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In ictu oculi

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Title: In ictu oculi  
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Subject: Spanish Golden Age, Ubi sunt, Juan de Valdés Leal
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In ictu oculi

The phrase in ictu oculi is a Latin expression meaning in the blink of an eye. One source is from the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 15:52: "In momento, in ictu oculi, in novissima tuba:", translated in the KJV as "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:",[1] where the Latin is itself a translation of the original Koine Greek phrase ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ (en rhipēi ophthalmou).[2] The phrase was used by Henry of Huntingdon on the rapid submission to the coronation of Stephen of England in 1135: Sine mora, sine labore, quasi in ictu oculi.[3][4] It also appears as part of the text to a motet by Antoine Busnois entitled "Gaude celestis Domina".[5]

The most notable use of the phrase in an English text is that by John Donne: which shall be found alive upon the earth, we say there shall be a sudden death, and a sudden resurrection; In raptu, in transitu, in ictu oculi. where Donne gives an English-Latin paraphrase on the original context in 1 Corinthians 15.[6][7]

Works of art

More than the original context of the phrase itself, the Latin may be better known as the title of a painting by Juan de Valdés Leal (4 May 1622 – 1690). This painting, an allegory of death (c.1671), is one of two large still life[8] allegorical vanitas paintings, 2.2 metres (7 ft 3 in) high, by Valdés Leal, painted for the Charity Hospital of Seville.[9] The central character is a skeleton; on the floor lies an open coffin and symbols of wealth and power.[10] The skeleton extinguishes a candle which represents life, and above the taper is written the Latin motto.[11][12] A volume of Rubens' designs for Antwerp's triumphal arches for the 1634 reception of the new Spanish governor, Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, stands as a symbol of political disillusionment.[13] The other painting of the pair is Finis Gloriae Mundi, "End of worldly glory," which depicts a dead bishop and a knight.[14]

The painting is a reflection of the vanitas concept in Spanish music of the same period, as illustrated in In ictu oculi. Música española del siglo XVII, a recording by the Spanish early music ensemble Los Músicos de Su Alteza in 2002.[15] The name has also been used for a painting by Diango Hernandez (born 1970) in 2004.[16]


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