The Vatican Library owns one of the most prized items, the Breviary of Matthias Corvinus, Urb.lat.112, and has just digitized it. This volume is attributed to the Florentine master illuminator Attavante dei Attavanti, of whom Csapodi (article digitized by Roger Pearse) writes:
The work of this master and his school is easily recognizable by the delicate pattern of the classical floral design in the border decoration and its moderate use, and by the figural representations inserted into this ornamental frame. Some of these figures seem to be lifeless and conventional, but in many cases they may be portraits of contemporaries gazing at the reader from the leaves of the book.
Indeed. You would not have dared to paint a false smirk or scowl on the face of any eminent courtier in the administration of the martial Matthias. Or of any court lady in the ascendant:
For more on the Corvinian manuscripts, see my blog post two years ago, Hungary's Week, discussing Urb. lat. 110 (Missale Romanum or the Missal of Matthias Corvinus). Browse too to Rossiana 1164 (Missal of the Friars Minor); Barb.lat.168 (Livius: Historiarum decas I); and Ott.lat.501 (Pontificale).
Here is the full list of novelties from the past week or so:
- Chig.P.VII.9.pt.B, part of an album of architectural drawings by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), with some designs by Carlo Fontana or Felice Della Greca (St Louis catalog). This section contains designs for the two-tiered altar at St. John Lateran (HT to @gundormr)
- Vat.lat.1355, Decretum Burchard, 11th century, notable for an arbor juris at 151v: do you think the top face in this totem looks vaguely like the young Karl Marx?
- Vat.lat.1569, a copy of De rerum natura by Lucretius exhibited in Rome Reborn, where the catalog notes: This elegant manuscript of Lucretius's philosophical poem is an example of the interest in ancient accounts of nature taken by the Renaissance curia. The work, written in the first century B.C., contains one of the principal accounts of ancient atomism. This is one of numerous copies made at that time. The coat of arms of (Pope) Sixtus IV appears on it.
- Vat.lat.1682, Prognostichon Hierosolymitanum by Giovanni Michele Nagonio. The Rome Reborn catalog by Anthony Grafton notes: Nagonio, a papal functionary who wrote celebratory verses like
these for many European monarchs, celebrates the triumphal entry of
Julius II into Rome after his victory over the Bolognese.
On the facing page one sees a self-satisfied pontiff, ringed by short celebratory texts. Nagonio's poems, which fill the rest of the book, reach a self-parodic level of flattery.