A rare testimony of Neapolitan manuscript illumination of the Trecento
10 Missale RomanumManuscript on vellum, illuminated in the workshop of Cristoforo Orimina for Angelo del Monte Acciaiuoli. Italy, Naples, c. 1355.
208 x 146 mm. 247 leaves, complete (without final blank): I-XXX8, XXXI8-1. All catchwords visible, old (probably 18th-century) foliation incorrect, modern pencil foliation: 1-246 (ignoring a leaf after fol. 117). – Written space: 140 x 94 mm, two columns of 30 lines to the page. Southern Textualis Formata (Rotunda) in brown ink, rubricated. Numerous two-line initials alternately in red and blue, three- to five-line initials in gold leaf with penwork decoration mostly extending along the column and into the margins. – Frontispiece with historiated initial and full border (fol. 1), one full-page miniature (fol. 105v), both with coat-of-arms. Luminous colours including silver, rich use of gold leaf. – Frontispiece slightly rubbed, miniature in excellent condition, fol. 2 and 3 remargined at foot, outer margin of fol. 128 cut off (no loss of text), offset of an owner’s stamp on the facing page. – Late 15th- or early 16th-century Italian binding: blind-tooled brown calf over wooden boards on three raised bands, two shell-formed clasps (one catch missing), spine renewed.A paper front flyleaf, a manuscript folded vellum leaf used as back endpaper. Modern leather drop back box. 10
PROVENANCE: 1. The coats-of-arms on the frontispiece and the miniature point to the Florentine Acciaiuoli family whose members repeatedly held prestigious positions at the Angevine court in Naples. The patron of the missal can be identified as the Dominican Angelo del Monte Acciaiuoli. Bishop of Florence from 1342, he was appointed chancellor of the kingdom of Naples in 1349. In 1355 Pope Innocent IV conferred onto him the episcopate of Montecassino.The fact that a Dominican bishop appears in the frontispiece and the miniature strengthens a connection with Angelo del Monte, as does the presence of his patron saint, the archangel (ital. “Angelo”) Michael, and of St Benedict, patron of the abbey of Montecassino, in the borders of fol. 1.The beginning of his episcopate of Montecassino in 1355 and his death in 1357 offer a precise time frame for the date of the commission. 2. Private collection Switzerland.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 1: Nine-line initial of a bishop praying to God. In the border St Michael fighting the dragon, St Benedict, two men hunting a lion. – fol. 105v: Fullpage miniature opening the Canon Missae: Crucifixion with a praying Dominican bishop. Besides the afore-mentioned heraldic and iconographic details the conception of the frontispiece rendered in vivid colours with generous use of gold offers the best evidence for the Neapolitan origin of this richly decorated manuscript. The full border shows complex geometrical patterns of interlaced tendrils ending in trefoil leaves.Tightly interwoven with this abstract decoration are the figures of the two saints.This type of border was developed by Cristoforo Orimina (active c. 1335-55), the leading illuminator at the court of Anjou in Naples during the Trecento. It occurs similarly in other manuscripts of his workshop, of which the Hamilton Bible (Berlin, SMB-PK Kupferstichkabinett, Hamilton 90 ms. 78 E 3) may be the most prominent example. For an almost identical layout one may moreover compare the frontispiece of the missal of the Neapolitan canon Nicola Giovanni Ricardi di Ricardini (Avignon, Musée Calvet, ms. 138). For a more detailed discussion of the anonymous collaborator of Orimina entrusted with the decoration of our codex the beautifully preserved Crucifixion offers the best basis. Compared to the œuvre of Orimina his artistic idiom is distinguished by a particularly delicate drawing with subtle chromatic modelling. In the rendering of his figures with their elongated bodies, their dynamic postures and their facial expressions betraying great sorrow he aims for a more naturalistic style. Interestingly it is in the artistic production of Florence some decades earlier that a similar understanding of figures can be found. For a comparison one may cite e. g. the Crucifixion on the right wing of an altarpiece in the Kunstmuseum Bern, painted by Jacopo del Casentino around 1330. In this respect Giotto’s sojourn in Naples (c. 1328-33) and his impact on local artists cannot be overestimated. Thus the Crucifixion may be described as a more expressive adaptation of Florentine – and especially Giottesque – compositions. The aesthetic ideals of the patron may have played a significant part in the stylistic orientation of our codex. Angelo del Monte may have wanted its illumination to correspond to the artistic tendencies of his hometown where Giotto’s innovations had set a new standard. It is interesting to note in this context that despite his duties in Naples, Angelo del Monte always remained faithful to his Florentine roots, as is illustrated by his involvement with the foundation of a school in the Dominican convent of S. Maria Novella. Our illuminator may be identical with the excellent collaborator of Orimina, whose hand can be distinguished in several manuscripts, such as in the frontispiece of the Hamilton Bible, in a leaf from a dismembered choirbook (private collection, Milan), in some portions of the missal for Nicola Giovanni Ricardi di Ricardini and the Offiziolo of Joanna I of Anjou (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, ms. 1921). In combining Giottesque roots with a dynamic expression, similar to the style of Simone Martini, he closely followed those tendencies presented by an anonymous painter in the mural paintings of the Cappella Leonessa in S. Pietro a Majella in Naples around the same date (1355-60), and it is not impossible that our artist, too,worked in the field of monumental painting. The illuminator of our codex reveals himself as one of the most interesting and progressive artists of Naples at the time of Joanna I of Anjou. This hitherto unpublished and only recently rediscovered missal constitutes a valuable addition to the history of Neapolitan manuscript illumination of the Trecento. The identification of the prominent commissioner moreover makes the manuscript an outstanding historical document.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. D’Addario 1960; Perricioli Saggese 20041 and 20042 (with further bibliography); Leone de Castris 1986.