13th Century

The Paris Apocalypse      

Apocalypse : Bibliotheque Nationale Fonds français, 403. Osaka : Yorio Otaka & Hideka Fukui [pour le] Centre de Recherches Anglo-Normandes, 1981. 
BS2825 .A66 1981 Special Collections

In all probability the manuscript was produced in the centre of the eastern part of the Low Countries, perhaps in Liège, since three different stylistic trends are blended in it. The first, the mature International Style, may have been transferred from Paris by the court art of the Northern Netherlands. It was in Paris that the aerial and yet buoyant figure of the angel with the peacock wings, who supports the mandorla, as well as the solution of the whole background originated. So did the misty, blue whirl which veils the prophets and the skies which appear like almost drapery. The fullness of the shapes, the stockiness of the figures, the characteristic features of the prophets (not at all idealized), the spatially lucid representation of the steps, the gate and the throne, all point to the vigorous realism of Flemish art. And, finally, the dramatic expressiveness of German art makes itself felt in the other-worldly, eerie mood of a whole scene, in the way the white light penetrates the darkness or outlines and shines upon one prophet or another. The encounter of these three styles is the more felicitous in the miniatures as the vision, like dreams or fairytales, consists of realistic details arranged in an unrealistic manner. It is characteristic of the International Style to confront these contrasts. This picture combines Flemish tendencies which are basically more naturalistic, and German ones which prefer unreality. Note how the artist took great care to stretch the scene depicted onto the plane of the vellum, while he conveyed highly developed spatial effects as well. For example, the angel holding the mandorla is standing rather a long way from the bottom part of the frame, in the green field of the picture, whilst the point of the mandorla is in front of the top edge of the frame. Other details too jut out and are to be seen in front of the frame (St John's halo, the garment on his shoulders and the seven nails on which the seven lamps are suspended). These elements counterbalance, and tend to eliminate the illusory effect of pictorial space.

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