Sunday, August 10, 2008

More pretty pictures

part 2

Here are more of my recent projects.

(By the way, I've had a couple of comments and e-mails about these beads, asking if they are for sale. No, I don't make paternosters for sale, although I'm sure there is a market out there for them. I'd much rather teach people to make their own! There are full instructions in Bedes Byddyng, and the materials are neither hard to find nor expensive. A while back I also posted a "shopping list" and instructions.)

I posted some, but not all of the sets of medieval-style rosary beads that I made to take with me to Leiden in March. Here are a couple that didn't make it into the first batch I posted.

These are actually two of a color combination I've made several of, and will undoubtedly make more. I bought something like 20 strings of these opaque red glass beads for a special occasion, and I still have a number left over. The clear marker beads are rock crystal -- though not especially good quality rock crystal -- and at the particular moment I bought them, were actually less expensive than glass beads the same size.


Based largely on what I see in paintings, I tend to make most of my "ordinary" medieval-style rosaries from 8-millimeter beads with 10-millimeter markers. Those seem to be the approximate dimensions of the smaller medieval rosaries I see (there are some much bigger). These particular ones have 12-millimeter markers because that was the size that was on sale at the time.

Red coral was -- again, judging by paintings -- a very popular choice for rosary beads in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, for those wealthy few who could afford them. I don't know whether red coral in that period was widely faked, but I would be surprised if it wasn't. These glass beads certainly look to me like the sort of thing someone might choose in the Middle Ages who wanted a cheaper imitation of coral. A knowledgeable eye, seeing these close up, would know they weren't real coral, if only because of the absence of flaws and scratches -- glass is significantly harder than coral. It's also noticeably heavier, but you'd have to pick the beads up to know that. From a few feet away, these would probably have looked quite splendid.

I commented once that red coral beads with rock-crystal gauds seems to be a combination one sees a lot in medieval rosary paintings -- but when challenged, I couldn't come up with a lot of examples. I've collected more examples since, but it's gradually become apparent that it is indeed a common combination, but specifically in the rosaries shown in paintings of the Virgin Mary and saints. That means we don't know whether it was actually a popular combination in real life, or whether it represents some sort of ideal "type" of the rosary, thought suitable for particularly holy contexts.


Since I was trying to assemble some representative types of rosaries, I also made this string, which is the full fifteen decades recommended by Alanus de Rupe, rather than the more common sort abbreviated to five decades.


I've seen several 15th- and 16th-century rosaries with a heart as a pendant rather than a cross, so I looked for something that seemed suitable and came up with this pendant from Rosary Workshop. It's not quite ideal for a rosary, since it has a hollow back rather than being cast in the round, but I liked it.

A heart encircled by a crown of thorns today is usually thought of as representing devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In its present form, this is a post-medieval devotion, having become popular as a result of visions experienced by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, who died in 1690. But it can readily be demonstrated that a number of medieval saints and lay people also cherished a special devotion to the heart of Jesus, though it wasn't necessarily represented in the same way. Rosary Workshop doesn't know the exact source or date of this particular heart, but it reminds me most strongly of Mexican and Central American "milagros", so that would be my guess.