Legendarium Sforza-Savoia

Turin, Biblioteca Reale, Cod. Varia 124


+39 333 9860 410


Illuminated Facsimiles

Legendarium Sforza-Savoia

Turin, Biblioteca Reale, Cod. Varia 124

ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Vita de Santo Yoachin e de Santa Anna e de la Nativitate de Santa Maria e de lo Nostro Signor – Leggendario Sforza-Savoia – Légendaire Sforza-Savoia – Sforza-Savoia-Legendarium – Legendarium der Sforza.
PHYSICAL FEATURES – Codex on parchment, size 262 x 185 mm, 158 folios (316 pages) collected in 21 gatherings, successive foliation in Arabic numerals in the folio lower outer corner.
BINDING – Red velvet-covered boards and silk pastedowns binding, datable to the 19th century. In 2013 the binding was restored by Studio Crisostomi of Rome.
ORIGIN – The manuscript was produced in Italy, probably in Milan. The Lombard production is clear from the illuminator’s choice to place many scenes in settings where typical elements of contemporary Lombard architecture recur. In some cases, specific religious or civil buildings, reproduced more or less faithfully, can be identified. For example, in the second illuminated scene on f. 43r, the ancient Cathedral of Milan appears in the background, while in the previous scene – again on f. 43r – the fortress at the entrance to the city of Jerusalem recalls the structure of the Sforzesco Castle.
DATING – 15th century. The illuminator signed f. 2v and indicated in epigraphic characters the exact date of completion of the work: «DIE 6 APRILIS 1476».
PATRONAGE – The codex was made for the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444-1476) and his wife Bona of Savoy (1449-1503). Folio 2v again provides comprehensive information, through the inscription in gilded capital letters «G(ALEA)Z MA(RIA) DUX M(EDIO)L(AN)I QUINTUS». Also appearing on the same folio are Galeazzo Maria Sforza’s two favorite armorial achievements: that of the tawny galeate lion in the flames and that of the burning embers with buckets. The figure of Galeazzo can also be identified in many of the characters represented in the miniatures. See, for example, the miniature on f. 19r, where God is depicted in a room teaching four of his «amadi frateli» (beloved brethren): the profile with the aquiline nose and the hairstyle of the character on God’s right recall the figure of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, while, in the boy standing before him, we can recognise his son Gian Galeazzo (1469-1494). Another noteworthy miniature is that on f. 3r illustrating the marriage of Joachim and Anne: in Maria’s parents we can identify Galeazzo Maria Sforza and his wife Bona of Savoy. Finally, it should be noted how the coat of arms and armorial achievements of the Duke appear several times throughout the manuscript.
PRESENT LOCATION – The manuscript is part of the endowment of the Biblioteca Reale of Turin, established by Charles Albert of Sardinia (1798-1849) in the early years of his reign. Charles Albert purchased it on 15 May 1841, after having instructed the royal librarian Domenico Casimiro Promis (1837-1875) to negotiate with Count Pompeo Toesca di Castellazzo. The reasons why the Count’s family possessed the codex are shrouded in a fascinating mystery surrounding the episode – probably invented – reported in a manuscript note by the archivist Luigi Pezzi, and dated 1879. According to this document – preserved inside the codex – Galeazzo Maria Sforza «dovendo allontanarsi da Milano per motivi guerreschi» (forced to leave Milan for a war) entrusted the codex to a nun, but due to the sudden violent death of Galeazzo himself, no one cared to collect it any longer. When the nun also died «per ragioni di parentela ed in progresso di tempo» (for reasons of kinship and with the passing of time), the codex became the property of Count Toesca’s family.
GENRE – Christianity, Hagiographies, Apocalyptic literature / Beatus of Liébana, Bibles / Gospels.
CONTENT – The text consists of three sections, which together tell the story of Revelation – from the conception of Mary to the Last Judgement – drawing on the canonical and apocryphal Gospels. In the first section, the lives of Saints Anne and Joachim and the Virgin Mary are narrated. This section includes fragments from the Meditationes Vitae Christi by the Franciscan Giovanni de’ Calvoli. In the second section, the life of Christ is narrated, followed by the Salve Regina, the Credo and the life of St John the Baptist in the form of a prayer. The last section is dedicated to the theme of the end of the world, with the fifteen premonitory signs recounted, followed by the Last Judgement.
LANGUAGE – Italian, Latin.
SCRIPT – Littera textualis (black-letter), attributable to one hand.
DECORATION – On the frontispiece, within an arch resting on red porphyry columns, we find full-page illustrations of the armorial achievements of the tawny galeate lion in the flames and that of the burning embers with buckets. The incipit page – where the marriage of Anne and Joachim is illustrated – is decorated with a large raceme frame with animals, putti, coats of arms and the achievement of the dove with the motto a bon droit (illegible here). In the subsequent folios, another 322 narrative scenes accompany the text, providing the recipient of the manuscript with an important tool for meditating on the events of Revelation. Finally, throughout the codex, there are 107 watermarked initials decorated with floral motifs on a gold background, and gold borders decorated with flowers, fruit and coats of arms.
ILLUMINATORS – The author of the splendid miniatures is Cristoforo De Predis, a leading figure in 15th-century Lombard miniature painting. Little is known about his life. He was born around 1446, presumably in Milan, and was called «muto» (dumb person). He is also signed with this nickname in the Legendarium Sforza-Savoia (f. 2v): «OPUS XR(IST)OFORI DE PREDIS MUTI». He had several brothers, of whom at least three were painters: Evangelista, Bernardino and Giovanni Ambrogio. His debut as an artist coincides with the astrological codex De Sphaera, commissioned by Bianca Maria Visconti (1425-1468) and Francesco Sforza (1401-1466) in the 1460s. In 1471, the «muto de prede» appears in the Borromeo family account books. In the following decade he worked for Galeazzo Maria Sforza. Cristoforo died young, at the age of thirty-seven, after having worked for some of the most important patrons of his time: in addition to the Dukes of Milan and the Borromeo family, the Dukes of Ferrara and the Bishop of Piacenza. He also met Leonardo da Vinci, when the latter visited Milan for the production of The Virgin of the Rocks (1483): it was in fact Cristoforo’s family who hosted him in their home. Starting from f. 37 of the Legendarium Sforza-Savoia, the hands of two other artists can be identified: a «maestro affine» (kindred master) to Cristoforo and a second, less talented collaborator.
STYLE – Renaissance.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles

Légendier des; Legendario


Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document – The facsimile reproduces as close as possible the physical characteristics of the original document, with the aim to substitute it in the scientific research and in the libraries of the bibliophile collectors. Trimming and composition of the leaves reproduce the profile and structure of the original document. The binding might not correspond to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
PublisherFranco Cosimo Panini Editore (Modena, 2005), in collaboration with the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana founded by Giovanni Treccani.
Series – Biblioteca Impossibile.
Limited edition – The facsimile has been published in a unique limited edition of 750 copies in total for worldwide distribution. The publisher guarantees that no further copies will be made.
Certificate of authenticity – The authenticity certificate is printed on the colophon of the facsimile. It bears the copy number and is signed by Giovanni Saccani (Director of the Biblioteca Reale di Torino in 2013), Laura Panini (President of Franco Cosimo Panini Editore in 2013) and Giuliano Amato (President of the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana in 2013).
Printing – Stochastic printing, with colour reproduction using highly pigmented inks. Gilding with gold and silver paste, gold powder and gold foil.
Binding – Hand-made red velvet binding. A gilded rosette with the Savoy and Sforza coats of arms is in the centre of the front board.
Commentary – Italian language commentary volume, 32 x 24 cm, 255 pages, colour photos. Preface and essays by: Saccani, Giovanni; Giordano, Luisa; Mulas, Pier Luigi. The text of the manuscript is transcribed in the commentary, translated into current Italian.
Slipcase – The facsimile is housed in an elegant book-shaped red leather case, with the title of the work and the publisher’s emblem in gold on the spine.

Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles, Franco Cosimo Panini Editore

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