BIBLE with the Prologues attributed to St Jerome and the Interpretation of Hebrew names, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Naples, third quarter of the 13th century and Milan, mid-15th century]
Illuminated by the Maître de la Bible de Manfred et le Maître d'Ippoliton.
200 x 130mm. 411 leaves: 16(of 12, lacking i, iii, iv, ix, x and xii), 2-812, 910(of 12, lacking iv and ix), 10-1312, 1411, 15-1610, 174, 188(of 12, lacking i, ii, xi and xii), 19-3312, 3411(of 12, xii cancelled blank), 3511(of 12, lacking i), 3610, 378(of 10, ix and x cancelled blanks), modern pencil foliation followed here, catchwords at lower edge of final versos, two columns of 52 lines written in black ink in a small gothic bookhand between four verticals and 53 horizontals ruled in plummet, justification: 120 x 82mm, an additional pair of horizontals for running headings; gatherings 15-17: 49 lines written in brown ink in a small round gothic bookhand between four scored verticals and 50 horizontals ruled in pale brown, justification: 120 x 82mm, rubrics in red, versal initials touched red, versal initials in the Psalter, letters of running headings and chapter numbers alternately of red or blue, chapter and prologue initials alternately of red or blue with extensive flourishing of the contrasting colour, guide letters for chapter numbers and initials in central gutter, SIXTY-NINE ILLUMINATED INITIALS, many including dragons and several with birds or other beasts, all painted in rich greens, blues, pink and yellow, and EIGHT HISTORIATED INTIALS of the same forms and colours but with burnished gold grounds (first folio rubbed causing some loss of ink, a few folios with repaired marginal cuts, dampstaining at the very edge of most upper margins, small stains in lower third of ff.100v and 101, initial smudged on f.279v). ITALIAN 15TH-CENTURY CRIMSON VELVET CLOTH OF GOLD OVER WOODEN BOARDS, edges gilt and painted to a diaper pattern (worn and restored, lacking bosses and clasps). Red morocco box.
AN EXCEPTIONAL ITALIAN BIBLE ILLUMINATED BY TWO COURT ARTISTS
1. The manuscript is the work of the illuminator who decorated a Bible in the Vatican (Ms Vat.lat.36), which has a scribal dedication revealing that it was made between 1250 and 1258 for Manfred, son of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily. This illuminator, known therefore as the Master of the Bible of Manfred, is believed to have had an atelier in Naples whose principal patrons were the imperial court. The flourish initials of the present manuscript can be related to those in another Bible, also attributable to this atelier (Paris, BnF, Ms lat.40), that have been identified as by the same illuminator as those in the most celebrated manuscript made for Manfred, his copy of Frederick II's treatise De venandi cum avibus (Vatican, Ms Pal.lat.1071): F. Avril, Dix siècles d'enluminure italienne (1984), pp.53-54.
2. The book of Psalms was supplied in the middle of the 15th century. It may have been the case that the manuscript was originally copied without the Psalter - as so many contemporary English Bibles were - or, that by that date it was so heavily used that it seemed necessary to replace it. The replacement section, written in an elegant round script, opens with an initial of David harping painted by the Ippolita Master. This illuminator is named after the manuscripts he decorated for Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, and his wife Bianca Maria Visconti to present to their daughter Ippolita on her marriage in 1465 to Alfonso of Calabria, son and heir of Ferrante I of Aragon, King of Naples. Perhaps the alliance between the houses of Naples and of Milan was the direct means of joining the work of an illuminator patronised by a prince in southern Italy in the 13th century with that of an illuminator patronised by princes in northern Italy two centuries later.
The inclusion of the new Book of Psalms necessitated the rebinding of the manuscript. It was provided with an appropriately luxurious binding: velvet cloth of gold with metal bosses, corner pieces and clasps, and the page edges were painted with a decorative latticed pattern. The metalwork no longer survives, it seems likely that it was precious, certainly the remaining textile was the most costly fabric of its time. This type of cloth of gold of alluciolato effect - where the areas of velvet are sprinkled with gold loops and the pomegranate design is formed of massed bouclé wefts of gold thread - was first manufactured in the 1430s. Its use here reflects both the status of the owner of the manuscript and the high regard in which the book was held.
3. Michele Cavaleri, lawyer and collector: stamp 'Museo Cavaleri' in lower margin of folio 1. Michelle Cavaleri built up an enormous collection of antiquities, paintings, prints, drawings, manuscripts and printed books. When he tried to sell to the city of Milan in the early 1870s, their assessors said that the library was too large to catalogue. His collection numbered 63,296 objects, with 2,809 miniatures, aparently counting those within books as well as cuttings. He gave an account of his collecting and of the failure of the negotiations in his book Il Museo Cavaleri e il Municipio di Milano, 1875. See also lot 57.
4. Enrico Cernuschi (1821-1896), republican hero of the Risorgimento, theoretical economist, financier and founder of the Musée Cernuschi in Paris: Cernuschi, as an act of charity to the increasingly desperate Cavaleri, intervened when negotiations with Milan had broken down and bought the entire collection unseen. Presumably this manuscript was included. His heirs broke up the collection that he had kept intact, and many manuscripts were sold by Hierseman of Leizpig in 1897. This piecemeal dispersal meant that Cavaleri's extraordinary collection has received little attention.
5. Wilfred Merton (1889-1957): bookplate inside upper cover and 'William Merton/Richmond Surrey Ms 8' written on front endleaf
6. Martin Breslauer bought Merton's collection and it was sold in catalogues 90 (1958) and 92 (1960).
Vulgate Bible with the customary Prologues ff.1- 382: lacking folios with Chapters i-vii of the Prologue (with illuminated initial), the end of the Prologue to Genesis and Chapters i-vii, xxv-xxx and xxxiii-xxxvi of Genesis (with illuminated initial), Chapters xi-xii of Kings III, the end of the final Chapter of Kings III and Chapter i and part of Chapter ii of Kings IV (with illuminated initial), Prologue and Chapters i-viii of Proverbs (with illuminated initial), Canticles from vii to the end, Wisdom i-viii (with illuminated initial); Interpretation of Hebrew names lacking opening folio, ff.383-411v
The svelte and arresting initials can be attributed to the Master of the Bible of Manfred himself. Whereas a number of Bibles have been recognised as associated stylistically with Manfred's Bible, and as having been produced in Naples in the third quarter of the 13th century, all but one of the published manuscripts are thought to have been workshop productions rather than being painted entirely by the Master's own hand. The exception is a Bible in Paris that is remarkably similar to the present manuscript (BnF, Ms lat.10428): H. Toubert, 'Influences gothiques sur l'art frédéricien: le maître de la Bible de Manfred et son atelier', Federico II e l'arte del duecento italiano. Atti della III settimana di studi di storia dell'arte medievale del'università di Roma, ii (1980), pp.59-76. Latin 10428 and the present manuscript are closely comparable in size, format and decorative scheme - some compositions are clearly based on the same design - the same menagerie of birds and beasts frequent the staves and terminals of the initials, and the decorative vocabulary is common to both. The dynamic and dramatic contouring of forms and figures in both manuscripts is evidently that of a single artist. The only difference in approach is in the range of hues used. The initials of the present manuscript are less subdued in tonality; richer or brighter hues are employed in sumptuous combination. In this it seems closer to the Bible of Manfred itself and should perhaps therefore be regarded as having been painted closer in date to that manuscript than to the Parisian Bible.
These saturated and bright tones add even further appeal to the taut and fluid designs. It is clear that the remarkable quality and character of this work was recognised by the subsequent Lombard illuminator. When he came to paint initials in the Book of Psalms the Ippolita Master modified his usual decorative types and palette and set out to emulate both the forms and shades of his dugento predecessor. The technical excellence of both illuminators has resulted in their work surviving in immaculate condition.
The subjects of the historiated initials are as follows:
f.151 Job on the dunghill (Book of Job)
f.160 David harping (Book of Psalms)
f.208 Sawing of Isaiah (Book of Isaiah)
f.301v Angel, symbol of the Evangelist Matthew, writing (Gospel of Matthew)
f.312 Lion, symbol of the Evangelist Mark (Gospel of Mark)
f.319 Ox, symbol of the Evangelist Luke (Gospel of Luke)
f.330v Eagle, symbol of the Evangelist John (Gospel of John)
f.339 St Paul holding a sword and declaiming (Epistles of Paul to the Romans)
The illuminated initials are on folios 1v, 11, 23, 31, 42v, 53v, 60v, 68v, 70, 80v, 89, 107v, 116, 131, 135, 140, 143, 163v, 165v, 168, 170, 173, 175v, 178, 188v, 191, 195, 223, 241, 242v, 244v, 260v, 267 v, 270, 271, 273, 273v, 274, 275v, 277, 277v, 278v, 279v, 282v, 283, 294, 318v, 343, 347, 350, 351, 352v, 353v, 354v, 355v (2), 357, 357v, 358, 358v, 361v, 372v, 373v, 374v, 375v, 376v (3), 377