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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