This striking image brings traditional elements from the visual history of the Rider on the White Horse of Revelation 19 together in a ground-breaking composition.
Hitherto, the narrative of Revelation 19 (the marriage of the Lamb, the descent of the Rider on the White Horse, and the defeat of the Beasts) had been depicted across three separate images. The Flemish Apocalypse devotes just one image to each chapter of Revelation. Each image thus includes several ‘scenes’. Here the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) to ‘Israel’ takes place in the upper left of the composition (Revelation 19:6–10). The Rider on the White Horse (also Christ in a different guise) adopts a prominent position in the middle register, waging war against the Beast and his army (19:11–19). Christ then returns in the lower register to pursue the Beast and his followers into the hell-mouth, an iconographic shorthand for the ‘lake of fire’ (19:20). John the seer appears to the left of the middle register, gently led by an angel towards these final visions.
This visualization of the Rider is noteworthy for its attention to the detail of the text. The Flemish Apocalypse is known for its use of a striking metallic white paint and this is used to full effect here on both the ‘white horse’ of the Rider and his robe. The robe is streaked with the blood of Revelation 19:13. In keeping with Revelation 19:12, his eyes are flaming and he wears a prominent crown of many diadems. In a visually awkward detail, his sword is held between his lips (19:15, 21; cf. Revelation 1:16).
Condensing the three main narrative blocks of Revelation 19 into one visual space gives this visualization of the closing stages of Revelation an energy and an immediacy lacking in earlier medieval manuscripts. The viewer is swept up into the visual drama unfolding across the three registers, an exciting and unstoppable precursor to the final destruction of Satan/the Dragon and the establishment of the New Jerusalem. This ‘simultaneous’ style of visualization (where what was, is, and will be are shown together) creates a powerful sense of inevitability.
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.