Dante Alighieri - Divine Comedy Parigi-Imola

Dante Alighieri - Divine Comedy Parigi-Imola

Milan (Italy) — 1430–1450

72 miniatures between naturalism and dreamy, fairytale-like imagery: one of the most richly illuminated manuscripts of Dante's Divine Comedy

  1. Most Dante manuscripts have only one miniature at the beginning of each cantica

  2. However, this fine manuscript dedicates three or four miniatures to each canto

  3. The text is also embellished with colorful gold leaf initials and leafy tendrils

Dante Alighieri - Divine Comedy Parigi-Imola

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile editions (2)
Description
Dante Alighieri - Divine Comedy Parigi-Imola

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (ca. 1265–1321) is a historic and groundbreaking work of literature, which is not only fundamental for the formation of the modern Italian language but is also considered to be the most important literary work of the Middle Ages. Originally created for the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti (1392–1447), it is one of the most lavish copies of the Inferno and is currently divided into two codices: ms. Italien 2017 of the Bibliothéque Nationale de France containing 59 miniatures and ms. 76 of the Imola Municipal Library consisting of 21 sheets with 13 miniatures. The coveted manuscript has had an interesting history, passing through various hands including King Louis XII of France (1462–1515) before being eventually divided between two libraries, but has been reunited here in a spectacular edition.

Divine Comedy Parigi-Imola

Dante Alighieri (ca. 1265–1321) is remembered as one of the fathers of the Italian language and influenced other great medieval authors like Boccaccio and Chaucer. Guided by the Roman poet Virgil (70–19 BC), the author and protagonist of the Divine Comedy passes through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise on a spiritual and philosophical journey that has had a lasting impact not only on Italian literature but on wider European society. Although the original manuscript is not believed to have survived, numerous manuscripts were made shortly after his death and in the centuries that followed including the specimen at hand, which is one of the finest copies of the Commedia in existence: the Divine Comedy Parigi-Imola.

A Fine Specimen of the Lombard Quattrocento

This manuscript is believed to be the work of the so-called “Maestro delle Vitae Imperatorum”, who was active in Northern Italy during the first half of the 15th century. The artist’s pseudonym comes from another masterpiece created by him that is also stored in Paris: Svetonio’s Vitae, a vernacular transcription made by Pietro Candido Decembrio in 1431. Stylistically, the artist was greatly influenced by the International Gothic style and specifically the work of Giovannino de’ Grassi and Michelino da Besozzo, which is characterized by sinuous figures, undulating lines, and chromatic choices ranging from opaque to transparent and making excellent use of diffuse light. Furthermore, it is believed that the Maestro delle Vitae Imperatorum collaborated with Belbello da Pavia on this and other projects. The result is a mixture of naturalism and dreamy, fairytale-like imagery. Only 72 of the original 115+ miniatures that adorned the manuscript survive today, but the manuscript is still extraordinarily adorned in comparison to others. Whereas most Dante manuscripts only have a miniature at the beginning of each cantica, usually embedded in a historiated initial, this manuscript dedicates three or four miniatures to each canto. Furthermore, the text is embellished with colorful gold leaf initials and decorative elements from French illumination like leafy tendrils.

A Divided Masterpiece

The Divine Comedy Parigi-Imola was stored in the famous Visconti-Sforza Library in Pavia until the end of the 15th century, when the Kingdom of France intervened in Italian affairs on the side of Milan and set off the Italian Wars (1494–1559). At this time, the manuscript came into the possession of King Louis XII of France (1462–1515), who is believed to have in turn gifted it to the Duke of Melfi, Giovanni Caracciolo (ca. 1372–1432) as a reward for services rendered to the crown. The work then passed to Caracciolo’s son-in-law, Antoine de Cardaillac, and later to his heirs. In 1835, the manuscript was retrieved from a castle in the Dordogne region of France by the erudite Gaston de Flotte, who purchased it and brought it to Marseilles. Between 1836 and 1837, he collaborated with Giuseppe Zaccheroni, an exile from Imola after the revolts of 1831, to create a critical edition that was published in 1838. After to his return to Italy, Zaccheroni was elected a deputy of the college of Imola in 1865 and in the following year, he donated his annotated Dante manuscript to the Imola Municipal Library. In 1887, de Flotte’s heirs sold the remaining fragment to Bibliothèque nationale de France, where it is still preserved.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Divina Commedia Parigi-Imola
Dante, Inferno, avec le Commentaire de Guiniforte Barzizza
Inferno Parigi-Imola
Dantes Göttliche Komödie Parigi-Imola
Dante, Inferno Parigi-Imola
Size / Format
381 pages + 21 pages / 32.0 × 21.5 cm
Date
1430–1450
Language
Script
Gothic Textualis
Illustrations
59 miniatures (belonging to BNF Italien 2017) + 13 miniatures (belonging to Biblioteca Comunale di Imola ms. 76)
Content
Dante's Inferno
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan
Visconti-Sforza Library (Pavia, Italy)
King Louis XII (France)
Giovanni Caracciolo duke of Melfi (Italy)
Gaston de Flotte (France)
Giuseppe Zaccheroni from Imola (Italy)

Available facsimile editions:
Divine Commedy Parigi-Imola – Italien 2017|ms. 76 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France) / Biblioteca Comunale (Imola, Italy)
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
Limited Edition: 300 copies

Inferno Imola
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
Facsimile editions

#1 Divina Commedia Parigi-Imola

Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
Divine Commedy Parigi-Imola – Italien 2017|ms. 76 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France) / Biblioteca Comunale (Imola, Italy)
Divine Commedy Parigi-Imola – Italien 2017|ms. 76 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France) / Biblioteca Comunale (Imola, Italy) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
Limited Edition: 300 copies
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) The facsimile is a complete reproduction of the two preserved fragments, now conserved in Paris at the Bibliotheque National de France (Ms. Italy 2017) and at the Biblioteca Comunale of Imola (Ms. 76), which once formed a single manuscript. The Reproduction is as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.

#2 Inferno Imola

Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020

Publisher: Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) The facsimile is a reproduction of the fragment (ms. 76) conserved in the Biblioteca Comunale of Imola, as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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