Whore of Babylon on the Seven-Headed Beast
Beatus of Liébana
Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet beast, filled with names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was clothed all around with purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, holding a golden cup in her hand, filled with the abomination and the filth of her fornication. And on her forehead was written: Mystery, Babylon the great. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is soon to ascend from the abyss and go forth unto destruction. (Rev. 17:3–8)
The whore, sitting on a scarlet beast, wears a Moorish crown; her long, loose hair suggests her licentiousness.
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.