A manuscript of noble descent – The Hours of Vittoria Carafa, mother of Pope Paul IV
29 Book of hours for Dominican useManuscript on vellum, illuminated by the workshop of Matteo Felice. Italy, Naples, c. 1480.
149 x 118 mm. 2+216+2 leaves, complete:A2, I12, II2, III-X8,XI6, XII-XV8, XVI6, XVII-XXVII8, XXVIII6, B2. Judged by the collation the Mass for the Virgin Mary was included on special request of the manuscript’s patron (XVI6). Catchwords, embellished by penwork, in the same script and ink as the text. – Written space: 95 x 73 mm, 14 lines, 17 in the calendar, ruled in black ink and in blind. Textualis Formata in black and red ink. One-line initials alternately blue, red and gold with purple flourishing.Two-line initials in highly burnished gold alternately with blue framing and red infill and white penwork. One larger initial of the same kind with foliage and flower extension. – All in all 22 historiated initials: 5 large initials accompanied by four-sided borders of putti, angels and medallions enclosing scenes that correspond to the respective historiated initial. In the lower border of the Annunciation (fol. 15) is a roundel with the alliance coats-of-arms. A frame of small bars in gold and blue delineates the border composed of penwork interspersed with golden bezants, flowers and foliage in green, blue and dark red. One miniature in the text with a nearly three-sided border of gold scrolls, flowers and acanthus leaves. 16 historiated initials surrounded by three-sided borders of the same kind. – In fine condition. – Bound in early 20th-century polished brown calf leather over wooden boards, with two plaited clasps, gilt edges, in a cloth box.
PROVENANCE: 1.The alliance coats-of-arms in the border of fol. 15 belong to the Neapolitan noble families Carafa and Camponeschi (?). Vittoria Camponeschi, Contessa di Montorio, was married to Antonio Carafa, baron of Sant’Angelo della Scala (d. 1516) of Naples; her son was Gian Pietro Carafa (b. 1476), the later Pope Paul IV (1555-59). The later entry on fol. A refers to this detail. Vittoria Camponeschi’s brother-in-law, Oliviero Carafa, was cardinal protector of the Dominican order for Rome. 2. Unidentified 18th-century armorial plate. 3. European private collection.
TEXT: fol. 1-12v: Calendar (Dominican use) containing very few entries – fol. 13-14v: Blank – fol. 15-77: Office of the Virgin (Dominican use) incorporating Suffrages and prayers – fol. 77v-78: Blank – fol. 79-83: Mass for the Virgin Mary – fol. 83v-84v: Blank – fol. 85-91v: Hours of the Holy Spirit – fol. 92r/v: Blank - fol. 93-100v: Hours of the Cross – fol. 101- 120: Penitential Psalms – fol. 111v: Litany – fol. 121v-122v: Blank – fol. 123-171v: Office of the Dead – fol. 172-176v: Prayer “Obsecro te” in female form – fol. 177-178: Blank – fol. 179-198v: Psalter of St Jerome – fol. 199-203: Canticum Athanasii – fol. 203-207: Prayers to Christ – fol. 207v-210v: Added prayers – fol. 211-216v: Blank. The sequence of texts is unusual; within the Office of the Virgin suffrages and prayers are incorporated at Vespers.The suffrages to St Magdalen and Katherine are not uncommon but may indicate special preferences of the owner.The prominent inclusion of St Dominic in the litany is in line with Dominican use. It seems that the arrangement of texts was specifically attuned to the ideas of the patroness.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 15:Annunciation – fol. 26v:Visitation – fol. 39: Nativity – fol. 43: Adoration of the Magi – fol. 47: Resurrection of Christ – fol. 51:Ascension – fol. 55: Pentecost – fol. 63: Christ appearing to St Mary Magdalen – fol. 63v: Martyrdom of St Katherine – fol. 64v: St Dominic in front of the Virgin Mary – fol. 65v: St Dominic surrounded by Dominican saints – fol. 66: St Michael – fol. 67: St Peter and Paul – fol. 67v: St Jerome with the lion – fol. 68v: Martyrdom of St Sebastian – fol. 71v:Assumption of the Virgin Mary – fol. 79: Mary nursing the poor souls in the purgatory – fol. 85: Pentecost – fol. 93:Crucifixion – fol. 101:David in prayer – fol. 123: Raising of Lazarus – fol. 180: Penitent St Jerome. The Office of the Virgin is illustrated by unusual subjects: the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ, themes that indicate the unity of God and man in Christ. Pentecost, also to be found in the Office of the Virgin, illustrates the aspect of the words and deeds of Christ on earth.The depiction of Mary nursing the poor souls with her milk is interesting from this point of view as it can be interpreted as a representation of the maternal care and empathy that extends also to the purgatory. The cycle of miniatures is the result of a careful iconographic concept which avoids the repetition of a subject in an identical compositional scheme. The Descent of the Holy Spirit already illustrates the Office of the Virgin, so that the artist imaginatively modifies his depiction of the Pentecost that opens the Hours of the Holy Spirit. This iconographic interpretation as well as the adaptation of the Nativity of Christ which takes place in a rocky cave instead of a stable was particularly popular in Naples (cf. London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Hours of Alfonso of Aragon and Montecassino, cor. Q, fol. 48v). The rather sturdy figures, the dominance of red and blue in the miniatures and the borders as well as the way in which the putti enliven the borders point to Matteo Felice. Matteo Felice is a well-documented illuminator active in the last third of the 15th century who worked for the kings of Aragon among others (Toscano 2004). The design of the full borders is reminiscent of the border decoration of the Duns Scotus manuscript in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin (De Marinis 1947, I, pl. 37), whereas the design of the initial letters set on the burnished gold grounds bears close relationship to a book of hours (Vatican, Bibl. Apost., Ross 64). As far as we know the historiated initial of Mary nursing the souls (fol. 79) is the only depiction of this subject in manuscript illumination, although the image of Maria lactans was not uncommon in the genre of monumental painting during this time in Naples. The illumination of this book of hours reveals the hand of a gifted artist who skillfully translates his sophisticated iconographic reading of the manuscript’s picture cycle, complemented by additional scenes in the borders, into an aesthetically appealing artistic idiom.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. De Marinis 1947, pp. 157-161, pl. 34-46; De Marinis 1969, pp. 93-94; exh. cat. London 1985, no. 14; Murano/Saggese 1991, esp. pp. 43-46; exh. cat. Rome 1994; Toscano 1995; Toscano 2004 (with extensive bibliography).