A carefully designed psalter arranged in accordance with the prayers for the canonical hours
27 Psalter with hymnalManuscript on vellum, illuminated by the workshop of Mariano del Buono di Jacopo. Italy, Florence, c. 1470-75. 27
257 x 188 mm. 236 leaves, complete: Regular quires of five sheets, regular catchwords at the end of each quire, old foliation in red in the upper right margin beginning with Psalm 1, the calendar not foliated. – Written space: 185 x 113 mm, 22 lines, 33 lines for the calendar, only the litany (fol. 145v-147v) in double columns.Written in a Southern Textualis Formata (Rotunda) in dark brown ink, one- to four-line penwork initials alternately in red and blue. In the hymnal 8 staves to the page in red ink with notation in black ink. 2 historiated initials accompanied by foliage borders extending to the full height and width of the page. – On the whole in good condition; as quite frequently found in Italian manuscripts of that time the script on especially used pages is partially abraded. On fol. 225v-226 smudging of blue initial letters and penwork decoration caused by water. Apart from minor flaking to the gold ground and the halos the miniatures are well preserved. – 18th-century vellum binding over boards, old leather label: UFIZJ E SALMI. One paper front and rear flyleaf. Bookcase covered with grey linen, black leather spine.
PROVENANCE: 1. Two obituary notes in the calendar report about the founder and a benefactor of a monastery. Hence the psalter was presumably made for a monk. 2. Private collection Europe.
TEXT: fol. I-VIv: Calendar in red and dark brown ink, with sporadic entries only and some later additions; fol.VII: blank – fol.VIIv:Table for the calculation of the Golden Number – fol. 1-145: (According to the original foliation) Psalm 1; rubric: Feria secu(n)da ad p(ri)ma(m) Psalter – fol. 145-147: Litany – fol. 147-158: Cantica – fol. 158-175: Incipi(t) ordo hy(m)nor(um) p(er) totu(m) a(n)nu(m). In adve(n)tu do(mini) (here noted texts set in as well) – fol. 175-203: Chapter readings – fol. 203-226v: Antiphons; fol. 227-228v: (Later additions on fol. 227) blank, with prepared staves in red. The manuscript at hand is an example of a psalterium feriatum which arranges the psalms according to the liturgical sequence of prayers for the canonical hours. The calendar includes entries in various script sizes. The entries written in red ink in a smaller script, which precisely record feast days, and two obituary entries, are of special interest.The entries in normal script size also attest to the individuality of the calendar’s composition. On 5 September, for instance, the end of the dog days of summer are commemorated.The text was edited in the 17th century as some corrections show (cf. fol. I, 87). The psalter is illuminated on a rather reduced scale, a feature which may be explained by the fact that the manuscript was destined for liturgical use and made to the order of a monk. The layout, however, was carefully planned and executed: all one-line versal initials are decorated with penwork, as are the paragraph marks.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 1: Initial ‘B’: King David playing the psaltery – fol. 101: Initial ‘D’: Christ blessing. As our psalter is arranged in accordance with the liturgical sequence of prayers, it does not include the eight miniatures that usually mark a psalter’s eight-fold division, but is decorated instead with two historiated initials opening Psalm 1 and Psalm 109. Both miniatures are fine works by the hand of a single illuminator. Both are accompanied by carefully executed foliage borders and employ an identical physiognomy for King David and Christ: the eyelids are nearly closed and curve upward; the nose is of a broad shape with a rounded tip curving slightly downward; the mouth is likewise bent downward forming a curve. Both figures have white beards and the cheeks are modelled in a plastic way by fine red pen strokes. This facial type is reminiscent of Piero della Francesca’s male figures such as St Sigismund in his fresco in the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini or King Solomon in the frescoes of the Legend of the Cross in Arezzo. Similar depictions can also be found in Florentine illumination. Cod. 21 of the library of Vallombrosa, for instance, bears stylistic resemblances (cf. exh. cat. Florence 1982, p. 179 (illustration). On fol. 4 of that manuscript David is depicted as a psalmist playing the psaltery. Not only do the figures share the same physiognomy and red cloak, but the initial decoration also shows close parallels. Other correspondences can be perceived with miniatures from the workshop of the Florentine miniaturist Mariano del Buono (1433-1504), above all to three manuscripts created in the 1470s: a breviary of 1470 in the Biblioteca Riccardiana, ms. 284 (Garzelli 1985, vol. 2, pl. 726), a breviary in the Museo Nazionale in Florence, ms. 68 (Garzelli 1985, vol. 2, pl. 728) and a book of hours in the British Library in London, ms.Yates Thompson 23 (Garzelli 1985, vol. 2, pl. 752). In all three manuscripts similar bearded male figures occur – King David playing the harp, Christ blessing, prophets – who have nearly the same facial features. On the basis of these correspondences the present manuscript is also highly likely to have been created in the workshop of Mariano del Buono around 1470-75. Mariano del Buono was one of the leading miniaturists in Florence during the second half of the 15th century. In all probability he was trained by Bartolomeo Varnucci (cf. our no. 22). His career is well documented by many archival sources and it is to be assumed that he ran a large workshop with the assistance of which he accomplished his numerous orders. The two historiated initials and the border decoration of elegantly swirling tendrils interspersed with flowers and gold bezants are fine and representative specimens of Mariano del Buono’s art.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. Exh. cat. Florence 1982, p. 179; Garzelli 1985, vol. 2, pl. 726, 728, 752; Galizzi 2004.