Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Visconti Book of Hours

Pages and images from the Visconti Book of Hours, otherwise the Offiziolo Visconti. The Viscontis were a noble clan who ruled Milan in northern Italy from 1277 to 1447. In 1395 Gian Galeazzo Visconti made himself Duke, the title thereafter born by Milan's rulers for centuries; it was the first Duke who commissioned the Book of Hours.

An old authority says:
This extraordinary manuscript, perhaps one of the gayest, most spontaneous and fanciful of Western illuminations, is an exceptionally rich Book of Hours painted by two quite different artists. In the late 1300s, Giovannino dei Grassi and his workshop painted the first folios for Gian Galeazzo Visconti, despot of Milan, but the Duke's death in 1402 interrupted the work. Belbello da Pavia completed this dazzling manuscript for Giangaleazzo's son, Filippo Maria, after he became Duke in 1412.

The manuscript currently resides in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence, which is seriously letting the world down by not putting a fascimile online. I have only managed to find large images of two pages, including this one.

This style is the painted equivalent of what is known in architecture as the Decorated Gothic, Gothic with as much Goth as possible.



David said...

Stunning. I love that image of St. Peter--or is it God?--floating as a torso above a curling cloud, like a genie (I'd say djinn, but I think the clouds-for-legs image is really a western thing, maybe).

I wonder what to make of the piety of the recipients of such a thing? I look at, say, the illustrations of one of the Otto III gospels, and I think, the recipient of this really BELIEVED in a very elemental, taking-for-granted kind of way. But I wonder about a Renaissance potentate c. 1400. Not that they would have been skeptics in a modern sense, but the spirit is different.

Michael said...

The keys usually represent Peter, but not always. The blue robe, hand raised in blessing, and marvelous coif and beard make me thing God the Father.

David said...

Yes, the figure with the keys in image #3, with the closeup in #5, is obviously Peter. It's #6 that I think looks genie-like. #6 has an old man who looks like the Peter figure, but with no keys, and emanating from a cloud. Hence my puzzlement as to his identity.