Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Saint John on Patmos

Folio 17r

Following the calendar, the text of a Book of Hours began with extracts from the four Gospels, starting with Saint John: "In the beginning was the Word. . . . "
The Limbourgs illustrated this first excerpt with a large miniature representing John on Patmos, the island to which, according to tradition, he was exiled by the Emperor Domitian, and where he received the revelation recorded in the Apocalypse.
Patmos, an island of the Dodecanese or Sporades, is shown here as a desert isle. The boat which has brought the apostle pulls away toward a distant shore where the buildings of an unknown city appear indistinctly.
John is young and beardless; beside him stands his principal attribute, an eagle, shown here with spread wings and a portable inkstand in his beak.
Three mysterious trumpets ring in John's ears, figuring the verse from the Apocalypse: "I... heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet..." (Apocalypse I: 10)
In the clouds above appears the vision John is about to describe in his book: "I saw ... one like to the Son of man...." (Apocalypse I: 13) On the Lord's knees are the Lamb and the scroll with seven seals mentioned later in the Apocalypse; seated around His throne are twenty-four elders in white robes and golden crowns.
In the lower border decorative initials from which delicately painted foliage falls, ending in frail violets, give us a first glimpse of the rich and varied orna- mentation of the Très Riches Heures.

small image (25KB) --- large image (224KB) --- The Lord and the Lamb (large) (227KB) --- Saint John and the eagle (large) (271KB)

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