Farnese Lectionary

Farnese Lectionary

Rome (Italy) — 1550–1560

The Bible in monumental images commissioned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese: the magnificent Lectionary created by Giulio Clovio for use in the Sistine Chapel

  1. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520–89) commissioned a magnificent lectionary for ceremonial use in the Sistine Chapel

  2. The ostentatious work was created by Giulio Clovio (1498–1578), the most talented miniaturist of the Italian Renaissance

  3. Monumental biblical scenes are surrounded by luminous golden frames with cherubs, masks, and flowers

Farnese Lectionary

Ms. MA 91 (Towneley Lectionary) Public Library (New York, USA)
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Farnese Lectionary

The Farnese Lectionary was made in Rome between 1550 and 1560. It was commissioned by Cardinal Allesandro Farnese and was illuminated by the famous illuminator Giulio Clovio. The work is one of the most splendid liturgical manuscripts altogether, and was read by popes and other princes of the church for ritual ceremonies in the Sistine Chapel.

Farnese Lectionary

Sometime around the middle of the 16th century, an unusually monumental, opulently furnished manuscript was produced in Rome. It was a richly adorned lectionary that was commissioned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and designed by the famous book master Giulio Clovio. The liturgical manuscript remained in the Sistine Chapel for centuries and was employed by popes and other princes of the church in ritual church ceremonies. It is embellished with full-page, painting-like miniatures and boundlessly fanciful decorative elements.

A Milestone of Liturgical Manuscripts

A lectionary is a liturgical book that contains the biblical readings in the course of the church year for the performance of divine services. This type of book existed since the end of the 15th century. Numerous, beautifully designed, handwritten lectionaries were manufactured in the Middle Ages. Almost no other can compete with the breathtaking pictorial decoration of the Farnese Lectionary. Cardinal Farnese commissioned an incomprehensibly ostentatious work that was intended for reading in the Sistine Chapel. Famous people received the holy mass from this very manuscript, which found itself for a time in the possession of the English noble family of Towneley. Today, the valuable original edition of the manuscript is housed in the New York Public Library.

Masterworks of a Famous Artist

The high-quality illustrated manuscript represents one of the greatest masterpieces of the book artist Giulio Clovio. The Croatian painter Clovio is considered to be one of the most famous illuminators of the Late Renaissance and as one of the last great masters of the illuminated manuscript. His astounding, whole-page miniatures in the Farnese Lectionary show monumental biblical scenes and are surrounded by luminous golden frames animated with cherubs, masks, and flowers. The pictures are distinctly reminiscent of the painting of the great Renaissance masters, in particular Michelangelo and Raphael. Giorgio Vasari, probably the first and most important art historian, described Clovio in his Vite as a small Michelangelo.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Lezionario Farnese
Towneley Lectionary
Farnese-Lektionar
Size / Format
64 pages / 48.7 × 33.8 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1550–1560
Language
Script
Littera antiqua rotunda
Illustrations
6 majestic, full-page miniatures opposite miniature depictions of the Evangelists
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Towneley family

Available facsimile editions:
Farnese Lectionary – Ms. MA 91 (Towneley Lectionary) – Public Library (New York, USA)
Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2008
Limited Edition: 150 copies

Lezionario Farnese (Vermeil Binding)
Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2008
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Detail Picture

Farnese Lectionary

The Sermon on the Mount

Chapters 5-7 in the Book of Matthew are devoted to the Sermon on the Mount, the longest continuous discourse of Jesus found in the New Testament that contains some of his best-known teachings. It is also the first of the Five Discourses of Matthew and Giulio Clovio has masterfully captured a moment of dialogue as Jesus gestures while making a point to the assembled crowd, many of whom look directly out from the page as though they were trying to gauge our reactions to the words of Jesus.

Lezionario Farnese (Silver Binding)
Single Page

Farnese Lectionary

The Last Judgement

Although it mostly follows the usual composition for this favorite theme of Christian art, Giulio Clovio displays his talent in this masterful and highly detailed miniature that could easily be confused with a panel painting. The dense and gorgeously colored scene is presented in an artful golden frame containing cherubs and contemplative human figures.

Christ is enthroned in clouds and surrounded by angelic hosts as the saints and the rest of the faithful look up in awe. At the bottom of the page, the damned are shown crying out in despair or writhing in agony, some holding their heads in their hands while others make futile attempts to comfort one another. They are mostly naked, stripped of their pride and earthly possessions.

Lezionario Farnese (Silver Binding)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Lezionario Farnese (Silver Binding)

Farnese Lectionary – Ms. MA 91 (Towneley Lectionary) – Public Library (New York, USA)
Farnese Lectionary – Ms. MA 91 (Towneley Lectionary) – Public Library (New York, USA) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2008
Limited Edition: 150 copies
Binding: Red velvet with real silver ferrules, clasp strip, and coat of arms.
Commentary: 1 volume by Jonathan J. G. Alexander, Nicholas Barker, Elena M. Calvillo, Clive Wainwright, and Sir Simon Towneley
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
Price: Login here!

#2 Lezionario Farnese (Vermeil Binding)

Publisher: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2008
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Binding: Red velvet with Vermeil ferrules, clasp strip, and coat of arms.
Commentary: 1 volume by Jonathan J. G. Alexander, Nicholas Barker, Elena M. Calvillo, Clive Wainwright, and Sir Simon Towneley
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.
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