Sunday, May 30, 2010

La Divina Pastora: Virgin Mary as Shepherdess

While reading the other day about rosaries in the Andes, I ran across something I hadn't seen before: mention of devotion to the Virgin Mary under the title "La Divina Pastora" (the Divine Shepherdess).

The article I was reading was A Short History of Rosaries in the Andes by Penelope Dransart[1]. She says:

"One of the most prominent attributes of the Rosario [image of the Virgin as Our Lady of the Rosary] is, of course, the rosary, but this feature is also shared in the iconography of a related version, the Virgin of the Shepherds. In this respect, a painting dated 1703, entitled La Divina Pastora (The Divine Shepherdess) in the Museo Nactional del Arte, La Paz, Bolivia, is of interest. In this picture the Virgin is surrounded by sheep which have roses in their mouths and rosaries of black beads hanging over their backs. Alternatively, some of the sheep have the characteristic knotted belt cords which form part of a Franciscan monk's habit draped over their backs. In the background, a lamb wearing a black rosary with a pendant crucifix has a speech scroll emanating from his mouth, bearing the words. 'Ave Maria.'"

I would love to see what this picture looks like, but the La Paz museum doesn't seem to have much of their collection online, and other sources have come up blank so far. I did, however, run across this one, which seems from the description to be along the same lines, although without the black rosaries. This is a modern painting in the "Baroque Colonial" Peruvian style by David Chavez Galdos[2]:

La Divina Pastora by David Chavez Galdos © 2010 Escuela cusqueña - Arte y Fe, Cuzco

In Spain, devotion to La Divina Pastora appears to have started in Seville, also right around 1700, and may indeed have originated there and been carried quickly to the Americas. Brother Isidore, a Capuchin (Franciscan) priest greatly devoted to Mary, is said to have commissioned a painting of the Virgin as shepherdess from the artistic school of Alonso Miguel de Tovar. There are earlier references to Mary as shepherdess in the writings of Saint John of God, Saint Peter of Alcantara and the visionary Maria de Agreda.

The Spanish Wikipedia article (whose sources include two books on the devotion) recounts that Brother Isidore specified that the Virgin wear a red tunic, a white sheepskin around her waist, and a blue mantle slung across her left shoulder. A shepherd's staff is behind her on the right. In her left arm she holds the Infant Jesus and her right hand reaches toward a sheep taking refuge in her lap. She is surrounded by sheep bearing rose garlands in their mouths.

A little investigating online suggests that devotion to La Divina Pastora spread widely in the early 1700s and is still popular in Spain, Portugal, South America and the Philippines. The connection to roses and the rosary is not always apparent, as in this statue, located in Nava del Rey (Valladolid, Spain) and attributed to the woodcarver Luis Salvador Carmona (1709-1767). There are a number of Brotherhoods or Societies of the Divine Shepherdess in Spain and Portugal.

La Divina Pastora, from Nava del Rey (Valladolid), attributed to Luis Salvador Carmona 1709-1767

Variations on this title of Mary include Divina Pastora de las Almas (Divine Shepherdess of Souls), Madre Divina Pastora (Divine Mother Shepherdess) or Madre del Buen Pastor (Mother of the Good Shepherd, since Jesus is often given that title). The images may also vary: Mary is usually wearing a big floppy hat, but she may be shown alone or with the Infant Jesus, with or without a shepherd's crook. She may have a whole flock of sheep or just one or two. The roses are sometimes red on one side and white on the other: this may have connections with earlier rosary images that show groups of white, red and gold roses representing the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of the rosary.

As with other images of Mary -- and as you'll quickly see if you Google images of "La Divina Pastora" -- many decorations can be added to the original statue or painting, including rosaries over Mary's arm, lace and ruffles on her dress (a bit impractical for an actual shepherd!) and a gold crown, either instead of or rather awkwardly perched on top of her hat. The painting above solves the hat + crown problem by having cherubs hold the crown in the air over her head.

The Virgin Mary has a seemingly endless variety of titles in the Christian tradition, each meaning something special in terms of imagery. Roses are a common metaphor for the rosary in other contexts, so it's not surprising to see them here. I'm enjoying roses in bloom where I live right now, so it seems appropriate. Whether sheep will actually eat roses in real life I have no idea!


[1] Dransart, P. 1998. A short history of rosaries in the Andes. In Beads and bead makers: gender, material culture and meaning (ed.) L. Sciama, 129-46. Oxford: Berg.

[2] Image used by permission. Copyright © 2010 Escuela cusqueña - Arte y Fe:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beads in bags

I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering where people kept their paternoster or rosary beads when not using them. As we have seen, sometimes they were worn as part of everyday dress, as routinely as we'd wear a wristwatch or cell phone. But where were they when they were not being worn?

Meredith Harmon on the Paternosters list on Yahoo turned up a painting that answers this question -- at least for one instance. It's a painting of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, painted by Gerard David somewhere in the late 1400s. It's now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: for some reason it doesn't appear anywhere on their website, although the other panel from the same painting, showing the angel, does.

Gerard David Annunciation in the Met

Just visible in the bottom right corner of this painting is a cloth pouch with rosary beads spilling out of it. Here's an enlargement (as always, click on the picture to see a larger view):

Pouch detail

The beads are gold-colored but don't look metallic; my guess is that they are supposed to be amber or glass. Just visible above the edge of the pouch in the back is a decorated silver gaud or marker bead of some sort (not much detail is visible), followed by ten smaller beads. The string is dark, probably black. On the other side of the loop we can see nine beads. Both strings run through a round, decorated silver ball at the far left, and it looks like they are knotted together on the far side.

The pouch has two black drawstrings that appear to end in knobs (knots?) and there are matching black tassels at both bottom corners.

It's a bit difficult to estimate the dimensions of the pouch and beads, because they are in the foreground of the painting and the perspective is a bit strange. It looks to me as though the beads are a little smaller in diameter than the Virgin's fingers, perhaps around 10 to 12 millimeters in size. The silver ball is about twice this size. My guess is that it may be a pomander.

Using the bead as a rough unit of measure for the sides of the pouch, the bag looks like it might work out to be about 8 to 9 inches square. That's a bigger pouch than would be needed just for the beads.

Another painting by Gerard David, probably painted around the same time and now at the Detroit Institute of Art, provides a clue. This second Annunciation is a more compact painting, and the Virgin is at a rather different angle, but the bag in the foreground is identical, right down to the folds and wrinkles (except that it's blue this time).

Gerard David Annunciation at DIA

Those who have commented on these paintings suggest that both bags are intended to be book bags. Looking at both paintings, the bags do seem to be about the right size to hold the book that Mary has in front of her in each case.

The earlier Merode altarpiece (also at the Met) by the workshop of Robert Campin has a very similar bag under the book on the table, and here too it looks to be just about the right size to hold the book. This purse also has two drawstrings, and it looks as though one ends in a round, thread-covered button, and the other has a longer string ending in a tassel (though most of it's hidden under a slip of paper). There is a contrasting colored lining and some decoration around the mouth of the bag and down the side seams. This painting and its two wings have all sorts of delightful details in them if you ever get to see them close up -- carpenters' tools in Saint Joseph's shop, a towel with striped borders and fringe, a vase, two keys, and a candlestick, among others.

Detail of book from the Merode altarpiece

(The only beads in the Merode altarpiece, however, are held by one of the donors of the painting in the left wing of the tryptych. These are a long straight string of perhaps 100 smallish red beads, with white-headed black tassels on both ends. I have a small picture of this, but I'd love to have a detail shot of the entire string to see if more details are visible.)

So from this evidence, we can suggest that beads, at least some of the time, were in book bags. It does make a certain amount of sense to carry one's devotional beads in the same bag as one's devotional book (which is probably what the pictured books are). And we have some pretty good pictures of what the book bags were like, if we want to create a modern reproduction, to carry our own books, beads, or whatever we like.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Edelsteine: Himmels Schnure

A book worth breaking my no-book-buying-because-I'm-poor moratorium for doesn't come along every day. But this one definitely qualifies.

Edelsteine: cover of exhibition catalog

I was alerted to this book by Elizabeth Alles from the Paternosters mailing list at Yahoo -- one of the many reasons I've been glad I established that list a few years ago. It has full color photos of more than 500 small and large rosaries of many different types, and as you can see from the cover, the photography is excellent.

The book is available directly from the museum, but if you don't speak German, the online interface is a bit confusing. I'll put some ordering details at the bottom of this post.

I haven't sat down and slogged through all the German yet, but this is a catalog from an exhibition of a very large private collection. There are about 40 pieces dating from before 1600; most of the rest are 17th, 18th and 19th century. This same collection has been exhibited and published elsewhere as well. (There's a smaller 2003 book -- look for the name of the collector, Fredy Bühler.)

The book also includes quite a few rosary-related works of art -- including a picture I've wanted for a long time, a GOOD rendition of the large altarpiece of the Rosary Brotherhood from the Church of St. Andreas in Cologne, Germany. As I discovered when I went there, the painting is very large, mounted high up on a wall, and very difficult to photograph from the floor. Older photos I've seen are mostly very small.

As eye candy, this book is marvellous. But as I mentioned earlier, there are things about it that I find a bit troubling from a scholarly point of view.

Something very characteristic of private collections -- and true of this one -- is that everything is pretty. There are no partial or broken rosaries, no missing or damaged beads. Of course, part of this is a natural tendency for the nice ones to be what gets picked out for the exhibition and the book. But it leads me to wonder whether there are any less-than-perfect specimens in the collection: I, for one, would find them at least as interesting as the ones shown.

I am also disappointed to see only a bare minimum of information about each item -- a date, an assigned place of origin (on what basis it doesn't say), the bead materials (if known), and identification of any medals or other attachments. For the first half of the catalog, there are not even any measurements. In fact, there is nothing I would call discussion on any of the bead entries, including any mention of why the dates were assigned. Rosaries in general are very difficult to date just by looking at them, and the dearth of information is very disappointing.

And as I mentioned in my previous post, some of the reconstructions here bother me.

The first actual beads we encounter in the book, for instance, are these:


The first thing that struck me is that none of these are in the sort of arrangement that I would expect a rosary to be. Granted, we know that not all rosaries, even before 1600, had their Ave (small) beads in multiples of 5 or 10. But if a string is not broken or missing some beads, one would expect the numbers to correspond with some known devotional practice. I have seen little or no evidence of any such practice that would require, for instance, groups of 4 or 6, so I continue to think that fives, tens, and perhaps occasionally sevens are the numbers one ought to expect.

These first three sets of beads in the book are arranged in 6 groups of 4, 5 groups of 4, and 5 groups of 3. The beads on succeeding pages are predominantly in arrangements like 6x8, 3x8, 4x7, and 4x6. Outside of the tenners I discussed in my previous post, there are relatively few 10- or 5-bead groups. I haven't done a statistical analysis, but this looks very much to me as though whatever beads were available have been simply divided into equal parts, a marker inserted between each group, and the whole joined up into a circle. All of the rosaries presented in this book are arranged to look like complete pieces as they stand. I suspect this is misleading.

My second concern is about the way some of the sets are strung. It seems that wherever there is a metal part that has two holes or attachment points, it has been attached to the string of beads at both ends:


In the period artwork I've seen, and in other surviving originals, crosses, images of saints, and medals like these appear as pendants, and the loop at the bottom has a hanging pearl or jewel, as so commonly seen in 16th century and later jewelry. I don't think I've ever seen such a piece attached to the beads at both ends. Looking through the book, it does seem that a few of the pendants have been reconstructed as pendants with hanging pearls, but this only seems to happen when there actually is a surviving pearl.

One other thing struck me as odd. Several of the rosaries, like the one below, are strung not on any kind of fiber (silk is the most common) but on a fine metal chain. As far as I can tell from the photos, this is simply run through the beads as if it were thread. As I mentioned in discussing the Neville rosaries, I suspect this is a modern practice. I don't know exactly when chains fine enough to go through a bead hole became widely available -- I suspect, not until they were able to be made cheaply by machine.


Don't get me wrong here -- this is a very well-produced book, with lots of nice pictures and an amazing collection of medals, crosses, bead types, rosary cases (one shaped like a carrot!), reliquaries, tassels, carved beads and other parts. There are close to 600 rosaries pictured, including some very close closeups in the chapter-head pages and a lot of information about various medals and other pilgrimage souvenirs. (I could wish the rest of the photos were bigger, but I'm probably insatiable in that regard ;)

There are also several disk-rosaries that use bone disks as counters rather than beads -- and one with tin rings, which I'd never seen before. As I mentioned there are numerous illustrations of historical paintings, woodcuts, sculptures and bits of rosary literature, many of which were new to me. It's well worth buying if you are interested in historical religious artifacts.

But it's sad that in many respects it is lacking in the sort of information about the actual pieces shown that would be helpful to someone doing serious research.

ordering information

The link to the ordering page is here. Clicking on "Bestellen" brings up an order form, which is clearly not designed with overseas orders in mind. "Vorname, Familienname" are first and last names. "PLZ" is zip code, "Ort" is city. Since there is no place for "country," I simply put *all* my address information in the "Strasse" line (literally "street"), including street address, city, state and USA. It worked.

Payment is by wire transfer after the book arrives: my copy took about 8 weeks after ordering. An invoice is included with the book. My bank charged me $20 to do the wire transfer; the cost of the book plus shipping was about $55 if I remember correctly.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fish bones & lily stones

Because my name is out there on the Internet, I get the occasional question from someone trying to find information about historical rosaries. Sometimes the questions turn out to be quite fascinating, and I learn things I may never have imagined.

One of the most interesting so far was a note I got late last summer from an archaeozoologist -- of all things -- asking about rosaries made of fish bones. She had seen my photo of a large "wall rosary" made of shark vertebrae, which I ran across when it was sold on eBay:

Shark vertebrae

She directed my attention to a painting I'd seen before, the St. Vincent polyptych. And sure enough, when I got a closer look at the "Fisherman's panel," second from left, there was Saint Anthony in the front row, holding something very similar. (The photo is still not very clear, for which I apologize: if anyone has a better one, please say so. As always, you can click on the picture to see a larger view.)

Detail of St. Antony with fishbone beds from the St. Vincent altarpiece by Nuño Gonsalves

My correspondent in this case was Dr. Sheila Hamilton-Dyer, and she has been working on a medieval excavation at the Icelandic monastery of Skriðuklaustur, where she has found a number of shark vertebrae in the church. (A paper on the faunal remains from Skriðuklaustur is available as a PDF from the Bibliography page on her website.)

Perforated fish vertebrae tentatively identified as rosary beads have been found elsewhere -- for instance, from a 13th or 14th century chapel in Northumberland, and also in Poland. Those bones, however are smaller, and might be from cod or a similar fish.

The shark vertebrae Dr. Hamilton-Dyer found were large -- an inch to an inch and a half in diameter -- and several of them showed wear and discoloration around a central hole, something that might have been produced by a cord running through them. Here's the photo she sent (published with her permission):

Shark vertebra from Skriðuklaustur, Iceland, copyright 2009 S. Hamilton-Dyer

Her guess was that these vertebrae might be part of a rosary. They are probably too large for a rosary a person would wear, but might be from a large rosary that would be placed on an altar or statue of Our Lady. She wanted to know if I had heard of such a thing -- other than the modern example from eBay -- and I certainly have.

One of the first articles I wrote on this blog was called Up against the Wall, and it was about the very large "wall rosaries" that you sometimes find for sale. The beads on these are an inch or so in diameter, making them far too big to wear or even carry around very easily. Many eBay sellers have no idea what they are. The prices being asked for them can vary from $5 all the way up to $500 -- and since they cost around $40 new, I certainly hope no one is buying them at that price!

Wall rosaries are, in fact, not at all rare, although many people have never seen one. In the 1950s and 60s, a lot of Catholics decorated their homes with many religious statues, pictures, and other devotional items like these wall rosaries, as a sign of their faith. This is something you see less of nowadays, perhaps because Catholics today feel less like an embattled minority. Wall rosaries are certainly still being made and sold, however, and at any given time there are at least two or three secondhand ones for sale on eBay. I've been collecting photos of more examples because I'd like to write more about some of the different types.

Donating a rosary to decorate a statue or altar within a church is also a very old practice, going back well into the Middle Ages and continuing today. Sometimes you see statues so draped in rosaries and other jewelry that you can barely see their bodies or clothes. Most of the ones I have photos of are ordinary-sized rosaries draped on relatively small statues. But the practice certainly extends to large rosaries draped on large statues as well.

I haven't yet seen any other photos of fishbone rosaries, but now I'm on the lookout. The bones are certainly for sale as beads on eBay and elsewhere. Both Dr. Hamilton-Dyer and I will be interested to see if any other fishbone rosaries turn up. Considering that I've seen rosaries made of rocks, sea shells, braided horsehair, plastic dice, and miniature footballs, I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

Small fish bone beads for sale

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On a related note, I also ran across a charming paper by Gary Lane and William Ausich -- paleontologists -- on the legend of St. Cuthbert's beads, published in the journal Folklore in 2001. It came up in an online search because the paper mentions rosaries.

Saint Cuthbert (634-687 AD) was one of the famous preacher saints of North Britain, and his official biography was written by the Venerable Bede in the eighth century. The little disks with a hole in the center called "St. Cuthbert's beads" are found on Lindisfarne, where they weather out of limestone and can be picked up in any of the island's quarries.

Saint Cuthbert's beads are not fishbones: they are segments of the stems of fossil crinoids, animals related to sea urchins. Crinoids are known from as early as 480 million years ago, and a few stalked crinoids have survived to the present day, although they are now found only in deep water. These crinoids stand on long stalks supported by a series of bony disk-shaped segments. They are often called "sea lilies" or "feather stars."

Crinoid segments from

The earliest literary reference to crinoid stem segments as "St. Cuthbert's beads" is by John Ray in 1671. In all probability the legend dates from centuries later than St. Cuthbert's life, though it might date back as far as the beginnings of limestone quarrying on the island in the 14th century. Nineteenth-century scholars, with their romantic view of folklore and religion, decided that local limestone workers must have believed these "beads" dated from Cuthbert's time and strung them into rosaries -- but disappointingly, there seems to be very little evidence this was actually done.

Many of the later references to St. Cuthbert's beads come from Sir Walter Scott's epic poem Marmion, which says:

But fain Saint Hilda's nuns would learn
If on a rock, by Lindisfarne,
St Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
The sea-born beads that bear his name:
Such tales had Whitby's fishers told,
And said they might his shape behold,
And hear his anvil sound;
A deadened clang -- a huge dim form,
Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm
And night were closing round.
But this, as tale of idle fame,
The nuns of Lindisfarne disclaim (canto 2, verse 16).

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Neville gold rosaries

Several people alerted me to two gold rosaries that were listed last winter in an upcoming sale at Bonham's auction house -- for which, my thanks. Thanks also to Rachel Osborn-Howard of Bonham's, who gave me permission to write about these and to republish a few of their photos. I also very much appreciate the additional information she was kind enough to provide.

Howard Neville was a dealer in early works of art and textiles for forty years, and Bonham's had their first sale of some of his collection this past December. Among the items for sale were two gold rosaries and a gold crucifix, all dated to the 16th or 17th century. Here's the first one:


The final version of the description in the sale catalog is: "A 17th century silver-gilt rosary with a Corpus Christi pendant, the Corpus Christi with a plaque above inscribed INRI and with a skull and crossbones below, the rosary chain with circular beads interspersed with flat pierced beads and terminating with a pierced pendant above a single chain of beads with the corpus below, chain possibly later, the cross 7.5cm high, the chain approximately 74cm long."

Here's the second one, whose catalog description was: "A 17th century Flemish silver-gilt rosary with a Corpus Christi pendant, the chain applied with segmented beads, the sides decorated with applied circles, chain possibly later, one bead missing, the cross 8.5cm high, the chain 52cm long."


There is also a third item from this sale that is just a cross, with a small pendant at the bottom:

Neville3 cross

The fact that these are gold (actually, gilded silver) automatically puts them in the "spectacular" category. For the most part, they are also in excellent condition; the first rosary has only one damaged bead; the second is clearly missing some beads, as there are only 29. The crucifixes show some normal wear, but they too are in excellent shape.

As I've said many times before, dating rosaries is always hard. That goes for these too. Hollow gold beads like these have been made for thousands of years, either plain as in the first example, or decorated with bits of added-on wire as in the second. It's virtually impossible to date them by style.

Often the best clue we have about the age of a rosary is the artistic style of the cross or medals attached to the beads. The Neville rosaries and crucifix have been looked at by experts who know a whole lot more about art history than I do: they identify the crucifixes as 16th or 17th century Flemish work.

When I first saw these, they were described as 16th century. But the longer rosary is made with a chain type of construction, where each bead is on a short length of wire with loops at each end, and the beads are made into a chain by interlocking these loops. This is how almost all rosaries were made in the 19th and 20th centuries, but it's not at all common before 1600. Most rosaries before 1600 were strung on silk thread. (The gold rosary of Mary, Queen of Scots, is an exception, dated to 1587.)

It is also uncommon -- though again not unheard of -- to see the cross hanging from a short chain of three "extra" beads. These extra beads were not originally part of the rosary in the Middle Ages. They seem to first appear sometime in the very late 1500s, but they did not really become universal until the 19th century.

The second of the Neville rosaries is strung on a fine metal chain. This is also not typical of rosaries from this period, which as far as I know were mostly strung on silk. (I've seen a number of historical rosaries that are now strung on metal chain, but to the best of my knowledge, they have all been re-strung and the chain is modern.)

You can see a bit of chain in the second rosary in the very bottom right corner of the first closeup below:


And in this not-so-good second closeup:


This second rosary currently has 29 beads and no gauds (marker beads). This too would be unusual for a rosary of this date. While there are some rosaries with 30 beads (plus gauds), the most common number is 50 (plus gauds). Some special types of rosaries have 63, 72 or other numbers, but 50 is overwhelmingly the most common.

The chain construction and the three "extra" beads of the first rosary, and the chain "string" of the second rosary, lead me to think that if these are actually more or less intact pieces and haven't been heavily modified, a date in the 17th century is rather more likely than the 16th. As you saw, the catalog description in its final version did agree with that.

But you'll notice I said "if."

The individual beads in both cases could certainly be 16th or 17th century. But I have to wonder whether some 16th or 17th century crosses and some beads from one or more other sources -- even, perhaps, from other sources of the same date -- might have been combined to make a rosary that looks more complete.

This is something that happens all the time, not only to items in private collections, but to items in museums. It is very natural to want to make an item look more complete, perhaps more like what it looked like when new -- especially if you are certain you know what it looked like originally. For rosaries, that very often means arranging the beads in equal-numbered groups (usually 10), with marker beads between each group, something like a flat metal medallion at the joining of the loop, and a short chain of three (sometimes five) beads above the crucifix. Because this construction is so universal in the 19th and 20th centuries, many people assume that this is what all rosaries should look like. As you'll have seen if you've been reading this blog, that's not really true for rosaries before the 19th century.

(Today, museums are far more cautious, and are more likely to show a broken or incomplete item in its unrepaired state, perhaps with a separate "reproduction" next to it. But this is a fairly recent trend. Anything that's been in a museum for a few decades is very likely to have been cleaned and restored in ways we might not do today.)

Thinking along these lines, I began to wonder particularly about the central medallion on the first set of beads. Here's a closeup.


Two things bother me here. (And I'm no jewelry expert, so take my opinion for what it's worth.) One is that a flat medallion at the joining is, as I said, a rather late feature in rosaries; none of the other 16th-17th century rosaries I've seen have a medallion. Either each decade ends with a gaud so there are two gauds side by side when the loop joins, or else both threads are run through a single gaud in this position. I don't know exactly when joining the loop with a flat medallion came into style, but I can't help wondering whether it was in the 19th century. Even the Biedermeyer-style filigree rosaries, which are dated to various points in the 18th and 19th centuries, don't have it.

The other thing is that, compared to the workmanship on the rest of the rosary, this medallion is rather crude. A silver-gilt rosary was a piece of fine jewelry, usually made by a goldsmith, and I would really not expect something only approximately symmetrical, and with irregular engraving like this, to be part of it. In fact, I rather wish I knew whether a metallurgic test was done on this medallion, because it looks to me as though it might even be something like a part from a 19th- or early 20th-century brass item from India.

I have no doubt that the crucifixes are original and date from when the experts say they date from. But it would have been relatively easy for someone to take some loose beads and put together plausible-looking rosaries to go with two of the crucifixes.

I don't know of any evidence this was done, but there's also -- in my admittedly limited experience -- no evidence that would comprehensively rule it out. That would also explain the relatively undamaged condition of these pieces, as well as the style of construction.

So while I very much appreciate the chance to see and study these pieces from the Neville collection, I think that considerable doubt must remain about whether they are in their original form, and therefore, about whether they can be relied on to give us significant information about rosaries in the past.