Rosary of skulls and faces


This early 16th century German rosary from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection is a fabulous bit of memento mori, with callow, living mortals on one side of each bead and grinning death's heads on the other:

Each bead of the rosary represents the bust of a well-fed burgher or maiden on one side, and a skeleton on the other. The terminals, even more graphically, show the head of a deceased man, with half the image eaten away from decay. Such images served as reminders that life is fleeting and that leading a virtuous life as a faithful Christian is key to salvation.

Rosary, ca. 1500–1525 (via Neatorama)

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