The Apocalypse of 1313

The Apocalypse of 1313 f. 59r, Babylon, the habitation of devils (Ap. 18, 1-3)

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f. 59r, Babylon, the habitation of devils (Ap. 18, 1-3)

The angel with great power, a symbol of Christ, glides across the heavens lit with the golden light of the fullness of its splendour, unrolls his phylactery and points at the accursed city. "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen: and is become the habitation of devils and the hold of every unclean and hateful spirit" he cries out in a loud voice whilst one devil, parodying the angels of the Last Judgement, sounds a trumpet, and another tries to outdo him by making a racket with a pipe and drum at the same time. Satan, with many faces on shoulders and the lower abdomen, enacts an obscene pantomime above the rooftops showing his buttocks. His quarrelsome henchmen have surrounded all the buildings, burning inside with the fire of Hell. Inside the tower on the right, a devil archer leans through the opening to take aim and fire some arrows at his fellow creature in the tower on the other side. He himself, armed with a buckler and a scimitar, sets about two devils brandishing clubs through the windows in the central building. Two evil but less fierce spirits on one side are content to pull faces at each other and fool around. Representatives of the hellish bestiary – a bat and an owl – have taken refuge on the tall chimneys overlooking Babylon.

 

On f. 58v, John seems to be fascinated by the spectacle. He sits with his arm resting on his desk, his chin cupped in the palm of his hand and his little finger touching his bottom lip in an instinctive gesture which the artist conveys very naturally here, revealing his observation skills.

Marie-Thérèse Gousset and Marianne Besseyre
Illuminated Manuscripts Research Center, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Fragment of the Apocalypse of 1313 commentary volume


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