Berry Apocalypse

Berry Apocalypse

Paris (France) — 1400–1415

85 unique miniatures adorn this fantastic Apocalypse manuscript from the famous ducal library of Jean de Berry

  1. Duc Jean de Berry (1340-1416) is believed to have commissioned this work ca. 1410

  2. The large miniatures are distinguished by their unique, restrained coloring and composition

  3. Events in the foreground are emphasized by showing few figures and simple backgrounds

Berry Apocalypse

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Berry Apocalypse

This masterpiece of early 15th century Parisian book art comes from the hand of the so-called Master of the Berry Apocalypse. His style of illumination was unique among contemporaries and is distinguished inter alia by an understated but skillful use of color and shading as well as concentrating on events in the foreground. The Berry Apocalypse was likely commissioned ca. 1410 by the famous bibliophile Duke John of Berry and passed through the hands of various collectors before it found its final repository in New York’s famous Morgan Library. 85 large miniatures adorn the text, which consists of excerpts from the Book of Revelation in addition to a commentary by the Benedictine monk Berengaudus.

Berry Apocalypse

Made in Paris ca. 1410 for the famous bibliophile Duc Jean de Berry (1340-1416), this splendid Apocalypse manuscript contains excerpts from the text of the Book of Revelation in addition to a commentary by the Benedictine monk Berengaudus (840-892) adorned by 85 half- or full-page miniatures. Its text is written in two columns by an elegant hand with Bastarda script and elegant red-blue initials. The color palette of the miniatures is dominated by red, blue, and green, often with monochrome backgrounds and gold leaf has been employed for halos, crowns, and some initials. Stylistically unique and focusing clearly on characters and events, the miniatures possess a dramatic expressiveness, dramatic iconography, and an explicit relationship to the text. At the same time, they have a dreamlike quality with artful vegetation and realistic architectures. All of this comes together to form an artistically unique manuscript of the Apocalypse tradition.

Master of the Berry Apocalypse

The anonymous French illuminator responsible for the manuscript is known as the Master of the Berry Apocalypse. Evidence of his hand has been identified in several other works, including the secular Histoire Ancienne, a French translation of the world history Historiae Adversus Paganos written by the Roman priest, historian, and theologian Paulus Orosius (d. ca. 420), and a richly illuminated Bible Historiale. His style is distinguished from his Parisian contemporaries by a quick, sketchier execution and skillful use of colder and paler colors. Some images in his works are small sketches in shades of brown that are only partially lightly colored and accented with black and white paint. The sky is often indicated only by a few blue strokes, and his simple landscape depictions rarely show figures or cities in the background in order to focus on the main events in the foreground. Although his true identity is not known, the Master of the Berry Apocalypse has been immortalized by this unique masterpiece.

Coveted by Bibliophiles

The association with the Duke of Berry comes from a partially erased inscription reading Ce libre est au Duc de Berry Jehan as well as a miniature depicting both John the Apostle and John the Baptist, both namesakes of the famous Duke. Furthermore, Jean lived through an apocalyptic period of the Middle Ages marked by famine, plague, war, and strife within the church. The terrifying events of the text would have been all too real for him, but the story of the ultimate triumph of good over evil must have been some consolation, especially at the end of the Duke’s life. After remaining in the ducal library in Berry until the 16th century, the manuscript was acquired by the Mauvoisin family, which is attested to by further inscriptions in the manuscript, and later passed to the family of the comtes de La Tour du Pin. It was sold in Paris in 1879 and again in 1881 when it was acquired by Theodore Irwin. The manuscript was acquired in 1900 along with the rest of the Irwin collection in 1900 by the famous financier and philanthropist J. P. Morgan Jr. (1867-1943).


Alternative Titles
Size / Format
87 folios / 30.2 × 20.8 cm
85 full-page miniatures
The Book of Revelation with the corresponding commentary from the text 'Expositio super septum visions in Apocalypsis' by the Benedictine monk Berengaudus
Artist / School
Previous Owners
John, Duke of Berry
Malvoisin family
Comtes de la Tour du Pin
J. F. A. du Puget comte de Nadaillac
Ellis and White
Theodore Irwin
John Pierpont Morgan Senior

Available facsimile editions:
Die Berry-Apokalypse
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Die Berry-Apokalypse

Limited Edition: 900 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Richard K. Emmerson
Languages: German, English

The academic commentary volume by Richard K. Emmerson contains explanations of the history and philological peculiarities as well as descriptions of all miniatures and initials of the original manuscript.
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.
You might also be interested in:
Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy
Apocalypse of the Dukes of Savoy
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

Experience More
Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon
Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon
Cambraisis or Artois (France) – 1445–1450

Illuminated and framed in gold by the Master of the Missal of Paul Beye: the wonders and horrors of the Apocalypse in gorgeous, full-page images

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection