In this fluorescent re-envisioning of the fourteenth-century Angers Apocalypse Tapestry, the Rider on the White Horse is given a prominent role. Or to be more precise, the White Horse is prominent and the Rider himself is a more ephemeral figure.
The fourteen-panelled tapestry from which this image is taken (the only known rendering of an entire Apocalypse cycle by a woman) involves the viewer in a multi-sensory experience. As well as encountering the tapestry in a variety of states (via a rotating sequence of ambient light, UV light, and darkness), the viewer is presented with a multi-layered interpretation of Revelation via motifs from many different historical visualizations of the text, as well as from Irene Barberis’s own oeuvre.
Panel 13 is no exception.
Here we see a huge rendering of the White Horse beckoned forth by Sandro Botticelli’s Gabriel (bottom right) and followed by the archangel Michael (Revelation 12). The Rider’s presence is captured solely by his pointing hand (to the left of the Horse’s back) and the blood dripping down the Horse (a reference to Revelation 19:13). Perhaps there is a sense in which the male Rider of Revelation 19 has been unseated or rendered obsolete by the female creator of this series.
While the militaristic male Rider no longer speaks to many of Revelation’s readers, the Horse remains a symbol to which a wide audience can attach hopes and expectations. Thus the vast Horse steps out onto tiny tanks, military jeeps, parachutists: a miniature Armageddon. It is as if they are being swept towards the Hell-Mouth motif in the bottom left-hand corner of the image (taken from the Angers Apocalypse Tapestry).
The texts of the relevant chapters of Revelation are written above the image and when the tapestry is seen in darkness the words glow with phosphorescent light. This is presented as the moment when the heavenly breaks through into the earthly realm, thus ushering in the countdown to the establishment of the New Jerusalem. The comparatively huge White Horse is presented as an irresistible force, flanked by angels, against which human military might is powerless.
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. 13He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. 15From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. 20And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. 21And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.