Paduan Bible Picture Book

Paduan Bible Picture Book – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Add. MS 15277 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Padua (Italy) β€” End of the 14th century

In the spirit of Giotto's formative Trecento frescoes in Padua, above all the world-famous Scrovegni Chapel: a unique illustrated Bible in the transition from late Gothic to early Renaissance with over 500 virtuoso miniatures

  1. Aside from even five full-page miniatures, most of the pages consist of 3-4 miniatures with short captions in Italian

  2. The ingenious design of the image program allows the story of the Old Testament to unfold with the drama of a modern film

  3. New innovations from Giotto’s recently painted frescoes in Padua are incorporated into the miniatures spanning Gothic and Renaissance

Paduan Bible Picture Book

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Paduan Bible Picture Book

Imagery takes the driver’s seat in this gorgeously illuminated manuscript of the Old Testament originating from workshop of the so-called β€œMasters of the Paduan Historiated Bible” ca. 1400, which was associated with the patron Francesco Novello and the Carrara court in Padua. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua are illustrated with over 500 masterful miniatures in simple black and red frames. Most of the miniatures of are arranged four and occasionally three to a page but there are also five full-page miniatures of inter alia the Ark of the Covenant and Temple Menorah. Whether they are depicting interior rooms, landscapes, architectures, people, or animals, one cannot help but be impressed by the miniatures’ charm, naturalism, and immediacy, even when depicting scenes of violence. Not only are the layout and style unique among Italian manuscripts, but this is also the only surviving picture Bible written in the Italian language and artistically marks a transitionary period between the Gothic and Renaissance periods.

Paduan Bible Picture Book

This unique and precious gem of Italian illumination was created ca. 1400 in Padua, probably at the behest of Francesco Novello da Carrara (1359–1406), who ruled as Lord of Padua beginning in 1388. The wealth and sophistication of the patron are expressed by this masterfully designed and executed picture Bible containing the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. 529 masterful miniatures, usually arranged four or sometimes three to a page, including 5 full-page miniatures represent the quality of art produced in Northern Italy during in the late 14th century. It is the only picture Bible in the Italian language, and its style and layout are unique among Italian manuscripts, making it one of the most prized possessions of the British Library.

A Treasure from Padua

Located in Veneto to the west of Venice, Padua is one of the oldest cities in Italy and one of its most historically and culturally significant. It was supposedly found ca. 1183 BC by the Trojan prince Antenor, is home to the fifth-oldest surviving university founded in 1222, and became a center of humanism and the Renaissance as it was the site of discoveries of numerous artifacts from antiquity. The Carraresi family became lords of the city in 1318 and nine members of the family ruled over it. Francesco Novello’s reign represented the end of its status as an independent city state when Padua was defeated in 1405 and became part of the Republic of Venice until the end of the 18th century. This manuscript is one of the last specimens from an independent Padua and is the product of the Maestri della Bibbia istoriata Padovana or β€œMasters of the Paduan Historiated Bible”, a workshop closely associated with and patronized by the powerful Carraresi family

Artistic and Literary Influences

The Paduan Bible Picture Book represents the threshold between the late Gothic and early Renaissance styles and exhibits influences from various artists. First and foremost are the frescoes that were recently completed in Padua by Giotto (ca. 1267–1337). However, the style of painting is also reminiscent of the frescoes depicting the life of the Virgin Mary painted by Jacopo da Verona (1355 – after 1443) in the San Michele Oratory, a Gothic-style prayer hall in Padua. Some researchers have gone so far as to theorize that Jacopo was the artist responsible for the wealth of miniatures in this work. Furthermore, the fact that the three greatest literary figures of the early Italian Renaissance – Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio – wrote their greatest works in Italian instead of Latin encouraged the scribe or scribes who wrote the text to do so in vernacular. This is further evidence that the manuscript was made for a lay patron with Francesco Novello being the most likely candidate.

The Old Testament in Renaissance Italy

The plagues afflicting the Egyptians, the flight of the Israelites from Egypt, Moses and the Ten Commandments, the worship of the Golden Calf, and the trumpets of Jericho – all the best-known stories from the Old Testament are brought to life in this manuscript. These stories are also dressed in the garments and set in the cities and towns of late-14th century Italy. Their detailed design is complimented by the delicate colors and subtle shading that give them a dreamy yet realistic appearance. They are arranged so that the progression of events can be followed easily in the manner of a modern comic book. Architectural elements, landscape details, and groups of people are often conceived in the miniatures as units that contribute to the perspective and depth of the picture field. Many of the images are charged with tension and violence but are depicted with the same loving attention to detail as more pleasant scenes.


Alternative Titles
Picture Bible of Padua
Bilderbibel aus Padua
Size / Format
172 pages / 32.5 Γ— 23.0 cm
End of the 14th century
Gothic Textura
529 miniatures, 5 of them full-page
Miniature cycle on the Old Testament, provided with brief texts
Probably Francesco Novello da Carrara
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex

Available facsimile editions:
Paduan Bible Picture Book – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Add. MS 15277 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2023
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Detail Picture

Paduan Bible Picture Book

Blacksmiths at Work

Aside from depicting the dramatic events of the Old Testament, this manuscript offers a highly detailed inside look into life in late medieval Italy and in this case provides a glimpse of the labor of two blacksmiths dressed in leather aprons. The smith in red works the bellows with his left hand while he pokes at the raw iron in the forge with his right hand, next to which the hardening basin can be seen. Meanwhile, his colleague holds a piece of metal with tongs on the anvil as he raises his hammer to strike it. One can almost hear the hammer blows ringing in the smithy!

Paduan Bible Picture Book – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Add. MS 15277 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Single Page

Paduan Bible Picture Book

Bezalel and Oholiab

In the Book of Exodus, Bezalel is the chief artisan of the Israelites who is tasked by Moses with the construction of the Tabernacle and the various objects that furnished it. He was helped inter alia by Oholiab, son of Ahisamakh, a master of carpentry, weaving, and embroidery who served as deputy architect. Rather than focusing on priests and prophets, it is the humble craftsmen who expressed their faith and devotion with the skill of their hands to whom an entire page is devoted.

The various skills of Bezalel (in blue with a red cap) and Oholiab (in red with a blue cap) as described by Moses to the Israelites when explaining why he chose them are depicted here. They are creating the ceremonial robes with its various fittings for Aaron in his role as high priest in the two miniatures in the upper register. Below, they are constructing the Temple Menorah on the left and columns for the Tabernacle on the right.

Paduan Bible Picture Book – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Add. MS 15277 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Die Bilderbibel aus Padua

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2023

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2023
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Binding: Black leather binding with elegant gold embossing on the inside edges of the cover and a hand-stamped headband. The facsimile and commentary volume come in a handmade linen case.
Commentary: 1 volume by Karl-Georg Pfändtner and Ulrike Bauer-Eberhardt
Language: German

The commentary volume contains a German translation of the old Italian text by Marina Molin Pradel and Norbert KΓΆssinger.
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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