Playful in Prayer? A Miniature Tabernacle – Religious Artifacts From The 16th Century



This miniature tabernacle – a portable shrine – is a boxwood microcarving which is as much a virtuoso plaything as an aid to devotion.

images/text credit : British Museum


Made in the northern Netherlands around 1510, this extraordinary object comes apart in three main sections, unfolding like a flower to reveal tiny carved scenes telling the life of Jesus Christ.


They’re also extremely tiny. Even the pins that hold everything together are smaller than a seed of grass, and each scene is carved into a bead no larger than a golf ball!


Dora Thornton, Curator of the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum, explores this miniature tabernacle, revealing the intricacies and mechanisms of this incredible piece of carved boxwood.


The artists who carved these had to have used magnifications, because they’re far too small to have been made using only the naked eye.

The Waddesdon Bequest is a collection of medieval and Renaissance treasures bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild in 1898.

VIAThe British Museum