Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy Facsimile Edition

Savoy (France) — Between 1428 and 1490

Jean Colombe and the French Renaissance: one of the most beautiful and largest apocalypse manuscripts of the Middle Ages

  1. A product of 40 years of labor during the 15th century by Jean Bapteur, Peronet Lamy, and Jean Colombe

  2. Widely agreed to be one of the most beautiful hand-written and illuminated books of the Middle Ages

  3. A treasure trove of the rich and powerful dukes of Savoy for generations

Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

The Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy can be certainly called one of the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. This precious and large-scale masterpiece was created in two stages between 1428 and 1490 and some the greatest French illuminators participated in its manufacture including Jean Bapteur, Péronet Lamy, and Jean Colombe. Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy commissioned the work in 1428, but it remained unfinished when he took it with him in 1434 to Château de Ripaille, where he lived in quasi-monastic seclusion with six other knights, with whom he founded the Order of Saint Maurice. His great-grandson Charles I inherited the manuscript and had it completed between 1485 and 1490 by his court painter Jean Colombe. 97 Gothic miniatures, which are thoughtfully arranged with the corresponding texts, account for the special charm of the fantastic picture book, nearly every page of which is magnificently illuminated. The enchanting marginal motifs include colorful floral tendrils with golden leaves, animals, and birds.

Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

The Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy is a precious manuscript that was written and illuminated by the famous French book master Jean Bapteur. The precious, gorgeously designed codex contains 97 miniatures altogether, which are ordered according to a well-thought system. Nearly every page of the document is magnificently illuminated. The codex originated at the behest of the Dukes of Savoy, in particular Duke Amadeus VIII has been associated with this valuable Apocalypse manuscript.

A Turbulent History

Amadeus VIII, the first Duke of Savoy, commissioned the manuscript in the year 1428. He entrusted his court painter Jean Bapteur with its design. Beginning in 1433, Bapteur was supported by the no-less-talented illuminator Peronet Lamy. This prolonged design period makes it clear what outstanding quality the precious book treasure possesses. 47 pages of the document are considered to be the work of Bapteur. The remaining pictures he designed in collaboration with Peronet Lamy, a few of them originate wholly from Lamy’s pen. In the year 1434, Duke Amadeus withdrew to the Château de Ripaille near Thonon-les-Bains. He took the yet-incomplete Apocalypse with him, in order to read it aloud to himself. In 1468 his great-grandson Charles I had the work completed by his court painter Jean Colombe. This was at the very same time that he was occupied with the legendary and world famous book treasure known as the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry. Colombe appended the Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy with 23 missing pictures and took special care to adhere to the design system of its originator, Bapteur.

Traditional Work

The work is an abridged version of the Book of Revelation, written in black ink and accompanied by a traditional commentary by the monk Berengaudus. Red characters highlight important text elements. The special approach to the biblical text with a clarifying commentary was widespread in the spiritual literature of medieval France. The text and also the illustration of the masterpiece are strongly oriented on similar works from England. The primary source of inspiration was probably the Apocalypse of Lambeth Palace.

A Highpoint of Medieval Book Art

The manuscript contains 104 pages altogether. The pages are all designed according to a sophisticated system. The upper part of a page always contains a miniature, which illustrate the text under the image. It contains 97 miniatures, only the last pages of the work were not illustrated. The vignettes of the miniatures typically exhibit a depiction of John the Evangelist. This depiction corresponds generally with the primary scene of the respective illustration. Enchanting and diverse motifs adorn the page margins, one sees animal patterns, plant tendrils, and other playful patterns.


Alternative Titles
Figurated Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy
Apocalipsis figurado de los Duques de Saboya
Apokalypse der Herzöge von Savoyen
Size / Format
104 pages / 41.5 × 26.5 cm
Between 1428 and 1490
97 miniatures in French Gothic art
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy – ms. Vit. I – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Club Bibliófilo Versol – Madrid, 2009
Limited Edition: 666 copies

Apocalipsis figurado de los Duques de Saboya Facsimile Edition
Edilan – Madrid, 1980
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Detail Picture

Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

The Pale Horseman

“And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him...” (Rev. 6:8). The Fourth Horseman comes forth as the Lamb of God breaks the Fourth Seal in the upper-right corner. He is not only followed by the Hellmouth, but pulls it with wheels made of the contorted bodies of demons on a herring-bone patterned brick road. An eagle strikes out at St. John in the margin as the strife of the Apocalypse even puts him in conflict with his own symbol.

Apocalipsis Figurado de los Duques de Saboya
Single Page

Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy

Martyrdom of St. John

Although most modern scholars agree that the author of the Book of Revelation was a certain John of Patmos, during the Middle Ages it was still believed that it was the work of John the Evangelist, who wrote the Fourth Gospel. Medieval iconography concerning him is rooted in the apocryphal Acts of St. John, in which the Evangelist is martyred when he is plunged into a vat of boiling oil.

The story of John and his martyrdom is typically presented at the beginning of medieval Apocalypse manuscripts, but rarely with the degree of artistic refinement found here. The finest pigments and gold leaf have been employed with realistically rendered people clothed in the fashions of Renaissance Italy. All is presented within a frame of elegant floral tendrils.

Apocalipsis Figurado de los Duques de Saboya
Facsimile Editions

#1 Apocalipsis Figurado de los Duques de Saboya

Club Bibliófilo Versol – Madrid, 2009

Publisher: Club Bibliófilo Versol – Madrid, 2009
Limited Edition: 666 copies
Binding: Red leather embossed in gold on wood. 2 metal clasps.
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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#2 Apocalipsis figurado de los Duques de Saboya

Edilan – Madrid, 1980
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