In Search of John’s Island: Patmos in Botticelli and Burgkmair

Ian Boxall


During the Renaissance, there existed in Western Europe a widespread tension between hope and doubt with regard to the viability of human society that manifested itself in an increasing interest in the book of Revelation and its visual interpretation. This article explores two portrayals of the scene of John at Patmos, one reflecting a closed, even forbidding perspective, the other offering a decidedly more optimistic view. These different styles reflect the political and religious context in which the artists were working and show a clear contrast between fears of a cosmic collapse and the hope generated by an Eden-like territory portrayed in images related to the discoveries in the New World.

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