Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Skulls: the inside story part 2

In Skulls: the inside story a few days ago, I introduced an interesting 16th-century paternoster made of skulls and described the tiny scenes carved inside the bottom four beads (of the surviving seven).

Here I'll show you the remaining three beads and talk a bit more about what the overall scheme seems to have been.


Bead #1 (the top): Inside the front half of the skull (left) is the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist; inside the back half, the museum's description says this is the young Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem, but I'm not entirely sure of that.


Bead #2: Front, Mary with the infant Jesus on a donkey on their way to Egypt; back, the Adoration of the Magi (which I admit is rather difficult to recognize).


Bead #3: Front, St. Jerome in the desert (identifiable because he's an old man stripped to the waist, beating his breast with a stone); back, St. Antony of Padue (identifiable because he's holding lilies in one hand and the infant Jesus in the other arm).

Links to the full photo in the Marburg Foto Archive, for those who want to see them:
Bead #1 full photo
Bead #2 full photo
Bead #3 full photo


What we seem to have here is an incomplete version of the life of Christ, with some extra bits added (such as St. Jerome and St. Antony).

In proper order, the scenes would probably go something like this:

1a. Annunciation
1b. Visitation

2a. Nativity
2b. Adoration of the Magi

3a. Flight into Egypt
3b. Jesus in the Temple (if that's what it is)

If this is correct, the first few beads have actually just had their scenes re-arranged a bit. It's not clear to me, by the way, whether a scene currently in the front half of a skull could be transferred into a back half or not. If not, that puts some restrictions on possible original orders we can reconstruct.

Then it starts to get a little disjointed, probably due to the fact that three skulls are missing, which would hold six additional scenes. Here's my first stab at a reconstruction, with some scenes we don't have inside square brackets []:

4a. Footwashing
4b. [Last Supper?]

5a. Mount of Olives
5b. Kiss of Judas

6a. Scourging at the pillar
6b. Crowning with thorns

(If this is correct, #6 is now the only skull assembled as it was originally.)

7a. [?]
7b. [Crucifixion?]

8a. Pieta
8b. [Resurrection?]

9a. [?]
9b. [?]

10a. St. Jerome
10b. St. Antony

(These last two then being favorite saints of the original owner, perhaps.)

Posts in this series:

Death's head devotions
Skully bits
Skulls: the inside story
Skulls: the inside story, part 2
Skulls: the inside story, part 3
Voldemort, part 2
A skull of one's own
More living color