On Famous Women


Jacobus Philippus Bergomensis (also seen as Giacomo Philippi Foresti, 1434–1520) of Bergamo was an Augustinian monk, historian, and theologian. His book Supplementum chronicarum orbis ab initio mundi (Supplementary chronicle of the world from the beginning) was published in Venice in 1483. The work shown here, De claris mulieribus (On famous women), was published in Ferrara in April 1497 by Laurentius de Rubeis, de Valentia and edited by Albertus de Placentia and Augustinus de Casali Maiori. It comprises the biographies of 194 ladies: mythological and historical as well as contemporary characters, along with saints, queens, and women who became known due to their faith, virtue, knowledge, and devotion. This classic Renaissance illustrated book opens with a xylographic title in Gothic type, followed by a woodcut that depicts the author presenting his work to Beatrice of Aragon, Queen of Bohemia and Hungary. There are many ornate decorated borders and vine initials. The catalog of great women begins with the Holy Virgin and includes Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Queen Isabella of Spain, Queen Margaret of Scotland, and well-known Christian mystics. Most of the biographies are illustrated by a conventional xylograph portrait (eight models are each repeated many times). The ladies who have been identified include Bianca Maria Sforza; Cassandra Fedele; Caterina, Countess of Forli and Imola; Eleanora of Aragon, Duchess of Ferrara; and Danisella Trivulzia. It is thought that two illustrators worked on the volume, although neither is known by name. The portraits appear to be in a Florentine style, but scholars also have detected Venetian influences in the early pages.

Last updated: May 31, 2016