Illuminating Objects

German Miniature Picture Bibles: New Light

1 May to 22 July 2013

If one examines the putto with the basket very closely, rather than seeds, he appears in fact to be holding in his left hand three nails. The putto in the other circular medallion is carrying the Cross. Together they make sense, as they are symbolic of Christ’s Passion. Nails and other tools of the Crucifixion held by angels are common motifs in representations of the Passion. The exact reason for the basket is not clear and its presence seems incongruous in this context.

This is not a unique example. At least two miniature bindings with similar silverwork medallions are known, showing on one side a putto carrying the Cross and on the other a putto holding a basket in one hand and three nails in the other. One of the books is a morning and evening prayerbook to be used at church or at home, published by Christoph Endter, printer and publisher in Nuremberg, in 1672. The size of the binding is comparable, at 7.5 cm high. The prayerbook is dedicated to a high ranking family from Augsburg. 

Prayerbook (front and back), published by Christoph Endter, Nuremberg, 1672. Private Collection, Netherlands (Bernard van Noordwijk)

Here the nails are very clear to see, and there is no mistaking them for seeds.


The other book, which was also published by Christoph Endters in Nuremberg, in 1668, has an identical silver binding and again similar medallions to the Courtauld bible picture books. It is in the Bamberg State Library.

We are grateful to Mr van Noordwijk for generously sharing his vast knowledge on miniature religious books, and for supplying this information on comparable bindings.