In the 16th century, the wealthy had more than just the average rosary at their disposal during their moments of worship. Coveted boxwood carvings depicting intricate religious scenes in miniature allowed the rich to fit religious art right in their hands. Until early 2017, the Art Gallery of Ontario is hosting an exhibition devoted entirely to these tiny hand-carved works of art, as CNN reports.
"Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures" features more than 60 boxwood miniatures, some of which have never been on display in North America before, like a rosary owned by King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The wooden carvings have been part of a years-long, international study using scientific imaging to better understand how they were produced. The study uncovered some surprises, like a hidden portrait of a king and queen that went undiscovered for 500 years.
The collection includes prayer beads (one in the shape of a skull), a knife inscribed with biblical scenes, medallions, triptychs, rosaries, and even sarcophagi. Some date all the way back to the late 1400s.
The exhibition runs until January 22, but you can also see high-resolution images of the entire collection on the gallery’s website. For more information, watch a video with the curator below.