THE BOOK OF HOURS OF BONAPARTE GHISLIERI.
by Medica, Massimo
One of 980 copies. This extremely refined masterwork of the Italian Renaissance (1503) was commissioned by Bonaparte Ghislieri, who belonged to a leading family of Bologna. Also Bolognese was the calligrapher, Pietro Antonio Sallando (a grammarian at the citys university and a renowned calligraphy master).
A treasury of masterpieces: Ghislieris intention was to produce a small anthology of the finest illuminations in central and northern Italy. To this end he called upon a number of the leading artists of this period, each of whom was to produce a full-page illumination. Thus, we find works by Amico Aspertini (Adoration of the Shepherds), Perugino (San Sebastiano), Lorenzo Costa (David with lyre), Francesco Francia (San Gerolamo), and, in all likelihood, Matteo da Milano (Annunciation).
Marvellous embellishments: Notable, too, are the embellishments framing the illustrations, produced with an abundance of floral motifs and references to the classic tradition. Indeed, a number of pages include fragile, fantastic, grotesque figures inspired by the decor of the Grotte (caves) of the Esquiline Hill in Rome (the site of the buried remains of Neros Domus Aurea, or Golden House, which, when uncovered in 1480, immediately attracted the attention of the artists of that period).
The elaborate binding: The morocco binding, with its finely executed floral motifs on polychrome silk satin, is quite remarkable. The covers are adorned with two bezels or settings for semi-precious stones and two centrally positioned roundels for the figures of the Annunciation.
Patronage: The works original owner (as indicated by the coat of arms) was Bonaparte Ghislieri, who was elected a senator in Bologna following the assassination of his father, Virgilio, in 1523. When the codex was produced, Bonaparte Ghislieri was still rather young and it may be that this Libro dOre had been commissioned by Bonapartes father for his sons use. The codex passed from the house of Ghislieri into the hands of the Albani family of Urbino, where, according to record, it was to be found in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the work reached Britain, where it was purchased by Henry Yates Thompson in 1897. It has been at the British Library since 1941.
The Commentary: The work is accompanied by a book with commentary, edited by Massimo Medica, with writings by Giancarlo Benevolo, Peter Kidd and Massimo Medica.
Facsimile is present with the accompanying commentary and a clamshell case.