Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374); Workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (illuminator)
Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374); Workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (illuminator)
Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374); Workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (illuminator)
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Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374); Workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (illuminator)
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Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374); Workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (illuminator)

Canzoniere and Trionfi, with Leonardo Bruni's Life of Petrarch, in Italian, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Florence, c.1470s]

Details
Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374); Workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (illuminator)
Canzoniere and Trionfi, with Leonardo Bruni's Life of Petrarch, in Italian, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Florence, c.1470s]
A rare appearance on the market of a complete, illuminated Florentine humanist manuscript of the works of one of the great figures of Italian literature and founding father of Renaissance humanism, Petrarch, part of a closely-related group of manuscripts produced in the workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico.

173 x 105 mm, 193 leaves, apparently complete, collation: 17(of 8, lacking viii, a cancelled blank), 28, 3-1910, 208, modern foliation in pencil followed here, 30 lines in a cursive humanist script, written space: 123 x 50mm, catchwords survive, rubrics in red, initials in blue, titles for each of theTrionfi in gold, one miniature within full Renaissance inhabited border with coat of arms, putti, animals and portraits of Laura and Petrarch, 7 historiated initials with inhabited floral borders, two other leaves with illuminated initials and partial borders on ff. 1 and 114, (the opening leaves stained and faded, especially at the beginning, marginal dampstaining throughout, upper right edge lacking and repaired throughout, from ff.175 to the end stain to lower edge and restored losses, final leaf of the text stained and faded). 19th-century painted vellum with arabesques and floral motifs, the spine with portrait of ?Laura (rubbed and scuffed). Mid-19th-century brown leather Rococo style fitted box gilt, with title 'Petrarca – Rime varie' (edges scuffed).

Provenance:
(1) A coat of arms appears in the bas-de-page of the opening page of the Canzoniere, argent with gold seeds, but this is likely decorative rather than an actual mark of ownership. An early erased ownership inscription appears in the margin of f.97: 'Questo libro e di gi[ovanni?]', with another erased inscription in the upper margin of the same leaf.

(2) In Spain certainly by the date the manuscript was rebound: the flyleaves and pastedowns are from a Spanish document, likely a Carta Executoria, mentioning Casas de Reina, in the province of Bajadoz, and the family of Monresin.

(3) Private French collection.

Content: Alphabetical index ff.1-7v; Leonardo Bruni, Life of Petrarch, beginning: 'Francesco Petrarcha huomo di grande ingegno [...]', ff.8-14; Petrarch's description of Laura, in Latin, beginning 'Laura propriis virtutibus illustris', and in Italian, beginning 'Laura di proprie virtu illustre', ff.14-15v; Canzoniere (or 'Rerum vulgarium fragmenta'), I-CCCLXVII, the incipit: 'Francisci Petrarce poetae clarissimi sonectorum et cantilenarum liber foeliciter incipit'), the text beginning: 'Voi ch’ascoltate in rime isparse / il sono di quei sospiri / ondio nudriva ’l core' ff.16-155v; Trionfi ff.156-192v.

The notion of gathering his lyric poetry into a well ordered book - the Canzoniere - occurred to Petrarch at an early age, and periodically throughout his lifetime he appears to have released the book to the public or selected friends in the form of completed manuscript editions. In later arrangements of the collection, including the final version known from the partly autograph manuscript that Petrarch was modifying until the year of his death (Vatican City, BAV, Vat.Lat.3195), the verses were divided into two parts, those written during Laura's lifetime, 'in vita', and those after her death, 'in morte'. The division here is marked with an illuminated initial on f.114, the rubric 'Incipit vita nova eiudem Petrarce' [sic] opening CCLXIIII ‘Io vo pensando, e nel penser m'assale’.

The Trionfi, once again written over an extended period that continued until the poet's death, had enormous popularity in the 15th century. It was composed in the form of a vision where allegorical figures, accompanied by appropriate characters from history, mythology and the Bible, succeed one another from the initial triumph of Love over the human heart until the final triumph of Eternity over Time. Laura, and Petrarch's love for her, are once more central themes and it is through her that the poet has hopes of attaining his ultimate salvation and thus the chance of seeing her again.

Petrarch's own description of Laura, here in Italian as well as Latin, is for many the most convincing refutation of the suggestion that Laura existed only as a literary conceit. These touching lines ostensibly recall Petrarch's first sighting of his beloved: 'Laura, illustrious through her own virtues and long famed through my verses', in St Clare in Avignon on 6 April 1327, her death on the same day in 1348, and the circumstances in which he learned the sad news. These lines are one of the autograph personal records that he added to one of his most valued manuscripts, the Virgil with the Commentary of Servius (Milan, Bibl. Ambrosiana, A 49 inf.). He placed the note regarding Laura to precede the illuminated frontispiece by Simone Martini that he had had added to the book. We learn from the Canzoniere that Simone had painted a portrait of Laura.

Illumination:
The illustration of the opening of Petrarch's Canzoniere with the Ovidian scene of Apollo's 'erotic pursuit' of Daphne is part of an iconographic scheme that recurs in several richly illuminated 15th-century copies of the author's work. This scheme was established by Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (1433-1484), the preferred illuminator of the greatest institutional and private patrons of Florence from the 1450s until his death in 1484. We can now add the present manuscript to the list of 8 Petrarch manuscripts illuminated by del Chierico and his workshop described in L. Signorello, 'L'iconografia Ovidiana di Apollo e Dafne nella decorazione di Francesco Di Antonio Del Chierico per i Rerum vulgarium fragmenta', Petrarchesca, 8 (2020), pp.101-119. These are: Boston, Boston Public Library, ms. q Med. 130; two in Rome, Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, ms. Chigi L iv 114 and Biblioteca Casanatense, ms. 24; Lisbon, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, ms. LA 129; Milan, Biblioteca Trivulziana, ms. 905; Oxford, Bodleian Library, ms. Canonici Italian 62; Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, ms. It. ix, 431 (= 6206); and Turin, Biblioteca Reale di Torino, ms. Varia 104. Almost all of these compositions show, as in the present manuscript, Apollo with his arms raised or outstretched, his back foot lifting off the ground, chasing Daphne, who sometimes looking ahead, sometimes back, dressed in flowing robes and in mid-transformation. All of the miniatures are simply framed in gold. Two of the manuscripts (Casanatense ms.24 and Turin, ms. Varia 104) have Apollo wearing winged boots, as in the present manuscript, and a similar historiated initial 'V', with the poet against a dark blue background infilled with white tracery. Furthermore, both these manuscripts and the present copy appear to have been written by the same scribe.

Other Florentine artists embraced del Chierico's Petrarchan iconographic programme: among these, the prolific illuminator Ser Ricciardo di Nanni, a priest who lived at Castelfiorentino from around 1430 to 1480 and whose work as an illuminator is documented from 1449, and who was particularly favoured for the illustration of classical texts by Piero and Giovanni de' Medici. We see a similar scene in two Petrarch manuscripts illuminated by Ser Ricciardo, the first of which is in Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, vit. 22.4 and the second was in the Speck Collection, previously with Heribert Tenschert, Leuchtendes Mittelalter, XXI, 1989, no 27. The latter is particularly similar in format and style to our copy, especially in the lively bezant-filled borders, inhabited by putti, Renaissance masks, flowers and arabesques. Both differ from del Chierico's compositions in their representation of a fully winged Apollo.

The miniature on f.16 depicts Apollo pursuing Daphne, who is beginning to turn into a laurel tree.
The historiated initials are on ff.8, 156, 168, 171v, 177v, 187v, and 190.

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Julian Wilson
Julian Wilson Senior Specialist, Books, Maps & Manuscripts

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