Missal of Barbara of Brandenburg


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Illuminated Facsimiles

Missal of Barbara of Brandenburg

ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Messale di Barbara del Brandeburgo – Missel de Barbara de Brandebourg – Misal de Barbara de Brandenburg – Missale der Barbara von Brandenburg.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Manuscript on parchment, dimensions 395 x 262 mm, 380 folios (760 pages).
BINDING – In recent years, the missal has undergone two restorations. The first in 1991, by the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (ICR). The second in 2008, by the Antica Legatoria Gozzi. The current crimson velvet binding was made by Pierangelo Faggioli on the occasion of the second restoration.
ORIGIN – Italy (Mantua).
DATING – 15th century (1442-1465).
PATRONAGE – In 1442, the Mantuan nobleman Gianlucido Gonzaga (b. 1421, d. 1448) commissioned the illuminator Belbello da Pavia (b. ?, d. 1470) and the calligraphist Pietro Paolo Marono to produce a missal for the Cathedral of Mantua. Gianlucido was a non-first-born son of the first marquis of Mantua, Gianfrancesco I Gonzaga (b. 1395, d. 1444), and upon his death the missal passed to his mother Paola Agnese Malatesta (b. 1393, d. 1453), the marquise consort. However – with the death of the first patron – work on the missal came to a halt several times and was only definitively resumed in 1459, at the behest of Barbara of Brandenburg (b. 1422, d. 1481), wife of the second marquis of Mantua, Ludovico III Gonzaga known as il Turco (b. 1412, d. 1478). The manuscript is known today as the Missal of Barbara of Brandenburg because hers is the only heraldic coat of arms present (Ascension of Jesus, f. 204r).
SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF THE MANUSCRIPT – In 1554 the codex was donated to the Mantua Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint Peter Apostole) by Cardinal Luigi Ercole Gonzaga (b. 1505, d. 1563). With this donation the property was then transferred to the Diocese of Mantua.
PRESENT REPOSITORY – In 1913, some folios from the missal were stolen. This theft became the occasion to move it inside the Ducal Palace walls, used – then as now – as a security deposit for works of art from the Mantuan territory. The folios were later recovered, but the codex did not return to the Diocese until 1983, when it was placed in the Archivio Storico Diocesano di Mantova, where it remains today.
GENRE – Christianity, Liturgical books.
CONTENT – Liturgical book containing the readings, prayers and specification of the rituals to be performed during Mass. In addition to the textual part, there are chants and musical transcriptions with square notation on four-line stave.
SCRIPT – Italian semi-Gothic script. Black ink was used for the text, red ink for the titles and rubrics. Musical transcriptions are in black ink on a red four-line stave.
SCRIBE – Gianlucido Gonzaga entrusted the writing of the missal to Pietro Paolo Marono, who completed his work in 1452. A few years later, Marono would work on the copying of the famous Bible commissioned by Borso d’Este (b. 1413, d. 1471), today preserved in the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria in Modena.
DECORATION – The manuscript is richly decorated with 68 miniatures of various dimensions, decorations on 13 folios, 2 historiated initials, over 2000 phytomorphic initials on a gold background.
ILLUMINATORS – The decoration of the missal was initially entrusted to the Lombard illuminator Belbello da Pavia (b. ?, d. 1470). In 1434, Belbello had completed for Filippo Maria Visconti (b. 1392, d. 1447) the Offiziolo that Gian Galeazzo Visconti (b. 1351, m. 1402) had commissioned from Giovannino de’ Grassi (b. 1350, d. 1398), but which remained unfinished following the death of Gian Galeazzo himself. Nevertheless, in 1461, Barbara of Brandenburg decided to relieve Belbello of the commission and have another artist continue the work on the missal. In a letter she therefore informed him that the decoration was to be entrusted to a «zovene di questa terra el quale minia molto bene» (a young man from this land who is very good as an illuminator). That «zovene» was Girolamo da Cremona (b. ?, d. post 1483), a follower of Andrea Mantegna (b. 1431, d. 1506) and pupil of the illuminator Taddeo Crivelli (b. 1425, d. 1479), with whom he had recently worked on the Bible of Borso d’Este. A third artist – who has remained anonymous – took part in the decoration of the missal, probably during the commissioning period of Paola Agnese Malatesta. In any case, his intervention was limited to the decoration of three folios.
STYLE – Gothic, Renaissance.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles

Giovan Gian Lucido, Luchino, Giovanni, Hohenzollern, Gerolamo Corradi


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.
PublisherIl Bulino edizioni d’arte (Modena, 2012).
Series – Ars Illuminandi.
Limited edition – 398 copies.
Binding – Velvet binding corresponding to that of the original manuscript. Some copies are decorated with a brass rhombus set with a stone on the front board. Nevertheless this is an editorial choice that does not correspond to the original manuscript.
Commentary – Commentary in Italian edited by Giusi Zanichelli. Essays by Giancarlo Manzoli (Director of the Beni Culturali of the Diocese of Mantua), Giuse Pastore (historian of Mantuan cultural heritage), Giusi Zanichelli (lecturer in medieval art history and miniature at the Università di Salerno), Federica Toniolo (lecturer in art history and miniature at the Università di Padova), Giacomo Baroffio (lecturer in medieval music history at the Università di Pavia), Giancarlo Malacarne (Gonzaga historian and heraldry expert).

Photos courtesy of the Publisher

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Il Bulino edizioni d'arte