500-Year-Old Boxwood Carvings Are So Tiny Only An X-Ray Can Unlock Their Secrets

There are only 135 known miniature boxwood carvings that have been puzzling art specialists all over the world. Recently, researchers have gathered some of these tiny religious pieces from museums and private collections to further study their secrets and have found a few very interesting answers.

These wooden carvings were made during a brief time frame, between 1500 and 1530 either in Flanders or the Netherlands. The rise of a new merchant social class in Europe created a market demand for high-quality portable religious carvings. Soon after, the Reformation began and a lot of church-related accessories went out of fashion, including the miniature boxwood pieces.

Using micro-CT scanning and Advanced 3D Analysis Software, researchers found out just how intricate these miniature altars really are. The inner layers are pieced together, hiding the joints so completely, that only a microscope or an X-ray can detect them. The pieces also incorporate pins that are smaller than a grass seed. Much of the production process remains unknown, because traces of gold and other decoration materials conceal the X-ray views.

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

boxwood carvings

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

boxwood carvings

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

boxwood carvings

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

boxwood carvings

To find out how intricate the pieces really are

boxwood carvings

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

boxwood carvings

And pins, smaller than a grass seed

boxwood carvings

But even the advanced technology couldn’t see everything

boxwood carvings

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

boxwood carvings

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

boxwood carvings

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

boxwood carvings

(Source)

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