THE GREAT HOURS OF GALEAZZO MARIA SFORZA, DUKE OF MILAN, use of Rome, in Latin and Italian, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
350 x 240mm. i + 241 leaves: 1-228, 232, 24-308, 317 (of 8 final blank cancelled), COMPLETE, with horizontal catchwords and original alphabetical signatures on gatherings 1-24 running from a-aa and on gatherings 25-30 from a-f, later binder's signatures show that gathering 31 was once bound as the first in the volume, modern pencil foliation 1-242 followed here, 30 lines written in an elegant humanistic script in brown ink with text rubrics in pink, justification: 215 x 135mm, principal rubrics in large capitals of burnished gold, one-line initials alternately of blue and burnished gold respectively flourished gold and violet, two-line ILLUMINATED INITIALS THROUGHOUT of burnished gold on grounds and infills of blue, red and green with white penwork decoration, ALMOST ONE HUNDRED LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS, mostly five lines high painted in pink on grounds of burnished gold with a flower-spray infill, three with CROWNED PROFILE HEADS (ff.61, 70v, 73v), SMALL HISTORIATED INITIAL with part-border, FIVE SPLENDID TITLE-PAGES WITH GOLDEN DISPLAY SCRIPT, HISTORIATED INITIALS AND INHABITED BORDERS WITH EMBLEMS AND HERALDRY (oxidisation and offsetting to silver and lead white, a few outer lower corners thumbed, crease on f.234, a few inconsequential marks, central bifolium of final gathering detached). 18th-century Italian red morocco gilt, spine in compartments gilt, red silk markers (hinges split, scuffing and minor losses of leather). Blue solander box.
A SUMPTUOUS DISPLAY OF THE MAGNIFICENCE OF A RENAISSANCE PRINCE
1. Written and illuminated for Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444-1476), Count of Pavia and Duke of Milan. His emblems and the ducal arms of Milan flanked by the monogram GZ MA or G M are included in the illumination of the five most extensively decorated pages: E. Pellegrin, La Bibliothèque des Visconti et des Sforza Ducs de Milan au XVe siècle, 1955, pp.62-64 and Supplément, 1965, pp.3-46 and this manuscript pp.56-57 and pl.172. Galeazzo Maria was the eldest son of Francesco Sforza, the condottiere who having served Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, married his illegitimate daughter Bianca Maria and ultimately gained his duchy. To lend visual authority to their tenure of the duchy the Sforza adopted the quartered arms and some of the emblems of their legitimate predecessors. These include the dove against a rayed sun with the motto a buon droyt (ff.2, 90), the branches with hanging pails (f.46), the tied cloth (f.188), and helmed beast lying in flames (ff.2, 90, 137v, 188); the motto ICH HOF on the beast's helmet is Galeazzo Maria's own addition.
Galeazzo succeeded his father in 1466 and was assassinated in 1476. Since the manuscript shows his ducal arms, as well as his arms as Count of Pavia, it must have been produced during this period. The date can be further narrowed down because Pope Sixtus is named on f.220v and Sixtus IV was not elected until 1471.
2. In 1885 described by the Marquis d'Adda as in the possession of the Frankfurt dealer Adolf Hamburger: G. d'Adda & G. Mongeri, 'L'Arte del minio nel ducato di Milano', Archivio Storico Lombardo, xii, 1885, p.354.
3. Rushton M. Dorman, of Chicago: his sale, Leavitt, 5 April 1886, p.10. According to Dorman the manuscript had passed to the Aragonese royal library in Naples and was acquired from there by Cardinal Salviati, perhaps Giovanni, nephew of Leo X, and then to his heir, the marchese of Tocca, Naples. There is a paper label numbered XX at the foot of the spine and the remains of blue and white labels at the foot of the lower cover and inside the upper cover.
4. William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919), first Viscount Astor, author of the gothic romance Sforza, ms A.6 (paper label); Astor Deposit at the Bodleian Library; Astor sale, Sotheby's 21 June 1988, lot 58.
Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome, ff.2-178, arranged by liturgical season and days of the week; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.180-186; matins and lauds of the Divine Office for Holy Week, followed by masses for Good Friday and Easter Saturday ff.188-235v; final section with general confession, psalms and prayers, the letter from Christ delivered by Thaddeus to Abgar, further prayers, general confession and prayers ff.236-242v. Contact the Department for further detail.
The excesses of Galeazzo Maria's quixotic tyranny were more than matched by his taste for splendour and display and this is spectacularly represented by the scale and impact of the present manuscript. It is of exceptional format for an Hours -- its leaves almost equal in size to those of the Grandes Heures of the Duc de Berry -- each bifolium requiring an entire goatskin. The text is luxuriously spaced and is written in an elegant humanistic hand with each section introduced by large sparkling golden capitals. It is a manuscript entirely appropriate for the renaissance prince so emphatically identified in the illumination, where the owner's arms and emblems are given so much more weight than the religious narratives in the initials.
The extensive content of the manuscript is as imposing as its appearance. An eloquent presentation of piety, it is more fitting for use by a cleric than a lay patron, and the masses for Easter Week include instructions for the celebrant. It has been suggested that it was for use in a ducal chapel.
Twenty-two manuscripts have been recognised as by this scribe, thirteen of them, mostly classical texts, written for Galeazzo Maria: A.C. de la Mare, 'Script and manuscripts in Milan under the Sforzas', Milano nell'età di Ludovico il moro, Atti del convegno internazionale, 1983, pp.399-408.
Just one gathering, ff.236-242, appears to be the work of a different hand. A binder's mark shows that it was once at the beginning of the volume but it does not belong to the sequence of signed gatherings. It contains a selection of miscellaneous devotions that are altogether more individual and more individualised than the main body of the text: Galeazzo Maria 'mihi famulo tuo' is named in prayers on ff.237v and 240v. Most of the rubrics and some of the devotions -- for example the beginning of the letter Christ wrote to Abgar -- are in Italian rather than the Latin of the remainder of the book and it looks to be the part intended for Galeazzo Maria's own use. Uniquely in the manuscript there have been two changes to the text. On f.236 in the general confession, 'Confiteor deo...', in both listings of saints, St Catherine of Alexandria has been amended to St Catherine of Siena and vice versa so that the latter, unusually, has precedence over the former.
The illumination is as elegant and polished as every other element of this truly princely and impressive manuscript. It is the work of an artist active in Milan from around 1445-75 who is known as the Ippolita Master from the manuscripts he illuminated for Galeazzo Maria's sister on the occasion of her marriage to Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Calabria in 1465: T. de Marinis, La biblioteca dei rei d'Aragona, 1947, pp.173 & 177, and 1952, p.98; G. Toscano, 'Livres et lectures de deux princesses de la cour d'Aragon de Naples' in Livres et lectures de femmes en Europe entre moyen âge et renaissance, eds A.-M. Legaré and B. Schnerb, 2007, pp.298-310; for the artist and bibliography see G. Zanichelli in Dizionario biografico dei miniatori italiani, ed. M. Bollati, 2004, pp.686-690. It was Francesco Sforza who had first commissioned manuscripts for Ippolita and Galeazzo Maria from this illuminator. Several of them were recorded in the 1469 inventory of the renowned library of the Castello di Pavia and, following the capture of the city by the French in 1499, Louis XII had them transferred to Blois: F. Avril, Dix siècles d'enluminure italienne, 1984, nos 133-136. The Master's style, perfectly exemplified in the present manuscript was consistent throughout his career: colourful and highly finished, with fluid curvilinear forms it shows a greater concern with decorative effect and charm than with naturalism. Mingling the influence of the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum and Michelino da Besozzo, the Ippolita Master continued the features that from the very beginning had characterised luxury manuscripts produced for the Visconti court.
The opening folio has a full-page border with varied exotic blooms and green and golden leaves on hair-line tendrils, four angels, four heraldic devices or arms, and small flying birds. Four other large historiated initials have borders on three sides with a central coat of arms or device on each side flanked by foliage. The smaller initial on f.180 has foliate sprays into the margin.
The subjects of the historiated initials are as follows: f.2 Annunciation; f.46 Virgin adoring the Christ Child; f.90 Annunciation; f.137v Virgin and Child enthroned; f.180 King David; f.188 God appearing to King David.