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Description

Nothing could be more satisfying, intellectually and devotionally, than combining the functions of the personal reliquary and the book. One opens and looks into either with the expectation of encountering knowledge and truth. In the case of this tiny book, there are no words, only pictures, but ample satisfaction nonetheless derives from the revelation of the holy images and perhaps even the material presence of a relic secreted within the tiny, precious covers.

The front of the book represents the Nativity and the back the Annunciation, inverting the narrative order, but perhaps satisfying devotional needs. The patron might have wished to have the Nativity as the primary image—especially appealing here in the Bridgettine vision of Mary praying before the newborn Christ, who glows brighter than any light, even the candle held by St. Joseph. 

Opening the book, however, triggers a different mode of more affective devotion. Confronting the viewer at the core of the little book is the body of Christ. This is the Ecce Homo, the moment in the Gospel story when Christ was presented before Pontius Pilate. The image gained currency after 1500, following the format of the Man of Sorrows but representing an event that took place before the Crucixion, therefore without the display of Christ’s wounds.

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