Jake and Dinos Chapman, the artists whose works range from a swastika-shaped sculpture named Hell to a tableau of castrated mannequins tied to a tree, have never shied from controversy. But their latest creation – an idiosyncratic version of the Bible's most dramatic and contested book – has raised eyebrows among even their most devoted admirers.
The brothers have enlisted an army of specialist craftsmen to produce a limited edition, silver and leather-bound tome of the Book of Revelation. The finished item, which will rest on a life-size skeleton, is to be launched at Moscow's Triumph Gallery and RS&A Gallery in London by the end of the year, according to The Art Newspaper.
The book's illuminated pages are to be of the finest vellum made from sheepskin, although the Chapmans have apparently stipulated that the sheep must not have been slaughtered for their art's sake.
The duo, who rose to fame in the 1990s after the art collector Charles Saatchi took an interest in their work, are best known for their Hell sculpture, which was destroyed in the Momart fire in 2004.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman at White Cube Gallery, which represents the brothers, said they were also re-creating a new version of Hell, to be exhibited at White Cube in May. The original was an immense tabletop tableau depicting more than 30,000 two-inch high figures, many in Nazi uniforms, performing acts of cruelty.
The work was celebrated for combining historical, religious and mythic narratives to present a dystopic snapshot of the 20th century. Bought by Saatchi, it formed the centrepiece of a group exhibition called Apocalypse at the Royal Academy in 2000.
The brothers first received critical acclaim in 1991 for a sculpture created from remodelled plastic figurines which enacted scenes from Goya's Disasters of War etchings. Later, they took a single scene from the work and meticulously transformed it into Great Deeds Against the Dead, a life-size tableau of reworked fibreglass mannequins which showed three castrated and mutilated soldiers tied to a tree. In 2003, they were nominated for the Turner Prize. Their most recent exhibition at White Cube, Like A Dog Returns To Its Vomit, in 2005, featured the Chapmans' graphic works, including a large collection of etchings and drawings.
The Book of Revelation consists of visions of the end of the world, including Satan's rule, as well as stories of the Great Tribulation, Armageddon and the Second Coming of the Messiah with the imprisonment of Satan and the ushering in of new heavens and earth.
In the fourth century, St John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople and his close circle of clergymen, argued against including the book in the New Testament, expressing concerns over the possible dangers of misinterpretation. It is considered the most challenging book of the Bible, with many possible meanings.