CEREMONIAL, for use of the Augustinian nuns of S. Monaca in Florence, in Latin and Italian. ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM. [Florence], 22 April 1543.
200 x 130 mm. i+44+ii leaves: 1-58 64, COMPLETE. Early foliation in arabic numerals in upper right corners of rectos; modern pencilled foliation (used here) includes front flyleaf. 16 lines written in red and black ink in humanistic bookhand between two vertical lines and 32 horizontal lines ruled in lead, justification: 125 x 75 mm. 17 pages with one to five musical staves of four red lines with square black neumes. Numerous one and two-line initials in liquid gold on square grounds of blue, green or red, the two-line initials with liquid gold tracery filling the ground, two initials with partial borders consisting of classical sprays of foliage and buds surrounded by liquid gold disks, f. 2r with a similar three-sided border incorporating a roundel with a small miniature of St. Monica, small picture of St. Monica by a different hand on f. 44r, three-quarter page drawing of St. Augustine with miter, crozier and book on f. 40r, full-page frontispiece miniature on verso of front flyleaf depicting four nuns kneeling before St. Monica seated on a throne and holding a book and scroll of profession. (Scaling of ink on a few flesh sides with occasional early retracing of letters, minor smudges to two or three initials, a few tiny losses to frontispiece miniature, small abrasion to f. 17v, slight offset from turn-ins of binding to blank first and last leaves.)
Binding: 16th-century Italian brown goatskin tooled to a double frame with blind fillets and two gilt rolls, the central compartment with quarter-circle ornamental gilt cornerpieces, each cover with a central YHS medallion surrounded by knot-work and flanked by the initials S and F, gilt edges (minor wear to extremities, discreet repairs to head and tail of spine, evidence of four clasps now removed).
Provenance: written and illuminated by Bernardino Spina of Perugia and completed on 22 April 1543: colophon, f. 40r (Finisce questo libro scritto et miniato per mano di me Maestro Bernardino Spina da Perugia. Anno domini M.ccccc.xliij. die xxij. aprilis) -- Florence, nuns of S. Monaca of the order of Augustinian Hermits: title, f. 2r -- initials "SF" stamped on binding, perhaps a later addition -- "Ex Bibliotheca Soesst(?)": 18th-century engraved armorial bookplate -- Edward Davenport: bookplate -- W. Bromley-Davenport: sale, London, 10 May 1907, lot 242 -- [Sotheby's London, 14 April 1924, lot 168, to Mme. Belin] -- [Belin, cat. 367 (15 May 1927) no. 242] -- Mortimer L. Schiff, by descent to -- John M. Schiff: DeRicci, p. 1817 -- "HP": collector's red inkstamp on flyleaf -- [Hauswedell & Nolte, 26 May 1972, lot 1720]
Contents: frontispiece (f. 1v, 1r blank); rite for the clothing and reception of a nun: Ordo inducendi moniales divae Monicae Florentiae ordinis heremitarum sancti Augustini (ff. 2r-10v); rite for the consecration of a virgin: Modus consecrandi moniales divae Monicae Florentiae ordinis Eremitarum sancti Augustini (ff. 10v-35v); rite for the installation of an abbess: Ordo ad confirmandum abbatissam (ff. 36r-40r); short rite of profession, perhaps for lay sisters, with liturgical texts in Latin and rubrics in Italian, in another hand (ff. 40v-44r, 44v-45v blank).
The convent of Augustinian Hermitesses of S. Monaca in Florence was founded in 1442 and suppressed in 1808. During the early part of its history, the convent was under the protection of S. Spirito, the neighboring monastery of Augustinian hermits, who relinquished this responsibility to the archbishop of Florence in 1602. The convent flourished throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, numbering 112 sisters in 1562. In 1623 its high standard of observance was praised by Suor Maria Celeste, Poor Clare of San Matteo in Arcetri and Galileo's daughter (Dava Sobel, Galileo's Daughter, New York 1999, p. 130).
The present manuscript, containing the rites for admitting nuns and installing the abbess of S. Monaca, would have been one of the most treasured documents of the convent. The regard in which the book was held is attested by the care with which it was written and decorated and by its excellent state of preservation, despite use -- careful corrections in the text show that the rites were spoken. It also served as a repository of images reflecting the devotion of the nuns and perhaps also their actual artistic patrimony.
Bernardino Spina da Perugia, who indicated in the colophon that he wrote and illuminated the manuscript, was undoubtedly responsible for the text on ff. 2r-40r, together with the initials on these leaves, the three borders (ff. 2r, 10v, 36r), and the roundel depicting St. Monica in the lower border on f. 2r. This scribe and illuminator is perhaps to be identified with Bernardino di Giovanni di Ser Bartolo da Perugia, who was active in Florence from 1524 to 1550. He is said to have illuminated manuscripts and documents which included choir books for the cathedral of Perugia and a lectionary for the church of S. Lorenzo in Florence. In addition, he taught writing at the Badia and is named in records from that monastery. It is not known whether this man was the same person as Bernardino di Giovanni Spina, who joined the Compagnia di S. Paolo in 1547 and died in 1568. (M. Levi d'Ancona, Miniatura e miniatori a Firenze dal XIV al XVI secolo, Florence 1962, pp. 70-72).
The frontispiece to the manuscript, which depicts St. Monica enthroned, giving the rule to her nuns, is a simplified copy of an altarpiece with the same theme attributed to Francesco Botticini and preserved in the chapel of St. Monica in the church of S. Spirito. It is usually assumed that this altarpiece was painted to replace one lost in the fire which destroyed the church of S. Spirito in 1470. Its presence in the monastery's new church designed by Brunelleschi can be traced in the documents from 1598 on. Certainly the chapel of St. Monica at S. Spirito reflected in some way the association of that monastery with the convent of S. Monaca. It has also been suggested that the altarpiece may have been painted for the nuns' church and later transferred to S. Spirito, perhaps in connection with a redecoration of S. Monaca undertaken by Giovanni Butteri in 1583. In any case, at some time in the later 16th or early 17th century, this rendering of the altarpiece was carefully added to the verso of the flyleaf of the Ceremonial, where it forms an appropriate frontispiece to the rites of profession.
The drawing of St. Augustine on f. 40r also reflects the close relationship between the communities of S. Monaca and S. Spirito. It is modelled on a fresco of St. Augustine outside the refectory at S. Spirito; this is attributed to Bernardino Poccetti and dated between 1606, when the refectory was completed, and 1612, the date of the artist's death (cf. C.A. Luchinat, La chiesa e il convento di Santo Spirito a Firenze, Florence 1996). The small miniature of St. Monica added at the end of the codex on f. 44r shows that the manuscript was still treasured in the late 18th century.
The subjects of the illuminations are:
f. 1v St. Monica giving the rule to her nuns (miniature of the late 16th or 17th century after a 15th-century altarpiece by Francesco Botticini, now in the chapel of St. Monica at S. Spirito)
f. 2r St. Monica (roundel in margin by Bernardino Spina da Perugia)
f. 40r St. Augustine (17th-century copy of an early 17th-century fresco by Bernardino Poccetti at S. Spirito)
f. 44r St. Monica (late 18th-century miniature)