MINIATURIST, Flemish
(active c. 1400 in Liège)

Apocalypse

c. 1400
Manuscript, 275 x 185 mm
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

The miniature represents the fourth part of the visions of the Apostle St John in a framework of stylized clouds (Vision of the Throne of the Lord). With the help of an angel John is being allowed to see into Heaven. The Lord is enthroned in a huge mandorla in the centre, held up by an angel with spread wings, surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists. On both sides of the mandorla prophets with golden crowns praise God. The seven torches symbolizing the seven souls of God were suspended by the painter on the top frame of the picture.

In all probability the miniature 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 tangible 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 the whole scene, in the way the white light sharply penetrates the darkness, illuminates the outlines and shines upon the sombre countenance of one prophet or the other. The encounter of these three stylistic trends is the more felicitous in the miniature 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 two contrasting features, and in this picture it is combined with Flemish tendencies which are basically more naturalistic, and German ones which prefer unreality.

All the same, 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. Thus, 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 or, as it were, eliminate the illusory effect of pictorial space.




© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.