Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

ms. Vit. I - Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Figurated Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy, Apocalipsis figurado de los Duques de Saboya, Apokalypse der Herzöge von Savoyen

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Alternate Titles

Figurated Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy
Apocalipsis figurado de los Duques de Saboya
Apokalypse der Herzöge von Savoyen

Extent / Format

104 pages / 41.5 x 26.5 cm

Between 1428 and 1490

Duke Amadeus VII of Savoy

Artist / School

Jean Bapteur
Péronet Lamy
Jean Colombe


97 miniatures in French Gothic art

Short description

The Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy can be safely called one of the most beautiful hand-written and illuminated books of the Middle Ages. The precious masterpiece was continuously worked on between 1428 and 1468, the greatest French illuminators participated in its manufacture. A sophisticated system of illustration accounts for the special charm of the fantastic picture book.

Facsimile editions available


Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

The Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy is a precious manuscript that was written and illuminated by the famous French book master Jean Bapteur. The precious, gorgeously designed codex contains 97 miniatures altogether, which are ordered according to a well-thought system. Nearly every page of the document is magnificently illuminated. The codex originated at the behest of the Dukes of Savoy, in particular Duke Amadeus VII has been associated with the valuable Apocalypse manuscript.

A Turbulent History

Amadeus VIII, first Dike of Savoy, commissioned the Apocalypse in the year 1428. He entrusted his court painter Jean Bapteur with its design. Beginning in 1433, Bapteur was supported by the no-less-talented illuminator Peronet Lamy. This prolonged design period makes it clear what outstanding quality the precious book treasure possesses. 47 pages of the document are considered to be the work of Bapteur. The remaining pictures he designed in collaboration with Peronet Lamy, a few of them originate wholly from Lamy’s pen. In the year 1434, Duke Amadeus withdrew to his palace of Ripailla near Thonon-les-Bains. He took the yet-incomplete Apocalypse with him, in order to read it aloud to himself. In 1468 his great-grandson Charles I had the work completed by his court painter Jean Colombe. This was at the very same time that he was occupied with the legendary and world famous book treasure known as the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry. Colombe appended the Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy with 23 missing pictures and took special care to adhere to the design system of its originator, Bapteur.

Traditional Work

The work is an abridged version of the Book of Revelation, written in black ink and accompanied by a traditional commentary by the monk Berengaudus. Red characters highlight important text elements. The special approach to the biblical text with a clarifying commentary was widespread in the spiritual literature of medieval France. The text and also the illustration of the masterpiece are strongly oriented on similar works from England. The primary source of inspiration was probably the Apocalypse of Lambeth Palace.

A Highpoint of Medieval Book Art

The manuscript contains 104 pages altogether. The pages are all designed according to a sophisticated system. The upper part of a page always contains a miniature, which illustrate the text under the image. It contains 97 miniatures, only the last pages of the work were not illustrated. The vignettes of the miniatures typically exhibit a depiction of John the Evangelist. This depiction corresponds generally with the primary scene of the respective illustration. Enchanting and diverse motifs adorn the page margins, one sees animal patterns, plant tendrils, and other playful patterns.

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