A dated manuscript illuminated by Neri da Rimini: A turning point in his career
7 Antiphonary for a Franciscan conventManuscript on vellum, illuminated by Neri da Rimini. Italy, Emilia-Romagna, Rimini?, dated 1314. c. 550 x 385 mm. 78 leaves, old (probably 18th century) foliation in brown on the outer margin, partly erased. – Written space: 410 x 250 mm, 5 tetragrams to the page in red ink with notation in black ink, Gothic Rotunda in black ink with rubrics. Beginnings of verses stroked in yellow. Numerous initials alternately in blue and red with fleuronnée, 6 decorated initials with floral design, 10 historiated initials. Dated by the hand of the scribe in the lower margin of fol. 1. – Vellum occasionally smudged, some leaves trimmed around the edges, delicately restored and rebound. As indicated by the foliation, the manuscript originally comprised at least 170 leaves. – Bound between massive wooden boards (late 15th century) with large metal cornerpieces and later repairs, partly covered with riveted leather. Contemporary vellum leaf from a choirbook added as flyleaf at the beginning. On the inside of back cover offsets from a liturgical manuscript pastedown. In the hinge of the inside of front cover strips of waste paper, armorial bookplate.
PROVENANCE: 1. Made for a Franciscan convent, probably that of Rimini. 2. Collection of Henry Cawood Embleton, Leeds. 3. Sold at Sotheby’s, 7 December 1982, lot 98. 4. Raffaello Amati, London.
TEXT: The manuscript, reconstructed by Raffaello Amati and most recently by Jörn Günther, contains the Proprium de Tempore from the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost to the fourth Sunday in September and the Proprium de Sanctis from the feast of St Peter and Paul (29 June) to the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin (15 September). It belongs to a multi-volume antiphonary series.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 12: God holding a globe – fol. 42: God appearing to Tobit – fol. 51: Christ and St Peter – fol. 63: Calling of St Peter and Andrew – fol. 93v: St Laurence – fol. 113v: Assumption of the Virgin – fol. 128v: Beheading of St John the Baptist – fol. 140:Virgin Mary – fol. 141v: Nativity of the Virgin – fol. 155:Virgin Mary. Among the anonymous artists of the early Trecento the name Neri da Rimini stands out. His activity is exceptionally well documented. In 1995 a monographic exhibition entitled Neri da Rimini. Il Trecento riminese tra pittura e scrittura paid homage to this central figure of the so-called Riminese School. Among the members of the Riminese School Neri is the only example of an artist who specialized in the field of manuscript illumination, although simultaneous activity as painter is very likely.The fact that he repeatedly signed and also dated his works is a rare windfall enabling us to reconstruct his œuvre between 1300 and 1328. The codex under discussion here is among the most important recent additions to the œuvre of Neri da Rimini. The date 1314 identifies the manuscript as part of a documented antiphonary series.The same date together with the signature of the scribe can be found in another volume in Bologna (Museo Civico Medievale, ms. 540) where, moreover, an anagram of Neri’s name appears in an illustration. Furthermore, the date 1314, partly complemented by the signatures of the scribe and the illuminator, figures in a series of manuscripts and single leaves with identical dimensions and sharing the same general layout of five tetragrams to the page.Thus it is possible largely to reconstruct the series of antiphonaries, which must originally have comprised at least six volumes (exh. cat. Rimini 1995, no. 26, pp. 142-161; Dauner 1998, pp. 97-157): 1. Bologna, Museo Civico Medievale, ms. 540, containing the Proprium de Tempore from the first Sunday in Advent to the Vigil for Epiphany and the Proprium de Sanctis for the time between the feast of St Andrew to St Lucy. 2. Krakow, Muzeum Narodowe, ms. Czart. 3464, containing the Proprium de Tempore from the feast of Epiphany to the Sunday Quinquagesima and the Proprium de Sanctis from the feast of St Agnes to the Cathedra Petri. 3. A dismembered volume of which single leaves survive in: Philadelphia, (Free Library, Lewis collection, mss. 68:7a, 68:7b, 68:8 and 68:9),Toledo/Ohio (The Toledo Museum of Art, Acc. No. 28.183), Rheydt/Mönchengladbach (Museum Schloss Reydt, Inv. Gr 870), Zurich (private collection), Österreich (private collection; Zeileis 2004, no. 23, pp. 76-79). The volume was still almost complete in 1905 (cf. sales cat. Joseph Baer & Co, 1905, no. 8). The present codex, which contains parts of the Proprium de Tempore,would probably have formed part five of the series. Two more volumes must originally have existed. One, of which two leaves survive in Venice (Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Inv. 2211-2212), would have covered Easter and the cycle of Pentecost.The last volume would have closed the gap left between our codex and the beginning of Advent. The ten historiated initials of the manuscript at issue give a fascinating insight into the stylistic idiom of Neri da Rimini. A comparison with his earlier works and with the illumination of the Bologna and Krakow volumes places the present manuscript at a turning point in Neri’s career, at which his style becomes simultaneously more purified and more dynamic and expressive. In contrast to the initials in preceding commissions, Neri has considerably reduced his chromatic palette. The figures are conceived with small heads and comparatively voluminous bodies. The immensely delicate modelling of the faces with minutely applied lights and shades further enhances this impression. A close examination of this splendid volume thus shows the important position the manuscript holds in the œuvre of Neri da Rimini. Illuminated in all probability in the middle of his career, it anticipates certain stylistic properties of his later works and therefore may be considered a central piece in his career.
LITERATURE: Sales cat. Sotheby’s, 7 Dec. 1982, lot 98; Lollini 1994, pp. 109, 111, 131-32; Conti 1995, p. 290, fig. 295; exh. cat. Rimini 1995, no. 28, pp. 164-171; Lollini 1996, pp. 86, 88, 94-95; Dauner 1998, pp. 138-144 and pp. 236-37. Sales cat. Baer 1905, no. 8; Toesca 1930; Dauner 1995, pp. 445-446; Zeileis 2004, no. 23, pp. 76-79.