A group of remarkably intricate small sculptures were made from the end of the fifteenth through the early sixteenth century in the Duchy of Brabant. Carved in dense, fine-grained boxwood, most were associated with personal religious devotions, such as rosaries, prayer beads, and miniature altarpieces like this triptych, carved with microscopic precision in the style of late Gothic sculpture. These flawless, detailed carvings were greatly prized by the aristocracy of the time and they are still a source of delight.
Artist Netherlandish
Title
  • Miniature Altarpiece with the Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds
Date ca. 1520
Medium Boxwood
Dimensions Overall (Open): 9 × 5 3/8 × 1 1/4 inches (22.9 × 13.7 × 3.2 cm)
Overall (Closed): 9 × 3 3/8 × 1 1/4 inches (22.9 × 8.6 × 3.2 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Benson Ford Fund, and Henry Ford II Fund
Accession Number 79.177
Department European Sculpture and Dec Arts
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W221, Level 2 (see map)
Inscriptions Inscribed, along lower edge of triptych, from matthew 2:6: ET TV BETHLE[hem] | TERRA•IV[da] NEQVAQVAM MIN[im]A / ES I[n] PRI[n]CIPIB[u]S. [translated: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah].
1887-1979, (Nicholas Landau, Paris, France);
June 15, 1953, (Ernest Brummer, New York, New York, USA);
by descent, Ella Baché Brummer;
October 16-19, 1979, sold at (Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, Switzerland) auction "The Ernest Brummer Collection," lot 136;
(Galerie Koller, Zurich, Switzerland);
1980-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Allan, William. "The Ernest Brummer Collection: Art objects from ancient Egypt to the Renaissance," Connoisseur 202, no. 812 (October 1979): 79–85, p. 79 (ill.).

The Ernest Brummer Collection, vol. 1: Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art. Sales cat., Gallerie Koller. Zurich, 1979, lot 136, p. 189 (ill.).

Mosby, Dewey. "Curatorial Reports, European Art," Bulletin of the DIA 58, no. 4 (1980): 192-196, p. 192 (ill.).

Kleinbauer, W. Eugene, ed. "Recent Major Acquisitions of Medieval Art by American Museums: Number Four," Gesta 21, no. 1 (1982): 75–80, pp. 79-80, (figs. 20-21) (ill.).

Wixom, William D. "A Brabantine Boxwood Triptych," Bulletin of the DIA 61, no. 1-2 (Summer 1983): 38–45, pp. 38-45 (ill.).

Darr, Alan Phipps. "European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Acquired by the Detroit Institute of Arts 1978–87," Burlington Magazine 130, no. 1023 (June 1988): 495–500, p. 495, (fig. 100) (ill.).

Romanelli, Susan Jean. "South Netherlandish Boxwood Devotional Sculpture, 1475-1530." Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1992, pp. 219–221, cat. 6, pl. 15 (ill.).

Dandridge, Pete and Lisa Ellis. “Workshop Practices.” In Small Wonders: Late-Gothic Boxwood Micro-Carvings from the Low Countries, ed. Frits Scholten. Exh. cat., Rijks Museum. Amsterdam, 2016, p. 522-525, fig. 225; 545-546; 553; 557.

Scholten, Frits, ed. Small Wonders: Late-Gothic Boxwood Micro-Carvings from the Low Countries. Exh. cat., Rijks Museum. Amsterdam, 2016, pp. 306–310 (ill.), 623, no. 42.

Scholten, Frits. "The Boxwood Carvers of the Late Gothic Netherlands." In Small Wonders: Late-Gothic Boxwood Micro-Carvings from the Low Countries, ed. Frits Scholten. Exh. cat., Rijks Museum. Amsterdam, 2016, pp. 26-27, (fig. 11).

You, Yao-Fen. "A Miniature Netherlandish Treasure in Detroit." The Low Countries: Arts and Society in Flanders and the Netherlands, vol. 26 (2018): 30–33, pp. 30–33 (ill.).