Prayer bead with the Nativity and Old Testament scenes
Even within the group of miraculous boxwood micro-carvings attributed to the North Netherlandish workshop of Adam Dircksz this beautiful large prayer bead occupies a special position. Where most beads are perfectly round, the present one is oblate, presenting further constraints on the execution of the minute tracery pattern on the outside and fitting relief sculpture on the inside. The fact that three multi-figure Old Testament scenes as well as the Three Magi could have been added to the background of the Nativity at the bead’s centre, is therefore nothing short of spectacular. Art historically the bead also plays an important part within the larger pool of boxwood micro-carvings: its inscriptions include the Middle-Dutch word martelaere (martyrs) above the adoring figures on the left wing which is a significant contribution to the localisation of the entire group to a Netherlandish workshop. It is therefore no surprise that the bead attracted three of the greatest collectors of European works of art of the twentieth century: Baron Cassel van Doorn, Melvin Gutman, and Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.