The Cloisters Apocalypse: A Fourteenth-Century Manuscript in Facsimile

The Cloisters Apocalypse: A Fourteenth-Century Manuscript in Facsimile
The Apocalypse, or the Revelation to St. John, is the last of the canonical books of the New Testament. It was written on the Greek island of Patmos toward the end of the 1st century by an unknown author. In the Western church some scholars have thought him to be St. John the Evangelist, while others have argued for St. John the Baptist; in the Eastern church he is called St. John the Divine or St. John the Theologian.
The opening chapters contain divine admonitions to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The following chapters detail a series of extraordinary visions and prophecies of events to come in the Church of Christ, particularly toward the end of the world in the time of the Antichrist. The many striking images, such as the 'sea of glass mingled with fire' and the New Jerusalem with twelve foundations of precious stone, provided medieval illuminators with rich and highly popular subjects. This manuscript was probably produced in or near Coutances, and it is closely related to two other Apocalypse manuscripts also made in Northern France and based on a common model. The Cloisters Apocalypse is the only one, however, that begins with a preliminary cycle of scenes from the youth of Christ.
From the outset, the collecting of illuminated manuscripts at The Cloisters was considered a delicate procedure, to be followed with prudence. It was felt by those involved in acquisitions that the bulk of material there should be architectural elements, sculpture, and decorative arts—objects enhancing the environmental quality of the institution—and that manuscripts should more reasonably go to the incomparable Pierpont Morgan Library. It was a wise guideline, as the rare exceptions to it admirably attest. After more than thirty-five years of collecting, only four manuscripts are in the library of The Cloisters: the Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry, the so-called Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, the Hours of Bonne of Luxembourg, and the book that is the subject here. Each became part of The Cloisters Collection because each is one of those rarest works of art that seem to speak about the qualities and essences of fully an epoch of art history. The initial viewing of the Apocalypse manuscript while it was in possession of the dealer H. P. Kraus left no doubt but that this luminous fourteenth-century book, with its graceful paintings of near perfect balance, should join the very small group at The Cloisters. Subsequent discoveries about the book by Florens Deuchler have confirmed the immediate reaction. His discoveries, together with contributions by his colleague Jeffrey Hoffeld and by Helmut Nickel, Curator of Arms and Armor, are the substance of the present publication.
Thomas Hoving, Director, Metropolitan Museum
Florens Deuchler, Chairman, Medieval Art and The Cloisters; Jeffrey M. Hoffeld, Assistant Curator, Medieval Art and The Cloisters
The Heraldry in the Manuscript
Helmut Nickel, Curator, Arms and Armor
On the Pages of the Facsimile
Jeffrey M. Hoffeld