Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

Florence (Italy) — Around 1448

A magnificent epic concerning the Second Punic War: Francesco Di Stefano's Renaissance masterpiece for Pope Nicolaus V

  1. This epic about the Second Punic War was rediscovered during the Renaissance

  2. Pope Nicolaus V (1397–1455) owned a richly-decorated codex thereof, of which a fragment survives

  3. The blessed artist of the work was the great Florentine master Francesco Di Stefano (ca. 1422–1457)

Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

These seven grandiose pages attest to the splendor of the manuscript of which they were once a part: one of the most valuable Italian editions of the Punica by Silius Italicus from the 15th century. This epic by the famous ancient Roman poet about the Second Punic War was rediscovered and well-received in the Renaissance. This splendidly furnished edition, illustrated by Francesco Di Stefano, was in the private collection of Pope Nicolaus V. The seven surviving pages present the allegorical figures of Rome and Carthage, portraits of Silius Italicus, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, and Pope Nicolaus V, as well as a depiction of Mars, the god of war.

Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

These seven grandiose pages attest to the splendor of the manuscript of which they were once a part: one of the most valuable Italian editions of the Punica by Silius Italicus from the 15th century. This epic by the famous ancient Roman poet about the Second Punic War was rediscovered and well-received in the Renaissance. This splendidly furnished edition, illustrated by Francesco Di Stefano, was in the private collection of Pope Nicolaus V. The seven surviving pages present the allegorical figures of Rome and Carthage, portraits of Silius Italicus, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, and Pope Nicolaus V, as well as a depiction of Mars, the god of war.

The Ancient War Epic

In his famous Punica, also known under the title De bello italic, the ancient Roman poet Silius Italicus tells about the Second Punic War. This epic made the author famous. The text, which was rediscovered and adapted in the Renaissance, celebrated the greatness and power of Rome and its heroes.

In the Pope’s Possession

Pope Nicolaus V (1447–55) owned a richly-decorated codex of the Punica. This came along with the rest of Nicolaus V’s significant collection to the Dominican Convent of St. Peter and Paul in Venice. The excessively-decorated and famous manuscript was finally the victim of robbers and thus only seven pages survive today. Nonetheless, these are a grandiose attestation to the overwhelming splendor of the former codex. Today, these pages are stored in two different collections: the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Seven Masterpieces of Renaissance Painting

The Silius Italicus manuscript originated ca. 1448 in Florence. The blessed artist of the work was Francesco Di Stefano, called Il Pesellino, one of the most significant artists of the Florentine Quattrocento. Francesco Di Stefano was influenced by Italy’s greatest masters, Filippo Lippi and Fra Angelico, inter alia. The seven surviving pages measuring 33 x 20 cm present gorgeous Renaissance-style depictions in full-page miniatures. Magnificent decorative frames, which imitate marble and other materials, surround the allegorical figures of Rome and Carthage, portraits of Silius Italicus, the generals Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, Pope Nicolaus V, and the god Mars on a war chariot drawn by two horses in a marvelous landscape. They are all presented in profile as elegant figures in colorful garments, each standing in a bright alcove.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Silius Italicus
Size / Format
14 pages / 33.0 × 20.2 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
Around 1448
Language
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Pope Nicholas V
Dominican monastery of Saints John and Paul in Venice

Available facsimile editions:
Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema – Inv. 1791
|Lat. XII, 68 – 4519 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy) / The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 949 copies
Detail Picture

Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

Scipio Africanus

Wearing a stylized helmet with a spined fish and the wings of an eagle, Scipio Africanus triumphantly holds up a sword – the tip of which pierces the gold leaf of the frame that surrounds him – as he stands in front of an alcove flanked by two green columns. Aside from being one of Rome’s greatest heroes, Scipio is regarded as one of the best military commanders and strategists of all time whose most famous achievement was defeating the Carthaginian general Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC.

Silius Italicus
Single Page

Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

Mars

The Roman god of war is being drawn by two red horses on a four-wheeled chariot, which he appears to float above rather than stand on. Sword in hand, Mars is dressed in stylized armor with a cape and carries and eight-sided Grecian shield. A strong fortress with many strong towers is perched on a hill in the distance amidst a splendid landscape.

The standard pattern of a Roman army camps served both a defensive and a religious purpose: the commander’s headquarters at the center of the camp was also where auspices were taken and sacrifices made. It was believed that victory was dependent on a combination of personal and collective virtus or “manly virtue” and divine will; it was the sign of a special relationship with the gods, especially Mars.

Silius Italicus
Facsimile Editions

#1 Silius Italicus

Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2010
Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema – Inv. 1791
|Lat. XII, 68 – 4519 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy) / The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema – Inv. 1791 |Lat. XII, 68 – 4519 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy) / The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 949 copies
Binding: 7 loose sheets in case
Commentary: 1 volume by Susy Marcon
Languages: English, French, Spanish
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: € (under 1,000€)
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