BIBLE, Cistercian

A MONUMENTAL 12TH-CENTURY CALLIGRAPHIC MASTERPIECE

BOOKS OF ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, EZEKIEL, DANIEL, EPISTLES, ACTS, APOCALYPSE AND GOSPELS. Illuminated manuscript on vellum.

Italy, Lombardy, circa 1170-1190.

£250,000

460 x 310 mm, 251 leaves on parchment, substantially complete: I8-1 (i excised, probably blank), II-XIII8, XIV8+2 (bifolium added between vi and vii), XV-XVII8 (iii and vi as singletons), XVIII-XXXI8), wanting a quire after VIII (fol. 63), two after XXIV (fol. 194), and quire XXXII but for fol. 251, Catchwords at lower margin of last verso of quires; paper flyleaf and conjoint pastedown at beginning and end. 325 x 204 (93, 21, 90) mm; ruled for two columns and 34 lines of text in lead point, pricking at upper and lower margins and fore-edge (from recto), additional vertical line between the bounders dividing the two columns. North-Italian transitional caroline script (Littera carolina) in brown, corrections and additions in black throughout and text on additional leaves 110-111 provided by a second contemporary North-Italian Cistercian hand (Littera protogothica textualis); marginal notes referring to readings in the refectory in the Gospels: “Hic dimittatur legere in refectorio” (fols 201r,  215r, 239r) and “Hic incipiatur legere” (fols 217v, 242r); marginal chapter references in an Italian hand in grey ink throughout, c.1400. Rubrics, often with notes in small hand (littera glossularis), in lower (occasionally upper) margin as on fol. 109v, providing guidance to the rubricator, chapter numbers and marginal numbering of the biblical readings (Lc .I. , Lc .II. etc) in red throughout; running titles by rubricator in red at beginning and end of gatherings up to fol. 103r, otherwise in dark brown or grey ink by different hands to the end of the Epistles (fol. 166v).

Two large initials (9-15 lines), the first in blue, the second blue and red, both with penwork decoration in red, blue and green and followed by first words of text in red capitals touched in blue (fols 2r and 35v); one large 7 line initial in blue with reserved blank and penwork decoration in red and yellow (fol. 95v); similar large initials (6-13 lines) in red, occasionally extending into the margin, at beginning of texts (fols 119v-242v); minor initials (2-4 lines) in red, green and red (fol. 15v) or blue and red (fol. 107v) throughout. Three large initials (16-25 lines) in red with reserved red and black penwork decoration supplied to the additional text on fols 110r, 111r and 111v.

Strong Italian parchment, with a number of natural flaws and some cuts with medieval repairs (see fol. 20); fol. 119 with a long horizontal cut, but complete; lower margin of fols 232-233 and 237 and fore-edge of fol. 238 cut away; overall in good condition. In later brown sheepskin over unbevelled wooden boards, some scuffmarks, sewn on four double-split spine bands of alum-tawed skin, two endbands on parchment core with yellow sewing thread, now loose, and title “Quat. [?] Proph. mai / et / Plus [?].Lib.N.Test.” on spine, shelfmark “229” in black ink on upper pastedown; shelfmarks “35” and “67” on spine, all 17th/18th century.

This large splendid volume was produced in Northern Italy in the second half of the twelfth century for the use of a monastery of the Cistercian order, established in 1098 by Robert of Molesme at Cîteaux. The unusual order of the biblical texts (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel; Epistles, Acts and Apocalypse; the Gospels), reflects a programme of reading in the Night Office carried out in Cistercian communities from Advent to Epiphany, Lent, and Easter to Pentecost (ordo librorum ad legendum; Reilly 2005, pp. 169-170). The Cistercians included the reading of the four Gospels into the refectory element of their annual cycle, but excluded the Passion narratives as highlighted in the manuscript by the marginal notes “Hic dimittatur legere in refectorio” (fols 201r,  215r, 239r) (Webber 2010, pp. 20 n. 47, 32). The large size of the volume, the two-column layout, well-spaced lettering and use of red minor initials throughout were designed to assure legibility for reading aloud. The additional punctuation supplied by the second hand in a darker ink in accordance with the Cistercian practice of indicating short, medium and long pauses in the reading, supplied further helpful guidance (Parkes 1992, pp. 195, 197). The textual corrections by this second hand testify to the attention paid to the correctness of biblical texts in accordance with St Bernard of Clairvaux’s wishes.

The sober yet elegant decoration of the initials also follows the Cistercian practice of austerity, including restrained decoration in their manuscripts. The initials to Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel are similar in style to those found in a 12th-century manuscript Bible now in the Biblioteca Civica “Angelo Mai” at Bergamo, MA 600 (olim Alpha V 17; see Zizzo), with an almost certain Cistercian origin. The three initials in red with reserved and red and black penwork decoration on leaves 110r-111v are consistent with the decoration of Cistercian manuscripts produced in Italy, as in two 12th-century codices; an Office lectionary at Harvard, Houghton Library, Typ 223 online at http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/collections/early_manuscripts/bibliographies/Typ.cfm, from the Abbey of Morimondo (Ferrari 1993, p. 299) and from Acquafredda Abbey (see Ferrari 1993, p. 295) a 12th century Commentary on The Old Testament-Pentateuch by Isidore of Seville and Hugh of St Victor’s Rex Salomon, now at Berkeley, Bancroft Library, MS UCB 16.

Both these manuscripts have covers almost identical to the present, and bear similar titles on the second spine compartment, also found on Jerome’s Commentary on the Minor Prophets, now Milan, Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Gerli MS 12, identified by Ferrari (Ferrari 1999, pp. 36, 41-42, 44) as one of the manuscripts mentioned in the twelfth-century book list from the Abbey of Morimondo found on the last verso of the Abbey’s Office lectionary mentioned above (Houghton Library, Typ 223).

The present manuscript shares the same 18th-century provenance, if not origin, as those three manuscripts now at Milan, Berkeley and Cambridge. From the beginning of the eighteenth century many manuscripts from Cistercian abbeys in Lombardy were collected at the monastery of S. Ambrogio in Milan to support the programme of cultural reform promoted by the Congregation of St Bernard in Italy and the Austrian government. On arrival at S. Ambrogio, they may have been supplied with new covers and a manuscript title on the spine. The present manuscript must have arrived about the same time, when the influx increased exponentially with the suppressions of the monasteries in the last quarter of the century; many of these codices were then dispersed onto the open market. A good number were acquired by the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, but many entered private collections, such as those of the marchesi Trivulzio of Milan, Count Francesco Giovio (1796 – 1873) of Como, and Matteo Luigi Canonici (1727 – 1805), Jesuit and antiquarian of Venice, further dispersed through later sales.

A twentieth-century note in English pencilled on the upper flyleaf suggests that this manuscript may have passed through the hands of the bookseller Giuseppe (Joseph) Martini of Lugano between 1913 and 1942, though it is not mentioned by Ferrari in her list of Cistercian manuscripts described in Martini’s catalogues (Ferrari 1999, pp. 34-35). It was Martini who probably invented the myth of provenance from the library of the celebrated humanist Paolo Giovio (1483 – 1552) still recorded in the literature of some Italian Cistercian manuscripts (see Berkeley, University of California, Bancroft Library, MS UCB 16, in Digital Scriptorium).

K56

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RESURRECTION

A BEAUTIFUL IMAGE OF RISING CHRIST IN A MINIATURE FROM THE MEDIEVAL CENTRAL ITALY

Historiated initial ‘E’, cut from an illuminated choirbook on vellum.

Central Italy, first half of 14th century.

£3,750

(164×125 mm.) Half-length rising Christ wrapped in a red cloth and showing his wounds in the upper compartment and two angels either side of the tomb with an open book in the lower compartment, on light pink ground, within an initial E with acanthus staves in blue and red, on blue adorned with white tracery and large gold bezants and outlined in black. On the right edge traces of four-line red staves and text. On the reverse lines of text and 4-line red staves. (Framed; a couple of waterstains touching the initial on the right side, a sign of folding in the middle; otherwise good).

This initial might have introduced the Easter antiphon “Et respicientes”, as the representation of the Resurrection suggests.

The strength and beauty of this work is due to its fresh simplicity. The style, essential and genuine, with its palette of colour is evocative of 14th century illumination from the central regions of Italy, perhaps Tuscany.

L840

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FIVE HISTORIATED INITIALS

FIVE INITIALS FROM A LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED GRADUAL OF THE BEGINNING OF THE 16TH CENTURY: AN EXCEPTIONALLY RICH PROJECT OF DECORATION

DSC_0048

ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, from a Gradual, in Latin.

Beginning of 16th century.

£7,750

(71x67mm.) THE CHRIST CHILD sitting on the grass and HOLDING A GLOBE against a short brown wall, beyond the wall a far landscape with high mountains and clouds, WITHIN AN orange INITIAL K with staves of acanthus leaves and jewels, highlighted in white, on a light pink ground of scattered flowers outlined in black. On the right trace of a four-line stave ruled in red.

(71x57mm.) A BOY CLUBBING A DOG in a mountainous landscape WITHIN AN INITIAL I of pale pink and blue acanthus leaves including a grotesque face, on a ground of liquid gold. On the left trace of a four-line stave in red and text.

(71x66mm.) AN ASCENDING SOUL helped by an angel ABOVE A LONG-HORNED STAG SWIMMING, in a large landscape, WITHIN AN INITIAL S of green, mauve, and orange acanthus staves, touched in white, on a yellow ground.

(75x71mm.) A MAN FROM BEHIND KNEELING IN PRAYER TO CHRIST, seated on a rainbow amongst the clouds of the sky (as at the Last Judgement), in a deep landscape, WITHIN AN INITIAL R with acanthus blue staves highlighted in white, on a green ground adorned with acanthus leaves and outlined in black. On the right fragment of a red four-line stave.

(67x68mm.) A MAN KNEELING BEFORE A PRIEST ADMINISTERING COMMUNION, on the back an altar with two women, jointing their hands in prayer and watching the scene, and an altarpiece of the Crucifixion, WITHIN AN INITIAL Q with blue acanthus leaves highlighted in white and adorned with pearls, on a green ground patterned with curling hairline tendrils and outlined by a double black fillet. On the right faint trace of a red four-line stave.

Framed all together; on the reverses remains of text and 4-line red staves; slight rubbing in a couple of places, else in very good condition.

According to the textual and musical fragments on the reverse of a couple of our cuttings, the five capitals come from a Gradual. Indeed, the K probably opened the Kyrie eleison (since there are remains of the Gloria on the reverse of the letter); the Q marked the Communion for Corpus Christi. The iconography also contributes to the identification.

The sophisticate acanthus staves are typical of early sixteenth century German initials in both illuminated and printed books. The illuminator of our initials, however, was aware of the rules and the power of the Renaissance painting, known in Germany trough the masterpieces of Dürer, Cranach and Altdorfer. The atmospheric landscapes characterized by distant silverblue shapes of mountains, the effect of the movement in the water, the smooth brush, the attention paid to details such as the subtle termination of the stave curled around Christ’s tiny foot or the costumes in the Communion scene (the woman’s one indicating a date around 1520) make this artist and accomplished painter of the early Renaissance.

The Gradual from which our initials came seems to have been lavishly adorned with historiated initials, not just for the introits. This rich project was exceptional and certainly reserved for very important books.

PROVENANCE: W.M. Voelkle and R.S. Wieck, The Bernard Breslauer Collection of Manuscript Illuminations, Cat. of the exhibition, New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, 9 December 1992 – 4 April 1993, New York 1992, nos. 50-54.

L832

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CARACCIOLO, Marino II, Prince of Avellino


Highly decorative and unusually large law degree certificate.

Naples, 8 June 1627.

£3,750

Manuscript in brown ink on fine vellum (56 x 76 cm), 42 lines including ornamental heading gilt, ornate floral decorations in blue, magenta and orange, in a legible humanist minuscule, several words in gilt capitals, outer and upper margins with wide ornamental borders in five colours and gilt, incorporating two coats-of arms, two portrait medallions in corners and one medallion depicting the Virgin consoling Christ on the Cross; small hole in lower margin and semi-circular from lower edge slightly, affecting ornamental border (perhaps due to loss of seal). A very good copy, lightly spotted in places; mounted, framed and glazed.

This splendid late humanist document conferring a law degree from Naples University to the 21-year old Giovanni Tomaso Compara (of the Neapolitan family now known as Acampora, or D’Acampora) was issued under the auspices of Marino Caracciolo, member of one of the most powerful Neapolitan patrician families. Marino II was Lord High Chancellor of the kingdom, and as such had the right to grant the doctor’s cap or laurea. As Prince of Avellino (1617-30) his Southern Italian town grew considerably and developed into a regional cultural centre. The court attracted artists and writers, such as Giambattista Basile, renowned for one of the earliest collections of fairy tales in Europe, the Neapolitan Cunto delli cunti.

Campora passed his degree of canon and civil law ‘summo cum honore, maximisque laudibus’ and this certificate, intended for display, entitles him to ‘lecture on both laws, interpret, comment and practice it’. One of the coat-of-arms is that of Caracciolo, it contains a depiction of the golden fleece of the Imperial order of which he was a knight. The other is most likely the Compara family. In the upper corners are portraits of Saint Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Society of Jesus, depicted as usual with his hands crossed in front of his chest. The other, fictitious, is that of Thomas Aquinas, one of the most notable alumni of the University of Naples.

Manuscripts of this type are not uncommon but the dimensions, richness, and quality of the decoration of this example are exceptional.

CJS3

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ANTHROPOMORPHIC INITIAL I

Illuminated Manuscript in Latin on a leaf from an Antiphonal.

Central Italy, mid-14th century.

£1,850

Folio (475 x 340 mm). On recto seven four-line staves in red, music in square notation alternating with seven line text in brown ink in a gothic bookhand; a couple of initials with pen-work flourishing, in red with blue, in blue with red; numbered 291 on upper margin. INITIAL I (body: 145 x 25 mm) composed wholly of a human figure with hat, dressed in light blue and red, on a blue background with white tracery; leafy extensions in light pink and blue developing from the hat and the feet into the inner and upper margins. On verso seven four-line staves in red, music in square notation alternating with seven line text written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand; red pen-work initial with blue flourishing. Slightly worn in the lower part with loss of a few letters, otherwise good.

TWO VERY APPEALING LEAVES FROM A MID-14TH CENTURY ANTIPHONAL DECORATED BY A CENTRAL ITALIAN ARTIST. The initial I opens the response ‘In montem Oliveti oravi ad patrem pater si fieri potest’ on Holy Thursday. According to the Catholic liturgical year, these two leaves marked, in the same Antiphonal, the beginning and the end of Lent (from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday).

Two early attractive, unsophisticated leaves; the characteristic foliate extensions, the palette of delicate colours and the style indicate a Central Italian origin (possibly Tuscany), from the mid-14th century.

L876

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CATHOLIC CHURCH, CURIA

A RENAISSANCE TREASURE STYLE BINDING


Bullae et statuta officii septem sedis apostolicae potonotariorum in Curia Romana participandum.

Rome, not before 1556, 1621-1661 and 1825.

£49,500

Manuscript on Vellum. Large 4to. pages 191/2cm x 27cm; 4 ruled and blank ll., 69 numbered pages of text, further 45 ll ruled and blank. Pp. 1-43 in elegant brown C16th cancellaresca formata, headings in red., 43-56 in C17th humanistic hand with separated letters, pp. 57-64 in more ornate vernacular variant, last in C19 copperplate, on uniform high quality vellum. In a stunning unrestored Roman binding, probably last quarter of the C16 in purple velvet over wooden boards, 8 large rectangular gilt metal corner pieces depicting scenes from the life of Christ, large central gilt oval on upper cover depicting a protonotary vested formally with quill and book within carved and chiselled floral surround, oval with similar border on lower ‘VII VIRORUM PROTONOTAR. BULLAE AC. STATUTA’ inscribed on central ornamental panel. Four richly carved gilt metal clasps, one loosening, catches lacking, velvet worn on spine and edges.

An exceptional manuscript copy of the papal bulls and statutes setting out the duties powers and privileges of the Apostolic Protonotaries of the Roman Church from the 1560’s until the early C19. This was the, or an official copy used either by the Protonotarial office or by one of their number, perhaps the figure depicted in the gilt oval on the upper cover. The papal Bulls forming and reforming the office from Callistus to Adrian VI occupy the first 21 pages, the relevant statutes pp. 23-43 and further Bulls of Urban VIII and Alexander VII from pp 43-59. Pp. 60-64 comprise the agreement of the protonotaries drafted 21st September 1661 concerning the division of their emoluments, signed by each of them and formally attested by the Curial pro-secretary Giovani Manfroni and the final pages the reforms of Gregory XVI.

The Protonotaries Apostolic were members of the highest college of prelates of the Roman Curia, deriving their office from the seven regional notaries of Rome in late antiquity, and the senior lawyer-administrators of the C16 Catholic church charged with the issue of Papal Bulls and other legislative or quasi legislative Papal documents. On the further development of Papal administration, secular and religious, they remained the supreme palace notaries of the Papal Chancery and in the middle ages were very high ranking officials. Sixtus V increased their number to 12, though ‘honories’ were also appointed, Gregory XVI re-established the college of real protonotaries with seven members in 1838. The pronotarial office is of particular interest as at the same time the precursor of the modern state bureaucracy and a functional link with the ancient world.

This remarkably beautiful almost ‘treasure’ binding is an extremely scarce survivor of a binding style typical of de luxe presentation copies from the mid C15 to mid C17 centuries . Unfortunately plush velvet is not a durable material and gilt ornaments tended to part company with their binding at the first opportunity. It is of the utmost rarity to find one on the market intact with all its ornaments in place. The eight corner pieces (approximately 4 x 4 1/2” including frame) recount sequentially the events of the Passion from the Garden of Gethsemane to Burial in the Tomb. The representations are life like, the action vivid and the relief and general condition is excellent. They were probably made for and are certainly contemporary with the binding. They are almost certainly Roman (cf Rossi Placchette 65-151) and may derive from the frescos of Sebastiano del Piombo in the church of San Pietro in Montorio in Rome, at least one of which according to Vasari is according to designs given him by Michelangelo. The four clasps are likely to form part of the same set.

The two central ornaments are somewhat lighter in style and of sharper execution on finer metal, the work of a gem carver or expert goldsmith. The designer was clearly influenced by Renaissance Mannerism but the approach of the baroque is sensible. The upper cover figure may well be modelled on a monumental sculpture of the period whilst the lower suggests a copy of a sculptural stemma, perhaps from the wall of the Protonotarial office itself. The feeling for the monumental and architectural combined with a fineness of detail points towards the body of work generally attributed to Guglielmo de la Porta 1490-1577. There is stylistic similarity too between the corner pieces and certain of De la Porta’s known work e.g. the silver plaque of the flagellation now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Interestingly De La Porta also worked under the influence of Michelangelo and his workshop specialised in the manufacture of bronzes of contemporary art.

L1159

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ADORNO, Agostino

Manuscript Letter.

Genoa, 1496.

£1,450

One sheet, 20.5 x 29.5cm, paper, autograph letter signed 30 March 1496, 16 lines (plus signature), Latin in a very neat, humanistic italic, brown ink, paper wafer seal and docket to verso, some spotting and light browning from seal, watermark of a bird encircled from Ferrera, probably early C15 (Briquet 12.118).

The letter is addressed by Adorno to the ‘Brothers and Friends of the Antiani of Genoa’. The Antiani had been instituted in Italian cities since the 13th century as representatives of the plebian class, an updated version of Roman tribunes. Adorno asks that the Antiani grant pardon to Thomas Beti, whose ‘excellence’ Adorno hopes to ‘make well known to strangers’ as well as ‘brothers and friends’; Beti is described as a ‘ready speaker, eloquent in persuading’ and powerful in negotiation.

Agostino Adorno was appointed governor of Genoa in 1488 by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, who gained control of the city that year. Although the Adorni were one of the most powerful merchant families, Agostino’s appointment began a period of crisis for the former republic. Sforza used Genoa to bolster his own forces in the first of the Italian Wars (1494-98) against Venice, and by encouraging Charles VIII of France to invade Italy set the groundwork for an alliance that would result in the invasion of Milan.

The year this letter was written, Sforza’s overthrow was already well under way, and with it the Adorni’s exile. Since the 14th century, there had been a struggle for power between Genoese aristocrats and the rising mercantile class, which Adorno obliquely refers to in this letter when he speaks of a ‘stirred up republic’ (republica versatus) that has distracted attention from Thomas Beti’s cause. Gian Luigi Fiesco, a prominant Genoese aristocrat, encouraged French invasion. In 1498, Louis XII invaded and captured Milan, and when his forces entered Genoa no resistance could be mounted because Adorno had diverted his forces to Milan at Sforza’s command. When Adorno withdrew from Genoa, Fiesco took over and for the first time since 1339 the aristocracy was back in charge.

Malleson, Studies from Genoese History. Coles, “The Crisis of Renaissance Society Genoa 1488-1507, 17-47.

L1002

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