Offiziolo Alfonsino

Offiziolo Alfonsino Facsimile Edition

Ferrara (Italy) — 1505–1510

Perhaps the last magnificent work from the famous city of Ferrara: Matteo da Milano's fantastically illuminated masterpiece for Alfonso d'Este, one of the great patrons of the Renaissance

  1. Matteo da Milano created this fantastic specimen for Alfonso d’Este (1476–1534) at the Duke’s court in Ferrara

  2. It represents the last truly exceptional work of illumination from Ferrara created for a famous art patron

  3. Matteo da Milano's characteristic style distinguishes itself through exciting, innovative bordures inter alia

Offiziolo Alfonsino

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Offiziolo Alfonsino

The Book of Hours of Alfonso d’Este was made between 1505 and 1510 by the Italian master Matteo da Milano at the Duke’s court in Ferrara. Today, it is considered to be the last great masterpiece of book art from Ferrera. The magnificent work is especially captivating because of its 29 splendidly designed full-page miniatures and its fascinating bordures. The pictorial adornment of the work shimmers in luminous colors and precious gold leaf.

Offiziolo Alfonsino

In the year 1505, Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, Regio, and Modena, commissioned an illuminated manuscript that is considered today to be the last truly exceptional creation by the book artists of Ferrara. The Offiziolo Alfonsino is one of the greatest masterpieces among the manuscripts of the Middle Ages and is unbelievably richly decorated. The work comprises 199 pages, the first 12 pages of which exhibit an elaborately decorated calendar. 29 pages are completely illustrated, 10 pages exhibit small miniatures and all of the texts are embellished with golden initials.

Coveted Book Art of the Renaissance

Duke Alfonso I d’Este reigned from June 15, 1505 to October 31, 1534 and proved himself to be a significant statesman and general during a period of political instability. He was equally considered to be one of the greatest patrons of the Renaissance. The greatest Renaissance artists were employed at his court. Among others, he commissioned a picture cycle from Titian, wherefore he constructed a gallery in his study. Along with the Bible of Borso d’Este and the Breviary of Ercole d’Este, his book of hours forms a trilogy of the finest illumination art and was one of the most beautiful books in the Library of Modena until 1859. At a time still unknown, 14 full-page miniature were removed from the splendid work and arose in the library of the Croatian Bishop Strossmayer ca. 1884. These pages are found today in the holdings of the Strossmayer Gallery in Zagreb. The main part of the valuable manuscript is found today in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.

Masterful Book Adornment

The Italian illuminator Matteo da Milano is responsible for the dreamlike illustrations of the book of hours. The unbelievably talented painter already designed the Breviary of Ercole d’Este as well as the Book of Hours of Bonaparte Ghislieri. His characteristic style distinguishes itself through exciting, innovative bordure painting and through the combination of various stylistic influences. In his art, he allowed himself to be equally inspired by classical painting from antiquity as well as Flemish and northern European characteristics. In the Book of Hours of Alfonso d’Este, the master presents his abilities in a breathtaking manner. The prayers of the religious book are initiated by historiated initials and lavishly decorated frames. The backgrounds, shimmering in gold or black with a gold pattern, are embellished with pearls, costly gemstones, flowers, fruits, and beasts. A few pages exhibit fantastical and grotesque creatures.


Alternative Titles
Book of Hours of Alfonso d'Este
Stundenbuch des Alfonso d'Este
Size / Format
398 pages / 26.0 × 17.0 cm
29 full-page miniatures, numerous decorated borders, coat of arms, and initials
Duke Alfonso I d'Este (1476–1534)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Estense Modena Library
House of Austria-Este in Vienna

Available facsimile editions:
Offiziolo Alfonsino – L.A. 149 – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon, Portugal) Facsimile Edition
Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2002
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Detail Picture

Offiziolo Alfonsino

Kiss of Judas

This famous scene from the Garden of Gethsemane is one of the most popular in medieval Christian art. Here, Judas gives the prearranged signal to the mob as one of the Twelve Apostles wrestles on the ground with a member of the mob. This scene mixes classical forms, such as the robes worn by Jesus and his disciples, with contemporary clothing and armor worn by the soldiers who have come to arrest Jesus. The armor of the early-16th century is portrayed with a surprising degree of detail.

Offiziolo Alfonsino
Single Page

Offiziolo Alfonsino

Incipit Page with Coat of Arms

Text in red, blue, and golden ink introduces this gorgeous page along with an “I” initial consisting of a column that Christ is reading in front of while dressed in colorful robes. These prayers from the Gospel of Luke are presented in a wonderful black frame that emphasizes the rich, bright colors of the flowers, gemstones, drolleries, and golden medallions.

Alfonso d’Este’s coat of arms at the bottom of the page is flanked by these two drolleries. On the left, the creature has the body of a bird with the tail of a snake and three dragon heads. The creature on the right also has the head of a dragon and a bizarre body with the hind legs of a dog, front legs like an insect, and the breasts of a human woman.

Offiziolo Alfonsino
Facsimile Editions

#1 Offiziolo Alfonsino

Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2002
Offiziolo Alfonsino – L.A. 149 – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon, Portugal) Facsimile Edition
Offiziolo Alfonsino – L.A. 149 – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon, Portugal) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2002
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Red calfskin with embossed gold frames on the covers and spine
Commentary: 1 volume (288 pages) by Ernesto Milano and Manuela Fidalgo
Languages: Italian, German, English
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€)
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