Enigmatic visions of the Book of Revelation have captivated and inspired artists for centuries. After all, “it contains as many mysteries as it does words,” as St Jerome so accurately put it. Catastrophic events and great marvels are narrated in Revelation through cryptic symbolism that often revolves around the number seven: the opening of the seven seals, the sounding of the seven trumpets, the fulfillment of the seven last plagues.
Throughout the Middle Ages, apocalyptic motives were depicted in mosaics, paintings, stained glass and sculptures, but foremost, it was the most popular book of the Bible to be fully illustrated as a consecutive set of images in Apocalypse manuscripts. One of the very finest examples of this tradition is the Val-Dieu Apocalypse, a fourteenth-century codex that stands out on account of its opulence and sophistication. Its large miniatures illustrate the events of John’s prophecy described in the biblical excerpts placed right underneath, which creates a close dialogue that enables to follow step by step how the text is interpreted in visual imagery.
The creatures populating the Val-Dieu Apocalypse’s illustrations – humans, angels, bests – are fleshed out by the means of masterful outlining and elegant draperies, while rich patterned backgrounds set the mood for the dramatic and visually stunning Revelation episodes. Its refined and saturated color palette is exceptionally suited to illustrate this mystical chronicle of the coming of a new heaven and a new earth. The facsimile edition of the Val-Dieu Apocalypse has been carefully manufactured using methods of old to meet all these unique characteristics and to do justice to the fourteenth-century Norman artists of the manuscript.
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