GIURAMENTO DI NICCOLO DONATO, in Italian, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
225 x 162mm. i + 70 + i leaves: 12 (not conjoint), 2-710, 810 (x cancelled blank replaced with modern parchment flyleaf), COMPLETE, original foliation in arabic numerals on ff.2-64, 23 lines written in brown ink in a cursive hand between 2 verticals and 24 horizontals frame-ruled in pale brown ink, text justification: 158 x 98mm, rubrics in red, title and chapter initials in gold capitals, FULL-PAGE ILLUMINATED MINIATURE and ILLUMINATED ARMORIAL FRONTISPIECE (some smudging to lower quarter of the background of the miniature). 19th-century English panelled brown morocco gilt and ruled and stamped in blind, central medallion with the lion of St Mark (corners, joints and raised bands rubbed).
1. Niccolò Donà (Donati, Donato): the Donà are one of the oldest and most distinguished of Venetian families. There have been several eminent members named Niccolò but the recipient of this manuscript seems certain to have been the son of Giambattista di Andrea, and brother of the Leonardo who became Doge in 1606. Niccolò (1542-1614) had a long and successful career in the service of the Venetian state, especially in connection with the city's maritime involvements both commercial and military. He had earned his reputation as a courageous leader and expert commander in action against the Turks and the Uskoks, the pirates that preyed on trade in the Adriatic. He had held many public appointments when in 1597(n.s.) he was appointed consigliere for the first time.
2. Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843): his bookplate inside upper cover
Giuramento di Nicolo Donati ff.1v-64; index ff.65-69v
This is a formal copy of the oath of Niccolò Donà accepting his responsibilities on appointment as consigliere for San Polo alli Santi Evangeli di Dio in Venice. The sestiere of San Polo was one of the six wards of the city which elected consiglieri to the Signoria, the governing body of the Venetian Republic, and the Donà had a palace there.
The armorial leaf with the lion of St Mark, the emblem of Venice, and the coat of arms of the appointee was a routine component of these formal records of appointment; two Giuramenti in the Cini Foundation almost thirty years apart in date are essentially the same as that of the present manuscript: G. Mariani Canova, Miniature dell'Italia settentrionale nella Fondazione Giorgio Cini (Venice, 1978), Mss 7 & 8. Where the present manuscript differs from these is in the addition of the finely painted image of dedication showing Niccolò in prayer before the Crucified Christ. Similar compositions - carried out in the same painterly technique of small precise brushstrokes and drawing upon monumental Venetian paintings of the 16th century - can be found in Commissioni and Dogali issued from the 1550s to the early years of the 17th century; it seems that there was a workshop specialising in these dedicatory illustrations that maintained a stylistic consistency throughout its output.