Third Bessarion Master (act. in Lombardy in the third quarter of the 15th century).
Leaf from a gradual with picture initial B and St. Michael as guardian of the soul and numerous small initials. Tempera, pen and gold heightening with Latin handwriting on vellum, inscribed on both sides.
Bologna, Ferrara 1455-60. initials 11.5 x 12.5 cm; writing mirror 38 x 26 cm; sheet size 56.5 x 49.5 cm. Texture in black-brown ink, square notes each on 4 red lines. Under passe-partout, wooden frame (69 x 52 cm). Literature:
- Bollati, Milvia in: Arte in Lombardia tra Gotico e Rinascimento. Milan, 1988, p. 146
- Palladino, Pia. Treasures of a Lost Art, Italian Manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, exhibition catalogue Cleveland Museum of Art, San Francisco, Museum of Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, New York, Metropolitan Museum (23.2.2003 -1.2.2004). New Haven/London, 2003, pp. 80-83.
- Canova, Giordana Mariani. "Una illustre serie liturgica ricostruita: i corali del Bessarione già all'Annunziata di Cesena", in: Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte 11th Venice, 1977, p. 7-20
.- Freuler, Gaudenz. Italian Miniatures from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Centuries. Milan, 2013, p. 672-679
. Text recte: "Benedicite Domine...".
The present gradual sheet with the introitus for the feast of St. Michael (29 September) comes from an important broken gradual, which originated from a foundation of the Greek Cardinal Bessarion (ca. 1399/1408-1472), one of the most important churchmen of the 15th century and papal legate in Bologna (1450-55). It is part of a large foundation of the Cardinal, who commissioned a series of 14-volume choral books for the Franciscan Convent of St. Anthony of Padua in Constantinople. This comprised four gradual volumes, nine antiphonary volumes and a hymnal. While three of the Gradual volumes, namely those of the Proprium Tempore, have survived and are in the Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena (MS Bess, 2,5,1) (Bessarion 5 is dated 1452), the fourth Gradual volume with the Proprium Sanctorum, which we are interested in, was broken open in Napoleonic times and the individual pages were put up for sale. Ten of them have been preserved, including the sheet offered here (Palladino 2003). The Antiphonary series also suffered the same fate and half of the volumes have only been handed down to us in fragments. Work on the illumination of this choral book series probably began around 1452 or shortly before. Two volumes (MS. Bess. 5 (1452) and MS. Bess 6 (1455)) are dated, but the illumination of the choral books must have been spread over a longer period of time. The entire project was entrusted to a team of illuminators made up of several Lombard and Emilian artists, including the 2nd Master of the Antifonario M of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, the Lombard we are interested in, "Terzo Maestro del Bessarione", the Master of the Breviario Francescano, also from Milan, and Francesco de Russi, a renowned miniaturist of the humanist Renaissance, who also worked on the famous Borso Bible between 1455 and 1460. Since Borso d' Este's coat of arms is the same as that of Bessarion on the frontispieces of various Bessarion volumes (Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 22124; Milan, private collection 72), it may be assumed that Borso d' Este supported the Greek Cardinal at some point in his project, possibly when Bessarion left Bologna after 1455 and turned to various political missions. However, because of the Turkish Wars and the fall of Constantinople (1453), the volumes never reached the Franciscan convent there and were therefore given to the Franciscan Observants Santa Maria Annunziata dell' Osservanza in Cesena as an alternative. Bessarion, who was in Vienna on a political mission in 1460 - and who still hoped to regain Constantinople, but returned disillusioned by this mission and considered the situation around Constantinople hopeless - decided, probably in view of this political situation, to donate the choral book series elsewhere, to the Observant Convent in Cesena, founded by Violante Malatesta, shortly after 1460. The Lombard illuminator, Terzo Maestro del Bessarione, named after his collaboration in the Bessarion (Canova, 1977, pp. 7-20), was certainly one of the leading forces within this choral book series and can already be traced in the earliest volumes of the series. His art developed visibly during this project. While his figurative style after his first illuminated volumes of the Bessarion series, created in collaboration with his Lombard fellow illuminator, Maestro del Breviario Francescano, still shows him to be a rather uncertain and somewhat insipid illuminator, the artist, under the influence of the more promising art of the team of illuminators around Franco de Russi, increasingly developed a refined art, and created a book art of the greatest refinement. His extremely finely drawn, somewhat pale faces are now animated by an ethereal internalization, which applies to the late sheet with Anthony of Padua preaching to the fishes (Milan, private property 72) just as much as the face of the Michael referred to here. These miniatures were probably created after 1455, probably around 1458-60. The Bessarion Chorbuch series, from which this sheet as fol. 95 of the fourth volume originates, are among the most important products of North Italian book art around the middle of the 15th century.
(Prof. emer. Dr. Gaudenz Freuler, University of Zurich
)Mounted on carrier board. Slightly wavy, slightly creased in places, margins somewhat soiled, gold leaf slightly rubbed, otherwise the initial of the picture in very good and colour-fresh condition, small missing part (with minimal loss of text), slight paper abrasion due to text erasure in the 4th line. A
little rubbed on the
Provenance: Cesena, S. Maria Annunziata dell' Osservanza - Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books, Hamburg - Swiss private collection.
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