Rare 16th Century Gothic Boxwood Carvings Are So Miniature Researchers Used X-Ray To Solve Their Mysteries

by Steampunk Tendencies
18 comments 150,5K views

Between 1500 and 1530 wood artists in Flanders and the Netherlands created of of the most exquisite miniature religious wood carvings ever seen.

Known as woodbox carvings there are only 135 of these artifacts known to exist. These miniature pieces of art are extremely detailed, the details of which was only truly appreciated after these miniature works of arts were examined by Micro-CT scans, advanced 3D analysis software, microscopes and X-rays.

The inner layers of these tiny carvings are pieced together so well that the joints could only be seen using microscopes and X-rays. It is a wonder that the original artists of these works were able to craft cravings so finely detailed and involved without the aid of modern equipment. Pins, smaller than a grass seed were used to hold some of the wood work in place.

However, despite the use of modern technology much of the production process of these carvings remain a mystery due to traces of gold which blocked much of the X-rays “view.”

Part of the draw of these wonderful woodboxes is the fact that much of how they were made remains a true mystery adding to both the intrinsic and artistic value of these little works of art.

These carvings were created out of a demand for quality portable religious carvings in Europe prior to the reformation period. However, once attempts were underway to reform both the Protestant and Catholic church the need for miniature accessories were no longer in high demand.

Researchers took these 500-year-old miniature boxwood carvings to the lab to find out their secrets

Photo by Craig Boyko

They think these miniatures were made between 1500 and 1530 in Flanders or the Netherlands

The human eye isn’t able to analyze details this tiny

So researchers used micro-CT scanning and Advanced 3D Analysis Software

To find out how intricate the pieces really are

They found joints in the inner layers so tiny that only a microscope or an X-ray can detect them

Photo by Craig Boyko

And pins, smaller than a grass seed

But even the advanced technology couldn’t see everything

Because traces of gold and other decoration materials conceal the X-ray views

The miniatures were a result of a rising new social class in Europe that created a demand for these high-quality portable religious carvings

Photo by Ian Lefebvre

However, soon the Reformation began and a lot of church-related accessories went out of fashion

Photo by Ian Lefebvre

More info: ago. ca | YouTube (h/t: colossal / The Mind Circle)

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Mary Lynn Heaston 19 janvier 2020 - 3 h 30 min

The artists were probably extremely nearsighted. I know when was younger I could see the flaws in a diamond with my glasses off. This probably how illuminated manuscripts were made.

Jim Houghton 19 janvier 2020 - 19 h 49 min

No doubt. Also no doubt they retired young and blind.

john 19 janvier 2020 - 22 h 41 min

Or perhaps big magnifying lenses were used

emily 21 janvier 2020 - 20 h 28 min

huh. that would make more sense than the other replies

Susan Cameron 18 mai 2020 - 23 h 03 min

Magnifying glasses were invented 200 years before so this could be made using new technology for the time. But what blade was used as this must be hard to get anything small and sharp enough

Ernest Dicks 20 janvier 2020 - 14 h 37 min

awesome work

LuAnn R Mattes 19 janvier 2020 - 7 h 08 min

This art is awesome . great job

Mary 19 janvier 2020 - 18 h 05 min


Pat Spinnler 19 janvier 2020 - 20 h 45 min

Some indication of scale would have been helpful. How mniature is ‘miniature’?

Jamie L Rowe 19 janvier 2020 - 21 h 29 min

The artist did a awesome job!

Catherine L Anderson 20 janvier 2020 - 3 h 19 min

To Pay Spinnler. The first photo features the piece being cradled in someone’s hand. That is cleArly offering a scale .

Kathryn 21 janvier 2020 - 8 h 00 min

Interestingly there are some rather strangely violent scenes depicted. There are children in chains, people being whipped and one guy is having boiling water poured over his head.

The wonder of the the detail and HOW they were created is on thing, but for me the deeper question is why, why go to such lengths?? Theregore what is contained within them is of equal importance.

Melissa 21 janvier 2020 - 19 h 46 min

Yes What stories were they trying to share perhaps ??

Jaime 1 avril 2022 - 0 h 24 min

These are religious depictions. The violent one you are referring to depicts hell – people, not children per say, in chains, on fire, etc with the heavenly scene above with the people there kneeling and worshipping Jesus.

Tiger Moses 21 janvier 2020 - 16 h 05 min

Dear author

Could of done some research and let us know what museums contain these, so if we wanted to see one, we could plan a journey?

Tero Pauniranta 21 janvier 2020 - 19 h 05 min

I found more information on where they are kept.

Nat 16 septembre 2020 - 19 h 30 min

It is still « could have done »…

based 31 janvier 2020 - 0 h 43 min

one is st francis and the moorish sutlan of egypt


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