Illuminated by various masters of book art: Virgil's three major works in a splendidly illustrated manuscript from the 15th century

Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid

Rome and Naples (Italy) — Between 1470-1499

Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid

Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid

Rome and Naples (Italy) — Between 1470-1499

  1. Publius Virgilius Maro (70 - 19 BC) was arguably the most important and famous author of literature in the ancient world

  2. Virgil's *Eclogues*, *Georgics*, and *Aeneid* are united here into a beautiful 15th century manuscript

  3. The anonymous masters of the work broke with established iconographic traditions to illustrate the texts

Bucólicas, Geórgicas y Eneida (Opera de Virgilio)

Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid

Juno before Aeolus, the Winds Unleashed

This miniature shows the vengeance of the Goddess Juno. Wearing a golden three-crowned tiara, Juno is shown with her retinue of nymphs in the upper right corner, and gestures to Aeolus as though commanding him. Aeolus, Keeper of the Winds, is depicted as a vassal king wearing armor and holding a scepter in one hand and a spear in the other. The slab of rock at his feet is the wind cave, which he opens with his spear, unleashing the winds to blow Aeneas’ fleet off course.

Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid

Alternative Titles:
  • Bucólicas, Geórgicas y Eneida (Opera de Virgilio)
  • Vergil - Bucolica (Eklogen), die Georgica und die Aeneis
  • Publius Vergilius Maro
Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid
 – Ms.837 – Biblioteca Histórica de la Universitat (València, Spain)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The ancient author Publius Virgilius Maro, better known as Virgil today, was arguably the most important and famous author of literature in the ancient world. His texts have outlasted the centuries and are counted today among the most influential poetry to have ever been written. His three primary works in particular, the Bucolics, the Georgics, and the Aeneid, are of immeasurable significance for world literature. The ancient reading material was reworked in numerous codices and illustrated with gorgeous and high-quality, hand-drawn miniatures. The edition of the work at hand, which was made in Italy between 1470 and 1499, represents one of the most beautiful adaptations of the epic material from antiquity.

Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid

The three primary works of the great ancient poet Virgil – namely the Bucolics, Georgics, and the Aeneid – are counted among the most important documents in the history of world literature. The masterful tales revolutionized Latin poetry and shortly after Virgil’s death were already repeatedly transcribed, published, commented on, and reworked. The handwritten edition of the great poem, who’s original is stored today in the library of the University of Valencia, belongs among the most beautiful and lavish illuminated Vergil manuscript from the 15th century. The numerous high-quality illustrations of the work go above the simple illustration of the events occurring in the text and serves the reader as visual commentary, as a reminder, and as an aid to understanding.

A Primary Work of Ancient Literature

The three great works of Virgil are known by the titles Bucolics – the title translates to ‘pastoral poem’ – combining ten eclogues, the Georgics – a didactic poem consisting of four books concerning agriculture and animal husbandry, and the Aeneid epic that is divided into twelve books. The poetic writings were already unified into a Corpus in antiquity. In late antiquity, it was continuously annotated, primarily for use in schools, and was furnished with a comprehensive Vita, primers, and other complementary texts from the most varied of origins. Simultaneously, extremely luxurious editions of the work came to be, in which Virgil’s text was commented on with illustrative pictures. Today, two of these original illuminated texts still survive, if only in fragments. One of these historic ancient codices of unbelievable historical worth is the so-called Vergilius Romanus. The 15th century edition of the book at hand has its foundation in this work.

Contemporary Book Illustration

The text of the codex from Valencia is certainly strictly based on the ancient template of the masterpiece, however the illumination of the medieval edition deviates significantly from its predecessors. In the Middle Ages, specific iconographic traditions took shape for the illustration of narrative texts both biblical and profane. Certain topics of the Aeneid such as the stories of Troy, Dido, and the struggles of Aeneas in Latium, which were transcribed early on in vernacular adaptations, were illustrated for centuries in the medieval style. The ancient poetry was pictorially depicted through illumination in the garments of the time. Thus, the beautiful, dreamlike pictures of the Valencia codex show the events described in the literature in typical medieval surroundings. There are scenes from the life and work of medieval farmers, people in contemporary clothing and picturesque medieval cities.

On the History of the Manuscript

The manuscript, which is stored in Valencia, was most likely manufactured at the end of the 15th century for the humanist library of the Aragonese royal house of Naples. After the conquest of Naples by Charles VIII of France in 1495, it probably came to Spain with Ferdinand of Aragon – the son of Federico. So far, neither the author nor the illustrator of the manuscript from Valencia can be determined. There exists only clues and conjecture about the origins of the splendid work. The codex from Naples originated during the period of Renaissance humanism, in which the masters of the great Italian art centers found themselves in lively exchange. Not only the scholars and literati, but also copyists, calligraphers, and miniaturists alternated between Naples, Florence, and Rome, thus allowing for various influences to interplay with one another. Additionally, as has been shown in recent studies, manuscripts were sent hither and thither during their manufacture. Thus, one can assume that work on the masterpiece occurred in different places and was surely labored on by some of the most gifted illuminators of the Renaissance.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Bucólicas, Geórgicas y Eneida (Opera de Virgilio)
Vergil - Bucolica (Eklogen), die Georgica und die Aeneis
Publius Vergilius Maro
Size / Format
554 pages / 31.4 x 22.2 cm
Date
Between 1470-1499
Language
Illustrations
Richly illuminated
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Bucólicas, Geórgicas y Eneida (Opera de Virgilio)

Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid

The Trojan Horse

Virgil’s Aeneid is the main literary source about the most (in)famous incident of military subterfuge in history, the Trojan Horse, presented here in the full splendor of the Italian Renaissance. Surrounded by a frame of gold leaf tendrils inhabited by colorful songbirds, the infamous sack of Troy is depicted here dressed in the garments of the late-15th century.

The horse is depicted as appearing natural on the outside, but the open doors reveal the grain of the wood from which it was built. Achaean warriors spill out into the city, which is no longer protected by its high walls and parts of which were already ablaze. Three distressed Trojan ladies dressed in green, blue, and red watch from a tower as the destruction of their city unfolds.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid “

Bucólicas, Geórgicas y Eneida (Opera de Virgilio)
Virgil: Bucolics, Georgics and Aeneid
 – Ms.837 – Biblioteca Histórica de la Universitat (València, Spain)
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Bucólicas, Geórgicas y Eneida (Opera de Virgilio)

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 2001
Limited Edition
1380 copies
Binding
Engraved leather on wooden board. Presentation dust jacket bound in gilt tooled leather.
Commentary
1 volume (104 pages) by Antonie Wlosok, Carmen Morenilla Talens, María Cruz Cabeza Sánchez-Albornoz and Francisco M. Gimeno Blay

Languages: Spanish or German
More Information
Specially made paper with the same characteristics as the original parchment. Limited edition, numbered by notary and signed by the printer-publisher.
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