Leaf from a Beatus Manuscript: the Lamb at the Foot of the Cross, Flanked by Two Angels; The Calling of Saint John with the Enthroned Christ flanked by Angels and a Man Holding a Book

Date: ca. 1180

Culture: Spanish

Medium: Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment

Dimensions: Overall (folio): 17 1/2 x 11 13/16in. (44.4 x 30cm)
Mat: 22 x 16 in. (55.9 x 40.6 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Purchase, The Cloisters Collection, Rogers and Harris Brisbane Dick Funds, and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.232.1


Illustrating the compiled visionary texts in about 776 by the Asturian monk Beatus of Lièbana, a Beatus manuscript consists of passages from the Book of Revelation accompanied by interpretations cast as Christian allegories. This leaf, along with thirteen others in the collection (acc. nos. 1991.232.2a-d–.14), comes from a Beatus manuscript disassembled in the 1870s. Other parts of the manuscript are divided among museums and libraries in Spain.

The manuscript is notable for its vibrant, dramatic color contrasts and the linear treatment of the figures and draperies. The illustrations, occasionally quite literal interpretations of the texts, partially reflect the earlier Mozarabic tradition of manuscript illumination. The banded backgrounds and certain architectural details also reflect this style.

This frontispiece image depicts a lamb (an image commonly associated with Christ) tormented by the spear and sponge used against Christ during the Passion. The alpha and omega symbols hanging from the cross refer to a passage from the Apocalypse: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (Apoc. 1:8).