Mirror of Government


This magnificent manuscript was written by Leonhard Heff in Ratisbon (present-day Regensburg) and must have been produced — according to a note in the text — in or around 1476. Bound by the Ratisbon Black Friars, it later was transferred to the nearby Benedictine monastery of Saint Emmeram and from there to the Bavarian State Library. It contains the text of Speculum regiminis (Mirror of government) by Philippus de Bergamo (Giacomo Filippo Forèsti, 1434–1520), an Augustinian monk who was an expert on canon law, known for his great philosophical erudition, and the author of several important historical works. Speculum regiminis is an extended commentary on Catonis Disticha (The distichs of Cato), a popular medieval schoolbook for teaching Latin and moral values. The manuscript was illuminated by the noted German Renaissance painter Berthold Furtmeyr (active 1460–1501) with ten opaque watercolor initials in blue, rose, green, red, bluish grey, and gold, with leaves and tendrils. Furtmeyr and his followers were important contributors to the ancient Ratisbon School of Illumination. An artist of great renown, Furtmeyr illuminated many impressive works, including this manuscript, the Furtmeyr Bible, the Salzburg feast missal in five volumes (all now at the Bavarian State Library in Munich, Germany), and many other works. The artist shows mastery of the difficult task of successfully combining pictures, ornament, and text with great authority. Furtmeyr is famous for his handling of colors, his brightly shining illuminations, and the extreme diligence that marks his craftsmanship. Although he was still deeply rooted in the Middle Ages, his love of color, nocturnal scenes, and female nudes mark a transition to the Renaissance.

Last updated: August 28, 2015