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The end of the second millenium is an appropriate moment to evaluate the legacy of one of the most vivid and controversial writings in the Christian canon, the Book of Revelation. The idea of an apocalypse that was both destructive and redemptive provided a rich vein of visual and literary imagery that remains a force in contemporary culture. This book examines the tradition as represented by illuminated manuscripts, books, prints, and drawings from the eleventh century up to the end of the Second World War, concentrating on particular episodes or apocalyptic phases, which have often occurred at the end of centuries and have always been rooted in historical and political circumstances.
The defining moment in the development of the pictorial tradition was Dürer´s great Apocalypse cycle, published in 1498. Apocalyptic imagery was quickly appropriated as a vehicle for propaganda and satire, becoming secularised at the hands of artists such as the late eighteenth-century satirist James Gillray. Gillray´s contemporary William Blake evolved a concept of Apocalypse and Judgement that responded to the millenarian currents and revolutionary upheavals of his time.
In our own century, apocalyptic metaphor has been a powerful vehicle for many writers, artists, and film directors to convey their visions of worldly and spiritual destruction and regeneration.