Bucolics, Georgics, and the Aeneid


This 15th-century manuscript, known as the Riccardiana Virgil, includes the texts of the three extant works of the great Roman poet Virgil, the Bucolics, the Georgics, and the Aeneid, and contains 88 miniature paintings in the lower margin of many of the vellum leaves. The miniatures, 86 in the Aeneid and one each in the Bucolics and the Georgics, are attributed to Florentine artist Apollonio di Giovanni and his workshop. Those illustrating the story of Aeneas reflect the influence of Benozzo Gozzoli, who in 1459 completed a suite of frescos in the Chapel of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence. The influence of contemporary events, notably the Council of Florence in 1439 (in which a large Greek delegation worked with Western prelates to try to resolve doctrinal differences and end the schism between Eastern orthodoxy and Rome) and the fall of Byzantium in 1453, can be seen in the miniature paintings, especially in the oriental costumes of many of the figures represented in the Aeneid. These richly rendered vestments highlighted in gold, purple and red, set against the architectural background of the city of Florence, produce some of the most beautiful illuminations of the period. In the Bucolics and the Georgics there is one miniature painting for each text, and throughout the entire volume there are numerous decorated initial letters in various sizes, designed in a branch-and-vine motif. A number of incomplete and uncolored designs appear in the manuscript. Of the 88 miniatures, 19 are only partially colored or are drawings awaiting illumination. These partially completed illustrations offer a window into the methods of the artist and a better understanding of the process of creating illuminated images.

Last updated: March 19, 2013