Bible of Borso d'Este

Bible of Borso d'Este – Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Mss. Lat. 422 e Lat.423 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)

Ferrara or Modena (Italy) — 1455–1461

Each of its 1,200 pages is masterfully illuminated with incredible attention to detail: the grandiose climax of the Renaissance for Borso d'Este, one of its most dazzling princes

  1. Each of the 1,200 pages of this two-volume work are adorned with grandiose miniatures and marginal depictions

  2. Commissioned by the great and eccentric art patron Borso d'Este (1413–1471), Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia

  3. A highpoint of Italian illumination created by the most gifted Renaissance artists of the 15th century

Bible of Borso d'Este

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Bible of Borso d'Este

The Bible of Borso d’Este was made between 1455 and 1461 by the most gifted Renaissance artists of Italy at the court of the Count of Este in Ferrara. It represents a highpoint of Italian illumination and combines the realistic painting of the Renaissance with fanciful Gothic stylistic elements in a unique way. Each page of the manuscript is illuminated with impressive diversity.

Bible of Borso d'Este

Italy was a stronghold of art and science during the time period of the Renaissance. The innovative painting, architecture, sculpture, as well as the literature and philosophy of Italy influenced artists and scholars from all lands. The whole world oriented itself on the culture of Italy. An artistic center of Italy found itself at the court of Margrave Borso d’Este von Modena, Ferrara, and Reggio. In the Ferrara painting school, some of the most talented painters and illustrators of the Renaissance learned their craft. Numerous impressive illuminated manuscripts originated from here. Among them is numbered the breathtaking *Bible of Borso d’Este. The two-part work, encompassing over 1,200 pages, is adorned with delightful miniatures and marginal depictions on each page.

The Book Craft of the Renaissance

Margrave Borso d’Este was a well-read and highly-educated man. He remained unmarried and had no heirs. His life was his duchy, which was dedicated to art and religion. The count commissioned numerous Latin and Greek manuscripts, which were made by famous book artists such as Taddeo Crivelli, Franco dei Russi, Guglielmo Giraldi, and Girolamo de’ Corradi. These very same four outstanding artists, as well as additional staff from their art studios, produced the two-volume bible for the count. The miniaturists painted each sheet of the book double-sided and oriented themselves on the new rules of perspective from Tuscany and on the realism of Flemish art.

An Inconceivable Variety of Design

The hand-written text of the Renaissance bible is decorated with countless initials and embellished letters in luminous colors and with shimmering applications of gold leaf. Numerous full-page miniatures of surprising realism visualize the events reflected in the text and enthrall every beholder. Especially noteworthy are the marginal embellishments of each page, which show an unbelievable variety of motifs from mythology, the animal kingdom, and heraldry. In this codex, the masterful illuminators managed to merge the new visual language of the Renaissance with the fantasy and elegance of the late Gothic. The bible represents the absolute highpoint of Italian Renaissance illumination.

The History of the Codex

As an overall work, the Bible of Borso d’Este represents an exceptional gallery of Renaissance painting, whose splendor was reached by no other contemporary monument. During the confusion of the First World War, the famous and globally sought-after masterpiece came into the possession of the last Austrian Empress Zita von Hapsburg, who wanted to sell it in America. Through the great Italian industrialist Giovanni Treccani, the document was able to be acquired for Italy through a sacrificial action. Today the splendid codex is found in the Bibilioteca Estense Universitaria in Modena.


Alternative Titles
Bibbia di Borso d'Este
Bibel des Borso d’Este
Size / Format
2 volumes - 1,208 pages / 37.5 × 26.5 cm
Italian gothic script
Numerous scenic miniatures, historiated initials, border friezes, architectural border motifs, heraldic rectangular fields and medallions
Borso d'Este (1413–1471), Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Senator Giovanni Traccani

Available facsimile editions:
Bible of Borso d'Este – Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Mss. Lat. 422 e Lat.423 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 1997
Limited Edition: 750 copies
Detail Picture

Bible of Borso d'Este

Predator and Prey

By the 15th century, Italian illuminators left virtually no blank space on the page, and Renaissance art provided countless motifs to fill the marginalia. Graphic scenes of the harsh realities of natures are presented in this pair of bas-de-page miniatures with magnificently patterned frames of gold leaf, red, and blue. On the left we see a bird of prey attacking a crane and digging in with its claws while a white greyhound savagely seizes a rabbit by the throat on the right.

Bible of Borso d'Este – Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Mss. Lat. 422 e Lat.423 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Single Page

Bible of Borso d'Este

Scenes from Creation

This magnificent page from the Book of Genesis is just a sample of this highpoint of Italian Renaissance Illumination. Each of the two-volume work’s 1,200 pages is adorned with a fantastic color palette, gold leaf, and countless details that populate the page.

The tremendous talent of the artists led by Taddeo Crivelli and Franco dei Russ allows for the harmonious presentation of an otherwise overwhelming cacophony of illumination on this page, which covers Genesis 1:1–20 in six miniatures in the margins. The Creator is depicted throughout with a triangular halo, a late-medieval invention signifying the Trinity and only used with God the Father. These are accompanied by floral designs, animals, grotesques, and architectures of the highest caliber.

Bible of Borso d'Este – Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Mss. Lat. 422 e Lat.423 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Bibbia di Borso d'Este

Publisher: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 1997
Limited Edition: 750 copies
Binding: Bound in crimson velvet over wood, with gilded silver medallions on the front plate, two gilded silver straps and clasps
Commentary: 2 volumes by Vincenzo Cappelletti, Ernesto Milano, Gianni Venturi, Gianfranco Ravasi, Federica Toniolo, and Mariani Canova
Language: Italian
2 volumes: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€€€ (over 10,000€)
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