CARACCIOLO, Marino II, Prince of Avellino
Highly decorative and unusually large law degree certificateNaples, 1627, 8th June
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.
Mss of this type are not uncommon but the dimensions, richness, and quality of the decoration of this example are exceptional.