museum of New York and in the British Museum inside the Waddesdon Bequest. Given their rarity on the art market they have an incredible value. The last auction of an object of such a kind had reached the scary sum of 133,250 pound.
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