This is a tale of two apocalypses. Waiting for the millennium, having already passed the first deadline for the end of days somewhere around A.D. 800, awaiting his own death and final judgment, a monk in Spain paints in a scriptorium; he is illustrating passages from Revelations that were quoted, some centuries before, in a commentary on that book by Beatus of Liebana. We painters here now, having already passed the proclamation of the death of painting, “postmodern,” await our own fates—while we paint.

This Beatus manuscript lies almost exactly as distant in time from the twentieth century as the art of the antique was from the Florentines of the 1420s. Just as the world of classical antiquity was opened to the artists of the Renaissance, this other Lost World, of which the Morgan Beatus is part, may be reopened to artists now.

Like the antique sculptures that...


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