Breviary of Ercole d'Este

Breviary of Ercole d'Este

Ferrara (Italy) — 1502–1504

Created by Matteo da Milano and Tommaso da Modena: a Renaissance masterpiece from the Ferrara school for Ercole d'Este

  1. Matteo da Milano and Tommaso da Modena presented the work to Ercole d'Este (1431–1505), Duke of Ferrara, in 1504

  2. This early-16th century work is a highlight of the magnificent works of illumination created in Ferrara

  3. Splendid frames, gorgeous calendars, and manifold miniatures are generously embellished with gold leaf

Breviary of Ercole d'Este

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

The so-called Breviary of Ercole d'Este is one of the highpoints of Ferrara’s 16th century illumination. Originating from the year 1502 to 1504, it is presented in an exuberant vestment of fantastic illumination: small miniatures, grandiose decorative frames, and countless initials alongside embellishing, artful ornamentation. Matteo da Milano and Tommaso da Modena were the artists responsible for this splendor, significant representatives of the miniature painting of the time. The Breviary of Ercole d'Este is an impressive testimonial to the cultural heyday of Ferrara under his rule!

Breviary of Ercole d'Este

The so-called Breviary of Ercole d'Este is one of the highpoints of Ferrara’s 16th century illumination. Originating from the year 1502 to 1504, it is presented in an exuberant vestment of fantastic illumination: small miniatures, grandiose decorative frames, and countless initials alongside embellishing, artful ornamentation. Matteo da Milano and Tommaso da Modena were the artists responsible for this splendor, significant representatives of the miniature painting of the time. The Breviary of Ercole d'Este is an impressive testimonial to the cultural heyday of Ferrara under his rule!

An Art-Oriented Duke

Ercole d’Este (1431–1505) was the Duke of Ferrara beginning in 1471. Under his direction, the Duchy of Ferrara developed into a commercial and cultural center in Italy. The most important artists were employed by Ercole. A particularly impressive testimonial of this great artistic age is the Duke’s personal prayer book, measuring 38 x 27 cm, it is unusually large and is representative of monumental manuscripts!

The Miniaturist of Popes and the Medici

The most important of Ferrara’s miniaturists were commissioned by the Duke: Matteo da Milano and Tommaso da Modena. Matteo da Milano (active 1492–1523) is considered to be the greatest miniaturist of his time and as such stood not only in the service of the Este in Ferrara, but also the Medici in Florence, and the Orsini in Rome, in addition to many other important patrons and even a few popes! Andrea della Vieze supported the work on the manuscript as a scribe. The late-Renaissance work of art was completed and presented to the Duke in 1504.

Impressive Paintings

The illumination of the breviary is composed of splendid frames, gorgeous calendars, and manifold miniatures – 45 full- and 11 half-page miniatures, as well was 40 smaller scenes – and an unbelievable 17,160 initials, 308 of which were gorgeously historiated. A precious gold background gleamed everywhere. The range of topics includes depictions of saints and biblical scenes. References to the patron and to Ferrara appear continuously, both in coats of arms and other heraldic symbols.

A Masterpiece of Ferrara’s Book Art

The manuscript is consistently distinguished by its stylistically and technically grandiose painting and is wonderfully supplemented by the beautiful Latin text. Arranged in two columns, it is characterized by the use of multicolored inks in black, red, and blue and the exquisite decoration of the fine ornamentation. Presented in this consummate splendor, the Breviary of Ercole d'Este is one of the highlights of the collection of the Biblioteca d’Este in Modena, which rests on the foundations of the famous library of the Dukes of Ferrara.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Brevier des Ercole d'Este
Breviario di Ercole I D'Este
ms. Lat. 424
Breviarium secundum consuetudinem Romanae Curiae
Size / Format
986 pages / 38.0 × 27.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1502–1504
Language
Illustrations
45 full-page and 11 half-page miniatures, 40 smaller scenes and 17,160 initials of which 308 are inhabited
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Alfonso I d' Este (1476-1534)
Josip Juraj Strossmayer, Bishop of Bosnia (1815-1905)
Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Empress of Austria (1892-1989)

Available facsimile editions:
Breviary of Ercole d'Este – ms. Lat. CCCCXXIV=Ms.V.G.11 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2011
Limited Edition: 925 copies
Detail Picture

Breviary of Ercole d'Este

March: Vintners Training Vines

During the month of Martius or March, miniatures for the labor of the month typically show farmers pruning, plowing, or otherwise preparing for spring planting. Since the manuscript originates from a wine growing region, this small medallion with a golden frame at the top left of the page shows vintners pruning vines and attaching them to a trellis. The hatless farmer in the purple tunic has holes in his white pants exposing his knees, which must be sore after so much bending and crouching.

Breviario di Ercole I d'Este
Single Page

Breviary of Ercole d'Este

King David

This spectacularly illuminated page is marked by bright primary colors that are enhanced by the black background and restrained use of shimmering gold leaf. In the primary scene, King David is shown composing his Psalms under a splendid Renaissance building as he looks up to God, who appears in the clouds above a detailed depiction of a gatehouse, which David enters on horseback.

Two more scenes from the life of King David are shown in medallions: on the bottom, a beardless young David is shown in the moment before he cuts off the head of Goliath, who is shown with blood streaming down his forehead from the stone that killed him; on the left, David presents Goliath’s severed head to King Saul, who names David as his successor.

Breviario di Ercole I d'Este
Facsimile Editions

#1 Breviario di Ercole I d'Este

Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2011
Breviary of Ercole d'Este – ms. Lat. CCCCXXIV=Ms.V.G.11 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Breviary of Ercole d'Este – ms. Lat. CCCCXXIV=Ms.V.G.11 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2011
Limited Edition: 925 copies
Binding: Handbound red leather with gold embossing on the covers and leather straps secured by silver claps, silver fitting on the corners with heraldic devices
Commentary: 1 volume by Ernesto Milano, Ivano Ansaloni, Marisa Mari, Luigi Sala, Pietro Baraldi, and Paulo Di Pietro Lombardi
Language: Italian
1 volume: 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€)
Edition available
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