Art, Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books

The Manuscript Files: Dancing Your Way to the End of the World

The current exhibition Gothic Grandeur features a number of works illustrating the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible that recounts Saint John’s vision of the end of time. This leaf comes from a manuscript of the 1200s made in Spain, which had a long tradition of producing impressive and expressive Apocalypse manuscripts.

The Lamb Defeating the Ten Kings / Spanish

The Lamb Defeating the Ten Kings, Spanish, about 1220–35. Leaf from Beatus of Liébana, Commentary on the Apocalypse. Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment, 11 9/16 x 9 1/4 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 77, recto

The image illustrates the portion of the Apocalypse describing a great battle taking place between the Lamb of God and ten kings who personify the ten horns of the beast ridden by the Harlot of Babylon. Five of the kings appear in the top portion of the leaf, and five below.

Detail of the Lamb Defeating the Ten Kings / Spanish

Those in the upper scene wait in line with swords and spears to face their opponent.

Their adversary is a lamb, usually not a creature associated with violence, but here looking quite comfortable with sword and shield. The gruesomeness of the scene is offset by a restrained elegance that characterizes the figures.

The two kings at the center seem to dance their way towards the lamb, as light on their feet as Fred Astaire, despite their deadly purpose. The artist directs further attention to the effortless grace of their feet through the use of a small and charming detail—each of the kings sports a pair of snappy red socks.

Detail of the Lamb Defeating the Ten Kings / Spanish

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      What unexpected thing have you learned by working at a museum?

      The more time you take with the art, the better. 

      The first time I saw a work by James Turrell, my eyes totally deceived me. I walked into the room (Acton, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art) and saw a gray rectangle “painting,” but I was baffled and could not figure it out—I got closer and closer until my face was pressed against the wall next to it, trying to figure out what it was. When my friend stuck her arm into the painting and revealed the illusion (a square cut into the wall and lit to look flat), my mind was blown! You got me so good, James.

      Also, always offer to take a family photo for the tourists!

      What do you wish you could tell all people about yourself, museums, or life? 

      Everyone is creative.

      Emily, Education Technologist at the Getty, July 24, 2014

      07/29/14

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