Apocalypse Then: Medieval Illuminations from the Morgan

March 23 through June 17, 2007
Image of Woman Clothed in the Sun and the Defeat of the Seven-Headed Dragon

In this exhibition, the Book of Revelation, in all of its complexity, was seen through the eyes of some of the greatest medieval illuminators. Drawn entirely from the Morgan's renowned collections, the show celebrated the completion of a facsimile of the Morgan's Las Huelgas Apocalypse and also included examples from Spanish, French, Flemish, and Russian traditions.

The Las Huelgas Apocalypse is the largest and latest (1220) of a five-hundred-year series of medieval illuminated commentaries on the Apocalypse by the monk Beatus of Liébana. The series is considered Spain's most important contribution to medieval manuscript illumination. Visitors to the exhibition had the rare opportunity to view fifty of the Las Huelgas miniatures because the manuscript was disbound for the preparation of the facsimile; the leaves were displayed in their original order.

The exhibition also included one of the earliest surviving illuminated manuscripts in the Spanish tradition. Written and illuminated by Maius (ca. 945) in the famous tower scriptorium of the monastery of San Salvador de Tabara, it is the most important Spanish illuminated manuscript in the United States.

The Anglo-Norman Apocalypse cycle originated during the second quarter of the thirteenth century and was represented here by a manuscript that was made in London (ca. 1250). Owned by the Morgan, it is considered to be among the earliest examples of this tradition. Also on view was an independent French cycle created for the great bibliophile Jean Duc de Berry (ca. 1415). It was illustrated by an anonymous artist who is named the Master of the Berry Apocalypse, after this manuscript. Two Flemish examples from the second half of the fifteenth century are also included in the exhibition.

A large group of Apocalypse manuscripts was produced in Russia from the sixteenth to the very early twentieth centuries, some having cycles of seventy-two miniatures. Two profusely illustrated examples, in Old Slavonic, were on display. One dates from the eighteenth century; the other was one of the last made.

Apocalypse Then: Medieval IIlluminations from the Morgan is sponsored by Melvin R. Seiden.

Image Caption: 

Woman Clothed in the Sun and the Defeat of the Seven-Headed Dragon
Beatus of Liébana
Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Spain, 1220
The Pierpont Morgan Library, purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
MS M.429 (fols. 101v–102)