The Beatus manuscript preserved in the Real Biblioteca del Monasterio, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, is one of the oldest codices of this tradition. The illuminations were probably executed around the year 950 in the Scriptorium at San Millán de la Cogolla (Rioja). The rich decoration of the manuscript has been attributed to two famous illuminators, Florencio and Sancho.
The Escorial Codex: Mozarabic Art in a Distinctive Interpretation
The vivid miniatures in the Escorial Beatus are representative of Mozarabic iconography, an original Spanish art that will have impact all over Europe.
The figures have characteristic features including oval eyes, straight nose with round nostrils, mouth turned down at the corners. The style displays startling colors and animated figures with emphatic gestures. The Escorial exemplar shows a distinctive style.
The large frames that appear in the illustrations do not retain the compositions they surround and figures overlap the borders. Dark colors, like brown and green are enlightened by juxtaposition with yellow grounds.
The Origin and Content of the Escorial Beatus
The Beatus kept at El Escorial, differently from the manuscripts of the Beatus tradition, does not contain the Commentary of St. Jerome on the Book of Daniel. Rather, it includes the Commentary written by Beatus of Liébana exclusively and decorates it with an extensive cycle of 52 miniatures.
The comparison with the style of the figures of the Codex Aemilianensis (Biblioteca de El Escorial, Cod. d. 1. 1), which was copied in San Millan in 994, presents the most compelling evidence that the Escorial codex was executed at San Millan de la Cogolla.
For more information on the Beatus model, read our blog article by Amy R. Miller (PhD, Medieval Art History, University of Toronto).