Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Predicting how and when the world will end has been and is still a hot topic for many people. In Medieval times, when there was no scientific explanation for natural catastrophes or illnesses such as the plague, people looked to the bible for explanation. Of course, common people couldn’t actually read the bible so graphic artists (monks) of the time illustrated passages of the bible to help people visualize what was written. Adding to the angst of the times, many people took the bible’s book of Revelation literally and thought the end of the world would come at the end of 999 a.d. Beatus of Fernando and Sacha created many illustrations about the end times. His illustration “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
used rich and striking colors that help illustrate the tension of the times.
Influenced by the Moorish culture, the image is set inside a frame with geometric patterns and use of wide horizontal stripes of strong color.

Regardless of scientific discovery and “logical” explanation for disasters, people continue to look for answers in the supernatural. People continue to attempt to predict the end of the world. One only has to look back a few years to remember the Y2K movement that urged people stock food and take money out of the bank for safe keeping. Even while searching for apocalyptic images I came across another movement based on interpretations of Mayan writings. These folks believe the end of time is predicted for December 21, 2012.

The image of the four horsemen continues throughout history. We see it in our textbook several times. I found several on the internet including one made out of Legos maybe making fun of the whole phenomenon. I’ve seen similar battles set-up in my house many times by boys who know nothing of the apocalypse.

This digital image by Michael Newlyn uses an airy blue sky/fluffy cloud backdrop on which the four horsemen ride in on. The background is light and happy and in direct contrast to the ominous creatures on the horses. This might be to remind people that even though times are good, like a blue sky, you still have to remember the end is near. Their faces are now covered helping to create a fear of the unknown and allows the image to have greater impact. The weapons are not ones that are used today, but are similar to the ones in the Beatus illustration to help re-mind us of the angst and human suffering of the Dark Ages.

Discussion and predictions of the end of the world seems to have been a constant throughout the ages. Currently, there are entire series of fiction books for adults and children written about the apocalypse. These types of images and predictions continue to have a powerful hold on many people.

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