Medici Aesop

Medici Aesop

Florence (Italy) — ca. 1480

A Greek textbook for the oldest son of Lorenzo de’ Medici: Aesop’s Fables in Renaissance imagery

  1. Lorenzo I de Medici (1449–92), il Magnifico, commissioned the most beautiful Aesop manuscript of all time

  2. Originally intended as a Greek textbook for his oldest son Piero (1472–1503)

  3. 135 gilded half-page miniatures were created by Mariano del Buona and the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon

Medici Aesop

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Medici Aesop

This wonderful collection of fables from the the Greek writer Aesop is illustrated with the most beautiful illustrations in this manuscript. Originally intended as a Greek textbook for Piero de Medici in Florence ca. 1480, this manuscript offers a deep look into the tremendous art of the Italian Renaissance. The famous fables from antiquity with animal and human protagonists impress with their playful lessons in moralistic life as much today as they did in the 16th century. This edition of the Medici manuscript is even today the most beautifully illustrated and furnished collection of Aesop’s Fables.

Medici Aesop

This wonderful collection of fables from the the Greek writer Aesop is illustrated with the most beautiful illustrations in this manuscript. Originally intended as a Greek textbook for Piero de Medici in Florence ca. 1480, this manuscript offers a deep look into the tremendous art of the Italian Renaissance. The famous fables from antiquity with animal and human protagonists impress with their playful lessons in moralistic life as much today as they did in the 16th century. This edition of the Medici manuscript is even today the most beautifully illustrated and furnished collection of Aesop’s Fables.

A Schoolbook for the Offspring of de Medici

Lorenzo I de Medici, known as il Magnifico, the Magnificent, undoubtedly commissioned the Aesop-Edition for his son Piero. For the time around 1500, this wasn’t anything special, but the return of the classic Greek texts in the Renaissance lead to a new discovery of the Greek writer, Aesop (620–560 BC). It was not only the moralistic aspect of the fables that was important, but the original language of the texts, Greek, was also in high demand as a relic of the past. Aesop’s Fables were already widely available in a Latin translation in Late Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, but were later re-translated into the original Greek ca. 1300. Thus, Aesop received new meaning as an entertaining and educational lecturer, his work instructed many young men in Greek. One can well imagine that Piero de Medici also used this manuscript with that goal in mind. The manuscript’s connection to the influential Florentine Medici family is demonstrated not only by inventory lists that prove Piero de Medici’s ownership of the book, but also due to a direct piece of evidence that lies in one of the miniatures; a small Medici Coat of Arms is recognizable.

Illustrations of Animals from the greatest Artists

Throughout the 150 pages, a variety of Aesop’s Fables are presented and illustrated with 135 half-page miniatures, which are enriched with gold. An unknown writer copied the text in around 1480 in Milan from a printed edition of Bonus Accursius. Mariano del Buono (1433–1504) and the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon can be identified as the artists adoring the book, who were both masters of manuscript art in the 16th century. They designed the pages with gorgeous initials and floral ornaments alongside a left-side border around the text. The wonderful and impressive miniatures are like panel paintings in narrow borders conveniently integrated in text. A bright world of animals populate the miniatures: donkeys, horses, dogs, rabbits, all manner of birds, wild boar, foxes and camels. Altogether, the wondrous spiritedness and realism of the Renaissance is depicted. Grandiose, airy landscapes highlight the representations. The artistic and lovingly designed miniatures, by the same token, embrace the adjoining text’s juxtaposition with animals, people, and God, as the individual stories go hand-and-hand with one another. The coloring and the wonderfully crafted depictions of animals are not only entertaining for adults, but also certainly for children. They underline the anecdotes that Piero de Medici certainly learned as a kid from this present manuscript, with represents one of the most beautiful illustrated editions of Aesop’s Fables from the Renaissance.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Esopo Medici
Medici-Aesop
Les Fables d'Ésope
Le Fiabe dell’Esopo Mediceo
Size / Format
150 pages / 20.0 × 12.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
ca. 1480
Language
Illustrations
135 half-page miniatures adorned with gold
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Lorenzo’s son, Piero (1471–1503)

Available facsimile editions:
Medici Aesop – Spencer 50 – The New York Public Library  (New York, USA) / Private Collection
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2011
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Detail Picture

Medici Aesop

Author Portrait

In a bas-de-page miniature like this that appears at the beginning of a manuscript, one would normally find a dedication miniature or some other portrait of the patron. However, this in no way resembles the patron of this manuscript, Lorenzo de’ Medici, whose likeness is well known, nor does it resemble his son Piero, for whom the manuscript was made. Thus, framed in a brilliant field of red and gold, we must conclude that this is the artist’s conception of Aesop himself.

Esopo Medici
Single Page

Medici Aesop

The Eagle and the Fox

One of Aesop’s Fables is intended to serve as a warning that the powerful should fear revenge from the humble people that they harm, or alternatively, of the danger of betrayal. In the story, an eagle and a fox are friends and decide to live together, seen here by the proximity of the eagle’s tree to the fox’s den. However, the eagle betrays the fox by stealing one of its cubs to feed to its young.

The fox prays for vengeance, which is brought about when the eagle brings back meat from a sacrificial altar with a glowing coal still attached. This burns the eagle chicks, who tumble from the nest to the bottom of the tree, where they are eaten by the fox. A surprisingly serene landscape serves as the background for this tale of treachery and revenge.

Esopo Medici
Facsimile Editions

#1 Esopo Medici

Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2011
Medici Aesop – Spencer 50 – The New York Public Library  (New York, USA) / Private Collection
Medici Aesop – Spencer 50 – The New York Public Library (New York, USA) / Private Collection Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2011
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Brown leather with blind embossings
Commentary: 1 volume (150 pages) by Ada Labriola
Languages: Spanish, Italian, English, German
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: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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