For a long time, one of the best kept secrets at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a display case in Gallery 306 on the museum’s first floor. Its contents were small and, from a distance at least, unspectacular—which probably explains why so few visitors stopped before it as they moved between the Medieval Hall and the American Wing. Those who did, however, were rewarded with the sight of some of the most remarkable objects in the entire encyclopedic collection: hinged wooden beads about one inch in diameter which opened to reveal, carved in the round inside each hemisphere, a Cecil B. DeMille Crucifixion scene or similar Biblical narrative. Imagine Michelangelo’s 45' x 40' Last Judgment fresco relocated to the inside of half a golf ball and you’ll have an idea of the head-spinning combination of epic conception...


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