Apocalypse: Images from the Book of Revelation From the Bridwell Library Special Collection
Images of the Apocalypse described in the Revelation to Saint John inspired unprecedented interest among Europeans in the years around 1500. In a culture torn asunder by the theological controversies that brought forth the Reformation, a wave of Bible translations, sermons, devotional literature, and all forms of visual art offered inescapable reminders of the cataclysmic events that Christians believed would accompany the Last Judgment at the end of time. Anxious fascination with the Apocalypse seemed to come not from fear of an imminent end to the world, but from a newly awakened desire to know the true path to salvation. Those yearning to be saved wished not only to read about the Apocalypse in scriptures, but also to envision its mysteries in artworks they could own and contemplate.
Whereas monumental works such as Gallego’s Ciudad Rodrigo altarpiece presented apocalyptic scenes to broad public audiences, manuscript illuminations and printed book illustrations provided this imagery on a far more intimate scale for individual readers. Protestants and Catholics alike used book illustrations to meditate on the biblical Revelation, piously contemplating the monstrous and heavenly visions created by northern Europe’s leading graphic artists- including Albrecht Dürer, his teacher Michael Wolgemut, Hans Holbein, Lucas Cranach the Younger, and countless others.
The exhibition Apocalypse: Images from the Book of Revelation features 20 outstanding books and graphic masterpieces of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, selected from the Special Collections at SMU’s Bridwell Library. Ranging from Dürer’s Apocalypse woodcuts and the Nuremberg Chronicle (published in 1493) to handsomely illustrated devotional manuscripts and printed Bibles of the Reformation era, these works encompass traditions of apocalyptic imagery that arose in Germany, France, England, Switzerland, Holland, and Flanders. Their remarkably varied iconography includes such scenes as the Vision of the Seven Candlesticks, the Adoration of the Lamb, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Trumpeting Angels, the Seven-Headed Beast, the Harlot of Babylon, and the Last Judgment. Curated by Dr. Eric White, curator of Bridwell Library’s Special Collections, this exhibition has been organized by the Meadows Museum in collaboration with Bridwell Library and is installed in the downstairs galleries through June 22nd.