October 16, 2012

Treatise of the World's Creation

This manuscript, which contains a Tractatus de creatione mundi (Treatise on the World's Creation) from the Book of Genesis followed by a narration of the Passion of Christ (folios 99r–128v), is one of the most significant examples of late-13th-century Sienese illumination. The pictures, partly watercolor drawings and partly proper illuminations, were made by an extremely sophisticated Sienese artist who was heavily influenced by Transalpine miniaturists and active from around 1290 through the next decade. The illustrations, sketched by a fast, concise hand, stand out for their strikingly smooth style, unusual in the Sienese production of the time and a quality matched by the spontaneity of the narration and an uncommonly flowing hand. The landscape details make remarkable use of spatial illusionism, a sign of the artist’s awareness of the innovations by the Sienese painter Duccio di Buoninsegna (circa 1255–circa 1319). Scholars have put forward different theories about the identity of the artist, known as the Master of the Tractatus de Creatione Mundi, who created the series of illuminations illustrating episodes from the Creation and the lives of Adam and Eve. Art historian Luciano Bellosi suggested that they are by Guido di Graziano, creator of the 1280 Biccherna tablet, now in the Siena State Archives. Bellosi attributes to Guido a considerable number of works, including the dossal of Saint Peter in the Siena Pinacoteca Nazionale, which are stylistically very consistent with the illustrations in this manuscript. Ada Labriola, on the other hand, argues that the anonymous miniaturist was somewhat younger than Guido and probably trained in his workshop. She bases this conclusion on his more modern narrative style and the fact that the artist clearly was aware of innovations by Duccio and the Florentine painter Cimabue (circa 1240–1302). Labriola also recognizes the hand of this miniaturist as being distinct from the very similar one of the creator of a Crucifixion with Virgin and St. John and of an illuminated initial (folios 99r-v) decorating the Passio Iesu Christi composita ex quattuor evangelistis (Maestro of the Duecento of the Dominican Legendary). The manuscript is bound in a composite codex that gathers together five manuscripts of different ages (dating from the end of the 13th century to circa 1521) and provenance, and which are also dissimilar in layout, graphic style, and format.

Dialogues of the Gods

This manuscript contains ten of the dialogues of Lucianus, a second-century rhetorician and satirist who wrote in Greek, in the Latin version of Livio Guidolotto (also seen as Guidalotto or Guidalotti). Livio, a classical scholar from Urbino, was the apostolic assistant of Pope Leo X, and he dedicated his translation to the pope in an introductory epistle of 1518 ("Romae, Idibus maii MDXVIII"; folio 150v). The latest possible date for the manuscript thus is 1521, the year Leo died. The emblem of Giovanni de' Medici, with the beam accompanied by the letter "N" and the motto "Suave" as it stood even before he became pope, is inserted in the decoration within the codex. The Medici coat of arms is also present, crowned by the papal insignia and the symbol of the Medici, a diamond ring with a white, a green, and a red feather and the motto “Semper." The same emblems are found in a group of codices in the Medicea Laurenziana Library in Florence that probably were commissioned by Leo X. The librarian Luigi De Angelis was responsible for publishing the text of the manuscript in Siena in 1823. De Angelis praised the elegance of the illuminations, with particular reference to the portrait in the dedicatory initial, believed to depict an effigy of Lucianus, and suggested that it could be attributed to Raphael. A reviewer of De Angelis’s edition put forward the hypothesis that Livio Guidolotto's dedication of the caustic dialogues to the pope was not accepted. As a result, the work remained unpublished for a very long time. The manuscript is known have been in the collection of the Sienese scholar Uberto Benvoglienti at the beginning of the 18th century. It later was bequeathed to the Biblioteca comunale degli Intronati di Siena. The manuscript is bound in a composite codex that gathers together five manuscripts of different ages (dating from the end of the 13th century to circa 1521) and provenance, and which are also dissimilar in layout, graphic style, and format.

October 18, 2012

Effigies of the Twelve Prophets, According to Raffaello Schiaminossi

This small volume from the Bavarian State Library contains depictions of 12 prophets of the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Moses, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Isaiah, David, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Daniel, and Joel. Monumental, with commanding demeanor fitting their functions as seers and admonitors, the prophets appear in wide cloaks flowing amply around them in the drawings, which are crafted in ink with great verve. With spiritual expressions on their faces, they seem to stare at the spectator. Each leaf is signed RAF by the artist Raffaello Schiaminossi (1572–1622), a master of drawing and etching from Sansepolcro in Tuscany. The beautiful red morocco leather binding with gold embossing carries the coat of arms (as a supralibros) of Clement XI (pope 1700–1721), born Giovanni Francesco Albani, the owner of a world famous art collection housed in the Albani Palazzo del Drago alle Quattro Fontane in Rome. The collection was structured according to certain principles derived from Raphael’s theories of art. The binding of this book is much simpler than the well-known Roman bindings from the Albani library and, on closer inspection, the drawings also prove to be copies of engravings by Schiaminossi, crafted by a German artist. The work thus appears to be an ingenious fake, made around 1700, which came into the Bavarian State Library via the art trade in the 19th century. The mystery of the fake has not been solved.

The Secret Book of Honors of the Fugger Family

The history of the Fugger family can be seen as an unparalleled success story of the German Renaissance. Starting as weavers in the second half of the 14th century, the family quickly evolved into successful merchants, bankers, and noblemen, culminating in Jakob Fugger the Wealthy (1459–1525) and Anton Fugger (1493–1560). They are considered to have been the wealthiest persons of their time, even though the family business was almost bankrupted by its loans to the Hapsburgs in the 1560s. The Fugger dynasty still exists today as a noble family in Germany. Around 1545 Johann Jakob Fugger (1516–75) commissioned this manuscript detailing the genealogy of his family up to his time. Genealogical research and text compilation was conducted by the apparitor, archivist, and entrepreneur Clemens Jäger (circa 1500–60). The illumination of the manuscript, including lavish portraits of family members, heraldic devices, and playfully detailed border motifs, was executed in the leading Augsburg workshop of Jörg Breu the Younger (circa 1510–47) and finished around 1548. Unlike the rest of Johann Jakob Fugger’s library, which was sold to Duke Albrecht IV of Bavaria in 1571, the manuscript was kept in the family for centuries and was even updated during the 18th century. Only in 2009 did the Fugger family sell it to the Bavarian State Library. The acquisition was made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Ernst-von-Siemens Kunststiftung.

Freising Gospel Book

This Carolingian gospel exemplifies the position of Bavaria as a meeting point of different artistic traditions. The text and the choice of prologues correspond with those in older Salzburg manuscripts and can be traced back to an Italian prototype. The marvelous manuscript, written during the episcopate of Anno of Freising (854–75), has in the margins of its leaves numerous critical notes on the text, including a series of Greek variants. Other influences can be observed in the decoration, which consists of interlace initials, an 18-page canon sequence, and four pictures of the evangelists. The influence of the Carolingian school of Rheims is directly discernible in the agitated painting style of the portraits of the evangelists. The ornamental decoration of the manuscript is likewise characterized as being permeated by various artistic traditions. In a group of related Freising gospel manuscripts, this codex comes first both in time and in quality. Carolingian refers to the period in which much of Western Europe was ruled by the dynasty established by Pepin the Short in 751, whose son, Charlemagne, was crowned Holy Roman emperor in 800 and ruled the empire until his death in 814. The Carolingian Renaissance of about 775–900 was marked by achievements in art, architecture, literature, religion, and law.


Wolfram von Eschenbach composed his medieval German epic poem Parzival, which consists of more than 24,000 lines, in the first decade of the 13th century. It tells the story of the juvenile fool Parzival who, having grown up in the seclusion of the forest, is ignorant of the world and causes much grief as he ventures out to become a knight. He arrives at the Castle of the Grail, but fails to pose the question to the sick King Fisher Anfortas about the source of his suffering—a question that would release Anfortas and make Parzival the new grail king. After a long odyssey and a religious catharsis, Parzival is able to return to Arthur's court and is marked as the new grail king. The tale, as evidenced by the manuscript tradition, enjoyed great popularity throughout the Middle Ages. This manuscript from the Bavarian State Library was produced by a single scribe who, his dialect indicates, must have lived in Bavaria. A charter from 1408 attached to the front cover and several 15th century manuscript entries in the margins of the leaves both indicate that the codex remained in Bavaria after its composition. The manuscript entered the private collection of Johann Jacob Fugger, with whose library it came to the Munich court library of the dukes of Bavaria in 1571.