Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

Ms. Theol. lat. fol. 561 - Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)

Alternate Titles:

Beato de Liébana - Códice de Berlin, Berlin-Kodex, Codice de Berlino

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Beato de Liébana - Códice de Berlin
Berlin-Kodex
Codice de Berlino

Type
Extent / Format

196 pages / 30.0 x 19.5 cm

Origin
Date
Early 12th century
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Author: Beatus of Liébana (died after 798)

Illustrations

55 pen drawings enriched with pigments of red, ochre and yellow hues

Former owners

Library of Carlo Morbio of Milan

Short description

The so-called Berlin Beatus is an exceptional specimen of the Beatus Tradition. With its unusual visual adornment, which does not follow the typical iconography of the Beatus illustrations, the Berlin Codex takes on a special position. Unlike the majority of the Beatus manuscripts, this codex does not originate in northern Spain, but probably in central Italy. The marvelous pen drawings, which illustrate the Apocalypse commentary by Beatus of Liébana in the Berlin Codex, round out the status of the manuscript as an exceptional piece of art history!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

The so-called Berlin Beatus is an exceptional specimen of the Beatus Tradition. With its unusual visual adornment, which does not follow the typical iconography of the Beatus illustrations, the Berlin Codex takes on a special position. Unlike the majority of the Beatus manuscripts, this codex does not originate in northern Spain, but probably in central Italy. The marvelous pen drawings, which illustrate the Apocalypse commentary by Beatus of Liébana in the Berlin Codex, round out the status of the manuscript as an exceptional piece of art history!

The Significant Tradition of Beatus

At the end of the 8th century, the monk and theologian Beatus of Liébana laid the cornerstone for an impressive tradition of illumination with his magnum opus: the famous north-Spanish Beatus manuscripts of the 10th – 11th centuries. The twelve-volume explanatory commentary on the Revelation of John provided illuminators with the perfect opportunities to capture their fantasies on vellum. The large-format, exceedingly illustrated Beatus manuscripts number among the primary works of book art in the Early and High Middle Ages!

An Italian Beatus Codex

Ms. Theol. Fol. 561 of the Berlin State Library is known as the so-called Berlin Beatus. The 30 x 19.5 cm codex probably originates from central Italy in the first quarter of the 12th century. The Benedictine Abbey of Farfa has been discussed among researchers as a possible place of origin. This represents an initial special feature of the Berlin Codex: unlike most of the Beatus manuscripts, it does not originate from northern Spain! Presumably, the manuscript remained in Italy for centuries and was finally sold to Berlin from the Milan collection of Carlo Morbio.

The Unique Illustrations

The Berlin Beatus also takes a special place among Beatus manuscripts because of a second idiosyncrasy: the unusual pictorial adornment of the manuscript does not follow the typical tradition of Beatus illustrations. Various miniaturists, who took part in the work, came up with their own visual vocabulary in order to illustrate the wonder and fantasy of the Apocalypse. 55 fine pen drawings, sometimes washed yellow, brown, and red, an interlaced initial and an initial made from an animal, and red text lent the Berlin Codex a special aura. The miniatures show John on the Isle of Patmos, among others, various apocalyptic phenomena, the opening of the seals and the riders of the apocalypse. John, as the author of the biblical tale, is ensconced in every scene.

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