This early twelfth century CE image of the New Jerusalem is from the Beatus family of Apocalypse manuscripts and depicts Christ seated on his throne, above the river and tree of life. Produced mainly in Spain between the ninth to the twelfth centuries CE, at monasteries in Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, and elsewhere, the Beatus Apocalypse manuscripts are all based on the Apocalypse commentary of the eighth century Abbot Beatus of Liebana. They all reflect a similar iconography, quite distinct from the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse iconography that had developed in Northern Europe and is reflected in the Trinity Apocalypse and the Angers Apocalypse tapestry. The images in the Beatus Apocalypse manuscripts tend to be uncluttered, dramatic and vividly coloured. This image of the New Jerusalem, from the Silos Apocalypse, is no exception. An angel with very elongated fingers shows John not the descending city of the New Jerusalem but instead the River of Life, descending from the throne of God and the Lamb (Revelation 22:1–2). This throne is depicted as identical with the Heavenly Throne Room described in Revelation 4–5. Thus God/Christ is surrounded by the twenty-four elders, who point at him with elongated fingers. To the left of the river is the Tree of Life. While the text declares the Tree of Life to be growing on both sides of the river—a physical impossibility—the artist has quite sensibly elected to depict it on one side only. This image of the New Jerusalem radiates a reassuring sense of calm but, with its heavy visual divide between the heavenly and earthly realms—evoked via a heavy and ornate brown barrier underneath the heavenly throne room—it perhaps lacks the sense of interactivity between the divine and the human that the text of Revelation is at pains to stress.
This remarkable realisation of Revelation 21:4 (‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes') was produced by Max Beckmann as part of series of lithographs produced while in exile in Amsterdam during World War II. The work represents a very different dimension in the tradition of visualisations of the New Jerusalem. Other images in this collection, such as the Angers Apocalypse tapestry and the Ghent altarpiece, exemplify the strong tradition of representing the New Jerusalem as either a city or a landscape. Human presence and interaction has been notable mainly by its absence—even in William Blake’s The River of Life the human figures are secondary to the landscape and the river. In Beckmann's work, however, the New Jerusalem is conceived in primarily relational terms. In the colour rendering a winged figure dressed in a golden robe wipes away tears from a squat, human figure lying on a table. The prone figure is thought to be Beckmann himself as, in the tradition of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1526) and Jean Duvet (1485–c.1561), Beckmann has inserted his own likeness into his Apocalypse series several times. Through a circular window which resembles a port-hole lies what one presumes to be the new Heaven and new Earth of Revelation 21:1, but this is very much not the focus of the image. This presentation of the New Jerusalem as a place of consolation and intermingling between the divine and the human takes the imagined New Jerusalem a long way from the actual city of Jerusalem.