Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

ms. 0439 - Bibliothèque municipale (Lyon, France)

Alternate Titles:

Apocalipsis Iluminado de Lyon, Apocalipsis figurado de Lyon, Illustrierte Apokalypse von Lyon

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Apocalipsis Iluminado de Lyon
Apocalipsis figurado de Lyon
Illustrierte Apokalypse von Lyon

Type

Manuscript on parchment

Extent / Format

52 pages / 29.5 x 22.0 cm

Origin

Cambraisis or Artois (Northern France)

Date
1445-1450
Style

Gothic

Genre

Apocalypses / Beatus

Language

Latin

Artist / School

Maître du Missel de Paul Beye

Illustrations

48 full-page miniatures

Former owners

Alexander le Blancq
Maximilien Charles de Coupigny

Short description

A truly amazing Apocalypse that is somewhat less terrifying than graceful! The so-called Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon demonstrates exceedingly rich pictorial adornment that fascinates with the delicacy of its depictions. The so-called Master of the Missal of Paul Beye, a gifted 15th century French miniaturist, can be identified as the creator of these glories. The biblical text of the Revelation of John is presented in 230 Latin verses, while the text of the Apocalypse is always clarified by a corresponding verse and illustrated by a miniature. A unique arrangement of imagery and text that underscores the exceptional significance of this valuable manuscript!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

A truly amazing Apocalypse that is somewhat less terrifying than graceful! The so-called Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon demonstrates exceedingly rich pictorial adornment that fascinates with the delicacy of its depictions. The so-called Master of the Missal of Paul Beye, a gifted 15th century French miniaturist, can be identified as the creator of these glories. The biblical text of the Revelation of John is presented in 230 Latin verses, while the text of the Apocalypse is always clarified by a corresponding verse and illustrated by a miniature. A unique arrangement of imagery and text that underscores the exceptional significance of this valuable manuscript!

A North French Apocalypse Manuscript

Manuscript 0439 of the Bibliothèque municipale of Lyon is known as the Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon. The manuscript arose shortly before the middle of the 15th century in northern France, in Picardy or Artois (more specifically in either Arras or Cambrai). The outstanding position of the Apocalypsis Figurata of Lyon within the significant series of medieval Apocalypse manuscripts is thanks to its excessive visual adornment.

An Apocalypse Text with Commentary

The apocalypse’s 52 pages measuring barely 30 x 22 cm contains 48 full-page miniatures altogether, so nearly every page is illuminated. The text of the manuscript consists of 230 Latin verses, whereof the first and last 8 verses serve as an explanation or rather a synopsis. Following this synopsis are 48 pages, each with a miniature and four verses, of which two verses above the picture reflect the biblical text of the Revelation of John and two verses below clarify the respective miniature. This arrangement and structure is carefully thought out and unique for an Apocalypse manuscript!

Carefully Thought Out Compositions of Great Mastery

Golden frames surround the grandiose, multi-colored miniatures. John, as the author of the Apocalypse, appears on every page with a blue tunic and a luminous red cloak. In addition, gorgeous, light figures that sometimes appear to be floating populate the illustrations. Also the method of representing landscapes as a background of the scene is noteworthy: this was not only done schematically, but on the contrary, was illustrated in excessive detail with green fields, trees, and bushes, and rippling water.
The tale of the Apocalypse was imbedded in the lifeworld of the 15th century. It also appears that the miniatures were not focused on the terrors, but rather the wonders of the Revelation of John. Even though the typical four-headed monsters and gruesome scenes naturally appear here, their terrors are mitigated by the delicate illustration.

The Master of the Miniatures

The Master of the Missal of Paul Beye was the artist responsible for this wonderful world of images. This miniaturist earned his name from a manuscript that is stored in Cambrai. It is believed among researchers with some certainty that this master can be identified as Barthélemy Poignare.
The manuscript remained in the area of Arras in the 16th and 17th centuries. The book treasure finally reached its current residence in Lyon’s Bibliothèque municipale after being in the collection of Alexander le Blancq – a significant manuscript collector from Lille – and Maximillien Charles de Coupigny.

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