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Friday, June 20, 2008

English Apocalypse

Unfinished Miniature Representing The Commentary On Revelation 12:17-18, in 'The Abingdon Apocalypse' Manuscript MS 42555, f.38r
c.1270-1275
Language: Latin and French
The British Library, London


Unfinished Miniature Representing The Commentary On Revelation, in 'The Abingdon Apocalypse' Manuscript MS 42555,
c.1270-1275
Language: Latin and French
The British Library, London


The Second Horseman Of The Apocalypse, In A Glossed Apocalypse
MS 35166, f.7v
c.1260
Language: Latin
Ink, pigments, and gold on vellum, 28.5x21.5 centimetres
The British Library, London

The Fourth Horseman Of The Apocalypse, In A Glossed Apocalypse
MS 35166, f.8v
c.1260
Language: Latin
Ink, pigments, and gold on vellum, 28.5x21.5 centimetres
The British Library, London


Apocalypses along with Books of Hours, Psalters and Bestiaries were amongst the most popular manuscripts used both by the clergy and the laity throughout the Middle Ages.

As a distinctive ‘genre of medieval art production and consumption’, the Apocalypse manuscripts were a strong political and social investment by the elite that also ‘functioned as powerfully active voices in shaping culture and participating in the formation of thirteenth century ideology.’ (Lewis, Suzanne. Reading images: narrative discourse and reception in the thirteenth century illuminated Apocalypse. Cambridge, 1995).

Inspired in large part by the prophetic writings of a Cistercian abbot who died in 1202, much of Europe believed that the end of the world would occur during the 13th century. One of the most widely anticipated dates was the year 1260 (subsequently amended to 1284, and then to 1290). Many surviving Apocalypse manuscripts date from the 1250s and 1260s.

Above are examples of the Anglo-Norman school of Apocalypse manuscripts referred to by Émile Mâle in the posts below.

'The Abingdon Apocalypse' takes its name from two added inscriptions: one states that it was given to the Benedictine abbey of St. Mary, Abingdon, by a bishop of Salisbury. The other records that it was lent by the abbot and convent of Abingdon in 1362 to Joan, wife of King David II of Scotland.

Of the first image, The British Library website says:

"In the middle of this scene is a bishop at an altar, with Christ above. To one side in the Virgin and Child and the Adoration of the Magi, to the other kings are being driven into a hell-mouth. Apparently the artist responsible for the green and brown hell-mouth also coloured the dog chasing a hare in the lower margin."
Of the second image, The British Library website says:

"St. John the Evangelist stands to the left of this image, watching the seven-headed dragon gives a sceptre to another seven-headed beast. "
Of the third and fourth images, the second and the fourth of the Four Riders of the Apocalypse are represented (Revelation 6:4). Of the fourth image above, the British Library website states:

"The fourth horse and rider witnessed by St. John were 'a pale horse: and he that sat upon him, his name was Death. And hell followed him' (Revelation 6:8). The artist has depicted Hell as a monster, with tormented human souls visible in its two mouths. "