Seven Plague Angels Before the Open Temple of Heaven
Beatus of Liébana
Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
I saw that the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And the seven angels went forth from the temple, holding the seven afflictions, clothed with clean white linen, and girded around the chest with wide golden belts. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls, filled with the wrath of God. And the temple was filled with smoke from the majesty of God and from his power, and no one could enter in until the seven afflictions of the seven angels were completed. (Rev. 15:5–8)
The illuminator chose the eagle—the symbol of John—as the living creature to issue forth from the smoke-filled temple at the top. While the angels are not in white linen, their chests are girded in gold.
The Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation, is not only the last Book of the New Testament, but its most difficult, puzzling, and terrifying. It provided challenges to medieval illustrators and was the source for a number of popular images, such as Christ in Majesty, the Adoration of the Lamb, and the Madonna of the Apocalypse and contributed to the widespread use of the Evangelists' symbols.
Selected images from Apocalypse Then: Medieval Illuminations from the Morgan, an exhibition held at the Morgan are presented here. The exhibition celebrates the completion of a facsimile of the Morgan's Las Huelgas Apocalypse—the latest dated (1220) and largest surviving manuscript of a Spanish tradition of illuminated commentaries on the Apocalypse by the monk Beatus of Liébana. The series of manuscripts constitutes Spain's most important contribution to medieval manuscript illumination.
The Las Huelgas Apocalypse contains three sections: the prefatory cycle, the Apocalypse, and the Book of Daniel.
In addition to forty-nine images from the Las Huelgas Apocalypse, six images from other manuscripts in the Morgan's collections, including the earliest Beatus painted by Maius and one by the Master of the Berry Apocalypse, are in this presentation.