A precious codex of diminutive dimensions
28 Book of hours, use of RomeManuscript on vellum, illuminated by Martino da Modena. Italy, Ferrara, c. 1480-85.
88 x 62 mm. 245 leaves, complete: I2, II12, III-V10,VI-VII8,VIII-XIV10, XV8, XVI-XXI10, XXII2, XXIII8-1 (omitting the final blank leaf, first leaf replaced presumably in the 17th century), XXIV8, XXV-XXVII10. Catchwords almost throughout, modern pencil foliation including 4 of the later vellum flyleaves (see below): 1-249. – Written space: 45 x 31 mm, ruled for one column of 13 lines, calendar 16 lines, Southern Textualis Formata in black ink, rubrics. Alternating blue and red capitals with marginal penwork decoration in blue and mauve. – 12 decorated initials on burnished gold with white tracery and marginal extenders. 5 historiated initials, 3 of them with full borders of bezants, garden flowers, songbirds, angels etc. on a swirling tendril background. One full-page miniature in an architectural border with coat-of-arms. – Very good condition, only calendar leaves slightly stained in their upper portions. – 17th-century gold-tooled red leather binding, covers with frames using a scallop-shell roll, spine decorated in compartments with an acorn-leaf tool and a thistle-head roll, lettering “Officium B.M.V.”, board-edges and turn-ins also roll-tooled, edges gilt.With marbled endpapers and 6 vellum flyleaves. Slight worming to spine, covers in good condition. In a modern red leather box. 28
PROVENANCE: 1. The coats-of-arms added on fol. 4v could best be associated with the Tolomei-Gucci family of Florence. On fol. 17 the heraldic device is somewhat different and seems to point to a member of another Florentine family, the Ginori, as the most likely candidate for the manuscript’s first owner, although the stars have five points, while the Ginori arms usually have six. 2. Private Collection Europe
TEXT: fol. 5-16v: Calendar – fol. 17-114v: Office of the Virgin, with variants for the time between the Octave of the Nativity and the Feast of the Purification – fol. 115-171: Office of the Dead – fol. 171v: Blank, ruled – fol. 172-201: Penitential psalms and Litany – fol. 201v-202v: Blank – fol. 203-209: Hours of the Holy Cross (fol. 203 with substituting text by a later hand) – fol. 209v: Blank, ruled – fol. 210-217: Mass of the Virgin – fol. 217v: Blank, ruled – fol. 218-242: Canticum Gradus – fol. 240:Verses of St Bernard – fol. 241v: Discourse of St Sebastian – fol. 243-247v: Blank, ruled. The repertoire of texts has some striking similarities with that of another book of hours illuminated by Martino da Modena and datable around 1480-1485 (Sotheby’s, 3 Dec. 2002, lot 33). Unlike northern European hours it begins directly with the Hours of the Virgin omitting readings from the Gospels and the prayers “Obsecro te” and “O intemerata”. The psalms of the three nocturns are not as usual arranged at the end of Matins, but are divided between this and the following hour. The Office of the Dead follows directly after the Hours of the Virgin rather than towards the end of the book, and the Hours of the Cross are not accompanied by those of the Holy Spirit. Instead of Commemorations usually closing a book of hours, a Mass of the Virgin and the Canticum Gradus complete the codex. The only saint invoked is the martyr Sebastian.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 4v: Frontispiece:Annunciation with architectural frame and coat-of-arms – fol. 17: Nine-line historiated initial: Virgin and Child as half-length figures, full border including putti with coat-of-arms – fol. 115: Nine-line historiated initial: Adam’s skull, full border – fol. 172: Nineline historiated initial: David praying, full border – fol. 210: Nine-line historiated initial:Annunciation, the dove descending onto the Virgin who is holding an open book, decoration extending into upper and lower margin – fol. 218: Five-line historiated initial: Christ child with goldfinch. Decorative initials on fol.: 21, 32v, 49, 54v, 60, 66v, 73, 79, 85, 95v, 139, 150. The illuminator of this diminutive volume can be identified as Martino di Giorgio d’Alemagna, known as Martino da Modena after his native city. Active in Ferrara and Bologna between 1470 and 1490, he succeeded Taddeo Crivelli in illuminating a number of choirbooks for the cathedral of San Petronio in Bologna from 1477 to 1480.The present manuscript can be linked to Martino’s illumination in the missal of Filippo Zoboli (Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, ms. Parm. 851) and a psalter-hours (Montecassino, Abbazia, Archivo privato, Corale di San Pietro di Modena, no. 29, cf. Toniolo 1998, no. 46, pp. 236-238 and no. 47, pp. 238-239). Moreover, it shows stylistic as well as textual parallels with the abovementioned book of hours sold at Sotheby’s in 2002. Thus, e.g. David in prayer in the present manuscript with his spiked crown and his beard combed into a double fork bears a remarkable likeness to the figure on fol. 64v in the Sotheby’s codex as well as to the king playing the lyre on fol. 4v of the psalter-hours.The same facial type and drapery of the Virgin in the present book of hours reappear on fol. 14 of the Sotheby’s volume and on fol. 7 of the missal of Filippo Zoboli. Lastly the borders decorated with various fruits and flowers are almost identical to those in the missal. It is in the style of the borders that Martino’s indebtedness to contemporary manuscript illumination in Ferrara, especially to the works of the great Cosmè Tura, shows most clearly. On the other hand the full-page frontispiece depicting the Annunciation in a Renaissance aedicula betrays Martino’s contact with illumination in Padua and Venice. A book of hours made for the Garzoni family (Venice, Museo Correr, ms. CL. V.8, cf. Levi D’Ancona 1966/1967 and Mariani Canova 1969, cat. 94, pp. 52, 54, 78, fig. 135-139) should be cited in comparison. The hands of two artists can be distinguished in this codex: one of Venetian origin, related to the Maestro dei Putti and the Maestro delle sette Virtù, while the other was either Martino himself or a close associate (Toniolo 1999). The former was responsible for the Annunciation in the Garzoni Hours whose general composition and especially the beautiful Renaissance frame must have inspired Martino to create his version of it in the present codex.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. Sales cat. Sotheby’s, 3 Dec. 2002, lot 33; Levi D’Ancona 1966/1967; Mariani Canova 1969, p. 68, n. 94, p. 158;Toniolo 1998;Toniolo 1999; Lollini 2004 (with further bibliography).