While we know little about the workshop structure that supported the production of the prayer beads and altarpieces, the finesse the artist(s) brought to the carving of the majority of the reliefs is superlative. The quality and complexity of the shells enveloping the prayer beads’ reliefs signal the wonders within; however, that symbiosis does not seem to carry over to the joinery found in the architectural surrounds of the altarpieces. Such a noticeable variation in the standard of carving suggests different hands either within a single workshop or across collaborating studios in a model similar to that employed in the production of large-scale altarpieces.
What is more difficult to understand is the subtle variation in style and technique in the finer reliefs. Are they the natural evolution of a maturing artist responding to stylistic changes, the challenges of a unique commission, another carver entirely, or variations within a workshop? The visual analyses integrated into this study, including micro CT technology and associated software, can provide a framework for these fundamental questions about these enthralling objects.
This essay excerpted from Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures.