16th Century Memento Mori Rosary

From the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, here’s a 16th century memento mori rosary carved out of ivory featuring man on one side and skeleton on the other.

Each bead of the rosary represents the bust of a well-fed burgher or maiden on one side, and a skeleton on the other. The terminals, even more graphically, show the head of a deceased man, with half the image eaten away from decay. Such images served as reminders that life is fleeting and that leading a virtuous life as a faithful Christian is key to salvation.

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