Devil Chained in the Abyss and the Dragon
Beatus of Liébana
Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
I saw an angel, descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the abyss and a great chain. And he apprehended the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and he bound him for a thousand years. And he cast him into the abyss, and he closed and sealed it, so that he would no longer seduce the nations, until the thousand years are completed. And after these things, he must be released for a brief time. (Rev. 20:1–3)
For Beatus the angel is a symbol of Christ, who expels Satan from the hearts of believers with his incarnation and crucifixion.
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.