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Bringing Art Home: Bead Garland

by Maxwell Tielman

While walking through the Robert Lehman Collection, a large circular gallery tucked away in the back of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I stumbled upon a painting that caught my eye. The painting, a depiction of a goldsmith in his shop, dates back to 1449 and was attributed to the Netherlandish painter Petrus Christus. The Metropolitan Museum hails it as “one of the most famous masterpieces of Northern Renaissance art” and a shining illustration of a craftsman in his place of work. Despite this, I found my eye gliding over the three central figures of the image to the assortment of wares displayed on the goldsmith’s shelf.

Above image: A Goldsmith in His Shop, Possibly Saint Eligius, 1449, Petrus Christus. Oil on wood. From the Robert Lehman Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The small collection of objects — bits of naturalia, precious metals and gems — looked positively festive amongst the warm hues of the painting. I was especially struck by the charming string of glass beads hung from one of the goldsmith’s shelves. Today’s Bringing Art Home is directly inspired by this string of beads: a holiday garland made from glazed ceramic beads. I’ve made all sorts of garlands — ones made of popcorn, cranberries or bits of tinsel — but it never occurred to me to use something as beautiful or luxurious as glass or ceramic. The results are both beautiful and incredibly easy to achieve. For full directions, continue after the jump! — Max


  • about 48 glass or ceramic beads, about 1–1.5 inches in diameter (We chose ceramic beads glazed in a turquoise and dark orange. We purchased ours at Bead Center in Manhattan.)
  • string or wire that’s small enough to fit through the holes on your chosen beads (We used a copper-colored thread from Bead Center.)
  • a beading needle



1. Lay your materials on a table in front of you. If your beads are pre-attached on a string, cut them apart.

2. Thread about four inches of your string or wire through a beading needle. Allow to hang loose; tying a knot will prevent the string from passing neatly through your beads. If the string becomes unthreaded, simply rethread through the beading needle.

3. Thread your beads, alternating colors as you wish, onto your string.

4. Once you’ve added all your beads, knot a large loop onto the open end of your string.

5. Detach your string from its spool but cutting it with scissors. Add about four to six inches at the end to give the beads a bit of leeway. Knot a loop on this end, as well.

6. Hang that thing up! Note: When combined together, beads can be quite heavy. Be sure to handle with care and don’t hang on top of mirrors, glass or items that could break if the garland swings into it.

7. For an added touch (and to echo the curiosities depicted in the painting), we printed a few Albertus Seba images and tacked them to the wall behind the garland.

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  • I love this post! And this column! It’s not often you see Northern Renaissance paintings referenced on blogs:) Makes me want to start pouring over my art history books!

  • This is one of my favorite paintings at the Met!! Did you notice the small round mirror in the bottom right corner? Mirrors like this were used in Bruges at the time to help shopkeepers see thieves approaching their stalls. That mirror reflects an image of two men (we can tell they are men by how they are dressed), holding a hawk. There is much reason to speculate that by painting these two men so close together, holding a hawk (a widely known symbol for homosexuality at the time), Petrus Christus was trying to invoke a comparison between a heterosexual couple (at the goldsmith’s shop), and a homosexual male couple (reflected in the mirrror). This comparison is complicated ever the more because the mirror in the bottom right, by its position facing out toward the viewer, is thus a reflection of the audience who sees the painting. If you look closely, you’ll also see that Petrus Christus painted a crack in that rounded mirror. Hmm…

    So glad to see that you were inspired by this painting!

  • Terrific post. Just took a diversionary stroll on the web to learn more about this beautiful, intriguing painting.

    Beads, coral, “emerald” (curtain): Everything old is new again!

  • Wow, thanks for introducing me to this, and fascinating comments! Really delightful visually and intellectually.

  • love this idea!!!! kinda reminds me of the Komboloi beads of Greece. When we visited Navplion last year we stumbled on this tiny museum filled with Komboloi beads – kind of like non religious prayer beads — – hanging all over the walls, everywhere. it was super inspiring. i even made a keychain collection inspired by them..

    i wanna go make bead garlands to hang around my house now, over the windows especially!!! gorgeous!

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