[northern Italy, c.1503]
398 x 275mm. i + 176 leaves with pencil foliation 1-177 including blank endleaf at beginning followed here: 12, 2-1110, 122, 13-1910, 202, vertical catchwords on final folios, apparently COMPLETE, 15 lines written in black ink in a round gothic bookhand between 2 verticals and 16 horizontals, Prefaces with fives lines of music of square notation on a four-line stave of red, rubrics in red with one-line calligraphic initials with lilac flourishing, other one-line calligraphic initials with red penwork flourishing, painted one-line initials and crosses against grounds of gold, 199 pages with two- or three-line illuminated initials with staves predominantly of blue and green foliate forms against gold grounds and with infills of red with flower-sprays of blue or yellow, or harpies, birds or masks, beside each illuminated initial an oval medallion of black with silver sprays, or birds, or grotesques and a text-height border made up of sprays of flowers with golden stems, an illuminated initial and panel border with historiated medallion and perching birds, TWENTY-FIVE HISTORIATED INITIALS IN COLOURS OR GRISAILLE WITH FULL-PAGE ALL'ANTICA BORDERS to introduce the introit for each Mass, FULL-PAGE MINIATURE OF THE NATIVITY (three very small pigment losses in the robe of the Virgin, small splash spots in upper left corner on f.4, slight cropping to border on f.27v, oxidisation of lions on coats of arms).


Fine early-17th-century Roman imitation of a French bookbinding la fanfare. Gold-tooled red morocco over thin beech boards, the covers richly decorated with fillets, gouges and borders formed of repetitions of small tools, the shaped compartments filled with leafy sprays, lions rampant, fleurons, roundels, dots and other small ornament, the central compartment left empty, flat spine similarly decorated (including a vase tool), double fillet along the board edges, elaborate silver clasps (marked FZ) and catches added later, leaf edges gilt (later paper tabs), early-19th-century French light-blue watered silk liners (short tear in foot of spine, corners slightly bumped, joints and other extremities rubbed). M.M. Foot, Henry Davis Gift I (1978) pl.VII.25.B, illustrates a Roman binding by the Rospigliosi atelier for a member of the Rossi family that shows a similar rampant lion; on the present binding this device (both left and right-facing version) is unlikely to be armorial as it does not appear in the centre compartment. G.D. Hobson, Les reliures la fanfare (1935) knew of six Roman imitations of fanfare bindings (his list 10B, nos 264-269), to which A.R.A. Hobson added two other examples in the second edition of 1970 (nos 264a and 265a). The Cornaro Missal binding is apparently unpublished.


1. Throughout the borders small text panels with the inscription IO.EPS.CAR. have been overpainted. It would appear that the decoration of the manuscript was undertaken for a Cardinal Bishop named Giovanni and that signs of his patronage were overpainted for a successor. Similarity with the pigments of the overpainting suggests that this took place when the Cornaro arms were supplied on folios 8 and 111. These are openings for the Feasts of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist but there is no sign of Cardinal Giovanni's arms having been completed and then either erased or overpainted, suggesting that at least the heraldic element of the illumination of the manuscript was incomplete when Cardinal Marco Cornaro acquired it. Cornaro's predecessor as Bishop of Verona was Cardinal Giovanni Michiel (1471-1503). Michiel was a 'clever, learned, good and devout man'. He he was also wealthy; it was in order to gain his material assets -- so it was rumoured -- that his poisoning was carried out at the command of the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI. Michiel lived long enough to make a testament in favour of the Cathedral of Verona: 'In morte quatuordecim aureoru[m] millia in aedificationem Cathedralis Ecclesiae Veronensis, et omnem fere preciosissiman supellectilem tum Patavinae, tum Veronensi Ecclesiis legavit': A. Ciaconi, Vitae, et res gestae pontificum romanorum et S.R.E. Cardinalum (Rome, 1677), vol.ii, cols 1113 & 1114.

2. Cardinal Marco Cornaro, Corner or Cornelia (1482-1524): coats of arms on folios 8 and 111 show Cornaro impaled by the Kingdom of Cyprus: per pale, dexter, quarterly, argent a cross potent quadrate between four plain crosslets, all or (Jerusalem); barry of eight argent and azure a lion rampant gules crowned or (Lusignan); or a lion rampant gules and on its shoulder a plain crosslet of the field (Armenia); argent a lion rampant gules (Cyprus); sinister, per pale or and azure (Cornaro). These were the arms of Caterina Cornaro who was adopted by the Venetian state on the negotiation of her marriage to James II King of Cyprus ('James the Bastard'). After his and their infant son's death Caterina ruled Cyprus as queen for 16 years until, with the assistance of her brother Giorgio, she was persuaded to relinquish her crown in favour of the Venetian republic. Once the Serenissima had acquired its toehold in the eastern Mediterranean Caterina was accorded honour, status and the fief of Asolo; her court there was immortalised by Bembo's Gli Asolani. She died in Venice in 1510. So prestigious was the connection that Caterina's coat of arms was adopted by members of her family and in this Missal they appear accompanied by a cardinal's hat. Two of her nephews became cardinals, Marco (1500) and Francesco (1527), and Ciaconi (op cit, vol.iii, col.200) shows Marco as having used this form of arms. The Missal made for Francesco when he was Bishop of Brescia, and illuminated by Jacopo di Antonio Giallo in 1538-9, is now in the Biblioteca Casanatense, Rome (Ms 458). Marco was confirmed as Bishop of Verona in 1503 and from 1505 undertook the restoration of the cathedral there, presumably benefitting from Cardinal Giovanni Michiel's bequest. It seems likely that the Missal was commissioned by one Cardinal Bishop -- Michiel -- and was completed for another -- Marco Cornaro -- for use in their cathedral. It may be that the truncated Roman theatre in the background of the Nativity is a reference to the surviving section of the Verona Arena.

3. J.J. de Bure l'ain, Parisian collector and dealer: his notes and inscription on verso of front flyleaf dated 21 November 1831

4. Baron Nathaniel von Rothschild (1836-1905): no 454, listed as in the Galerie of the palace at Theresianumgasse, in the February 1906 inventory of his possessions. Perhaps, as was apparently the case with the Rothschild Prayerbook, this manuscript had been owned by his father Anselm.

5. Baron Alphonse von Rothschild (1878-1942): he inherited Nathaniel's palace and, presumably, the manuscript along with it. It appeared in two subsequent inventories of the palace and these inventory numbers are recorded on a label at the upper corner of the lower cover (929) and in pencil (AR3392) on f.1. The manuscript remained in the palace until 1938 when it was appropriated by the Nazis.

6. Vienna, sterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Codex Vindobonensis Series Nova 2843 (restored to the Rothschild family in 1999).


Prayer said by Thomas Aquinas when he wanted to say Mass ff.2v-3v; Masses for principal feasts from Christmas to Trinity Sunday ff.4-63v; Prefaces and Canon of the Mass ff.64-105v; Masses for Feasts from Corpus Christi to Conception of the Virgin ff.106-145; Feast for Apostles from Common of Saints ff.145v-147; Masses of the Dead ff.147v-167; Votive Masses ff.167v-175v


THE RICH AND EXUBERANT ILLUMINATION OF THIS FINE MISSAL seems to be the work of a single, individualistic artist. He worked in a variety of manners. Some of the subjects in the historiated initials are half-length figures, others distant and small-scale narratives. Some are painted in full colour, others in grisaille, and some are in a monochrome technique with gold reminiscent of verre glomise. The iconographic sources are eclectic: the Annunciation, for example, appears Florentine and the Trinity of a type more commonly found north of the Alps; the Nativity is a reworking in Italian idiom of Schongauer (Lehrs 5). Nonetheless, whatever the scale, technique or source, all of the illumination reveals a similar and idiosyncratic handling. Brushstrokes are short, sometimes verging on the pointillist, and faces are drawn with sharp angular features and downward-curving brows that often suggest a neurotic anxiety. The larger the figure scale and the more pigment used, the more pointillist the application of paint. The illuminator employed an intense and vivid palette, at its simplest combining rich and saturated background hues with applied gold to construct opulent borders of sharply delineated renaissance forms. At his most involved, as on f.27v, he drew upon a wide decorative vocabulary. He included interlace with grotteschi, naturalistic flowers, small panels with gold-lettered text, jewels and cameos; and he combined them within an inventive and fantastic colour scheme. The background changes from purple to blue, and individual figures shade from purple to green. His enjoyment in juxtaposing strong, potentially discordant colours is not restricted to the decorative elements of the illumination; the wild, multi-coloured marbles that appear in floors and walls are a distinctive feature of this vibrant and arresting style.

Although the illuminator of this Missal is not immediately identifiable with any of the well known artists of the period, there are obvious analogies with the work of contemporaries from northern Italy. Comparisons can be made with the intensity of palette and decorative repertoire of Matteo da Milano, for example in the folios from the Breviary of Ercole I d'Este (Zagrabria, Strossmayerova galerija starih majstora, SGG 335). For the borders with grotteschi -- the fantastic classical decorations that became so fashionable from the end of the 15th century with the discovery and excavation of the Golden House of Nero -- an even closer similarity can be found in Fra Antonio da Monza's decoration in the Gradual made for Sta Maria in Aracoeli (J.Paul Getty Museum, Ludwig VI 3). Perhaps the most generic similarity is with the work of Girolamo da Cremona and other illuminators who were active in Venice and the Veneto during the 1470s and 80s in the decoration of printed books and manuscripts.

It is well established that many northern artists were drawn to Rome to undertake commissions for members of the Curia, and the two Cardinals responsible for this Missal are known to have spent part of each year there. Nonetheless, the quirky individuality of the illumination suggests that it may more likely have been made in the north, away from the major centres of production for ecclesiastical manuscripts. One odd detail of the decoration is the cameo medallion of a hooded head in the upper outer corner of the border on f.27v; it looks very much like a quotation from Bosch. It is known that at least five paintings by Bosch were in Venice by the 1520s.

Further observations seem relevant to the identification of this illuminator. Although the parchment and script appear thoroughly Italian, the flourish initials are of a type more usually found in Spanish manuscripts. In the initial of St James on f.125 one facet of the cliff behind the saint's head carries an informal inscription reading S.TIAGO, also suggesting that the illuminator was Spanish. The horseback satyr in the lower border of f.31v carries a standard with the inscription MORAN and on f.14v the individual letters M R A N and O are placed on coloured pendant disks in the outer and lower borders. All the other panels of text included in the borders either carried invocations of the Virgin, God and Christ, or the abbreviated title of Cardinal Bishop Giovanni; in contrast these letters have no obvious religious significance. It seems likely that they are the signature of the artist. In 1539, in Madrid, Pedro Morn wrote to Charles V complaining that he had served the queen for more than six years as scribe and illuminator 'con povo salario y mucho trabojo': J.D. Bordona, Exposicin de Cdices Miniados Espaoles, Madrid 1929, p.144. Perhaps the illuminator of the Cornaro Missal was an antecedant of Pedro. If so he seems likely to have been working in Italy. Whereas the colourful quirkiness of the illumination of the Missal could be accounted for by the artist's Spanish formation, such a thorough-going adoption of renaissance decorative vocabulary is unknown at this date in even the most flamboyant Spanish choirbook, the seven-volume Missal for Cardinal Jimnez de Cisneros made in Toledo between 1503 and 1518 (Madrid, Bibl. Nac.): J.D. Bordona, Die Spanische Buchmalerei vom Siebten bis Siebzehnten Jahrhundert (Florence/Munich 1930), pp.42-43, pls 149-150.


The sequence of Masses opens with a vast miniature (372 x 253mm) extending almost to the edge of the leaf, it shows:

f.4 Nativity with the Virgin adoring the Christ Child: the Virgin and Joseph are grouped with the ox and ass on a multi-coloured marble plinth beneath a gold baldachin decorated with flowers, cameos, grotteschi and other all'antica elements, the infant lies on the hem of the Virgin's mantle, a cave-mouth opens behind the Holy Family and three shepherds pay homage on the left, beyond a stream, in the middle distance a further shepherd looks up towards one of the five angels in the sky, in the distance the turrets of a town, a Roman amphitheatre and a seascape, the introit Puer nat[us] est nob[is] in gold letters at the foot of the folio against a ground of blue, on the verso a panel border the height of the text with flowers against a ground of gold and with a medallion with a half-length penitent

Apart from the miniature the illustration of the manuscript comprises the historiated initials that introduce the introit of each mass, the subjects of the initials and the type of border accompanying them are as follows:

f.8 John the Evangelist: in half-length in full colour, accompanied by a border of blue with gold all'antica decoration, in the lower margin the arms of Cardinal Marco Cornaro

f.12 Nativity: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of blue with gold all'antica decoration

f.14v Adoration of the Magi: in full colour, accompanied by a border of gold with coloured grotteschi

f.23v Presentation in the Temple: in full colour, accompanied by a border of blue with coloured grotteschi and gold foliage

f.27v Foliate initial with violets, accompanied by a richly coloured border of fantastic renaissance forms, jewels, cameos and two roundels in full colour, at the top God the Father blessing and in the lower border the Annunciation, all within an interlace of gold infilled with blue speckling and against a purple and magenta speckled ground

f.31v Last supper: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of blue with gold all'antica forms

f.43v Resurrection: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of green with gold all'antica forms

f.47 Christ appearing to the Apostles: accompanied by a border of red with gold all'antica forms and a hanging jewel

f.52 Ascension: in grisaille, the apostles watching Christ's feet ascend, accompanied by a border of blue with gold all'antica forms

f.56 Pentecost: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of blue with gold sworling foliage

f.61 Trinity: in grisaille, a 'Gnadenstuhl' Trinity, accompanied by a border of green with gold grotteschi and foliage

f.90 Initial T of all'antica forms in gold against a ground of red, accompanied by a border of blue with gold grotteschi

f.106 Papal procession with monstrance: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of green with gold grotteschi

f.111 Birth of the Baptist: in full colour, accompanied by a border with divided grounds of green, red and blue with gold all'antica forms, marginal shading of purple hatching and a roundel with the arms of Cardinal Marco Cornaro supported by two putti

f.114 Visitation: in full colour, accompanied by a border of lilac-blue with acanthus leaves of bright blue and lime green, harpies and masks

f.117v Sts Peter and Paul: in half-length in full colour, accompanied by a border of black with all'antica forms

f.121 St Paul: in half-length in full colour, accompanied by a border of black with all'antica forms

f.125 St James: in half-length in full colour, accompanied by a border with green foliage, yellow flowers and gold sprays curling up from a bowl in the lower margin containing a creature half-bird and half-boy

f.127v Transfiguration: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of red with gold all'antica forms

f.131 Assumption of the Virgin: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of red with gold all'antica forms

f.134 Birth of the Virgin: in grisaille, accompanied by a border with divided grounds of blue, red and green with gold grotteschi

f.138 Coronation of the Virgin: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of red with gold all'antica forms

f.142 Meeting at the Golden Gate: in grisaille, accompanied by a border of red with gold all'antica forms

f.145v Two Apostles: in half-length in full colour, accompanied by a border in black with gold all'antica forms

f.147v Mass of the Dead: in full colour, to the left an open chapel with a priest before an altar and altarpiece with figures of the Virgin and Christ as the Man of Sorrows; to the right the Raising of the Dead, with the sky riven by lightning and hail, spectral figures emerging from a dark cavern and a gondola carrying two wraiths across a lake, a memorial stone in the foreground, accompanied by a border with grey, gold and green foliage and blue and purple flowers against a black ground


Abendlaendische Buchmalerei, exh. cat. Vienna, NB 1952, p.59, no 152
Rothschild inv. no. AR3392.
1934 Theresianumgasse Inventory, p. 119, no. 929(?).

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