Christ Enthroned Over the River of Life
Beatus of Liébana
Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
He took me up a high mountain and showed me the river of the water of life, shining like crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of its main street, and on both sides of the river, was the Tree of Life, bearing twelve fruits, offering one for each month, and the leaves are for the health of the nations. But the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants shall serve him. They shall see his face and his name shall be on their foreheads. Night shall be no more, and they will need neither lamp nor sun because the Lord God will illuminate them. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:1–5)
The enthroned figures holding books and acclaiming God are not mentioned in the text, but the inscription identifies them as "the people of God with whom he lives who will reign forever and ever."
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.