Saturday, May 28, 2005

Big red rosaries II

So as I mentioned last week, one of the things I did in preparation for the exhibit at the International Medieval Congress was to re-string a couple of my rosary replicas that I wasn't satisfied with.
I'd made a "Big Red Rosary" some time ago, because a string of 16-18mm red (dyed) sponge-coral beads came my way. I've always been fascinated by the huge coral rosaries that appear in a number of 16th-century portraits (see yesterday's entry for references). I'd found one large pierced silver bead at a gem show, which became my pomander:

Big red German detail

To fill it, I made a small bag of black net and inserted it into the pomander with the mouth of the bag outside. Then I poked small bits of clove, cinnamon bark and allspice through the hole into the bag until there was a good quantity in there, sewed the bag closed, and tucked the top inside.

I've been looking at pictures and catalogs for more than two years, trying to find some silver beads that were the right size and a plausible shape for the marker beads, and that looked as though they were in something of the same style. Eventually I found some sterling silver "flying saucer" shaped beads I thought would do. I haven't seen this shape in any of the period portraits -- if anything, silver gauds in the portraits tend to be long double-cones instead -- but all the beads I could find in that shape were too small and much too fussy in their decoration.

At the same time, I found some silver end-caps for the pomander, since the wooden disks I'd used tended not to stay put, and also some silver-plated small beads to add to the string as "Zwischenperlen" (as the Germans call the "in-between" beads). Again, I haven't seen this exact combination in a portrait, but considering how many other strings of rosary beads have Zwischenperlen, it seemed plausible.

So here is the new configuration: longer, more glittery, and incidentally, also strung on a somewhat thicker and stronger silk cord, which makes me feel a bit safer wearing it.Red silver German

And a closeup:

Red silver detail

I think the wealthy 16th-century burghers' wives who owned the originals would approve :).