Pacino di Bonaguida’s Picture Book

BRILLIANT FLORENTINE MINIATURES OF THE LIFE OF CHRIST

The art of the Italian Trecento, and especially that of Giotto, was a crucial stage in the development of Western culture. From this period originates an exceptional picture book by Pacino di Bonaguida (c.1280–1340) that depicts scenes from the life of Christ, completely without text, which is of the very highest artistic quality. In it, the innovative treatment of space, which was a key breakthrough in Trecento art, was introduced for the very first time in the illumination of manuscripts, making it a milestone in the history of art.

A GEM OF LATE MEDIEVAL BOOK ILLUMINATION

The 19 folios contain a rich sequence of 38 full-page miniatures in tempera and gold leaf, encapsulating the artistic perfection of the Trecento; what Giotto created on a large scale with his frescos in the Arena Chapel can be found at the same level of quality, but on a smaller scale, in this unique illuminated manuscript.

32 of the pictures show scenes of the life of Christ, and in addition there are two scenes from the Old Testament and four scenes of the life of Blessed Gerard of Villamagna, a Florentine saint from the 13th century.

A MASTERPIECE FROM THE DAWN OF THE RENAISSANCE

Pacino’s masterly images are immediately captivating, both through the incredible freshness of their colours and through the clear, uncluttered iconography. The influence of the great Giotto is evident in certain striking stylistic features. Scenes from the Old Testament accompany Christological and hagiographic scenes, similar to introductory cycles of psalters, especially of French origin. The iconography was based on Italian translations of “La Somme le Roi” by the Dominican priest Frère Laurent, a text which contains almost everything required in a prayer book for laymen. Part of the manuscript is dedicated to the life of Blessed Gerard of Villamagna who was venerated especially in the region of Florence. We know from one 17th century description that scenes which were originally depicted on an altar dedicated to him have been preserved almost exactly in this manuscript. This could be an indication that this mysterious work belongs to a cycle of manuscripts called “libelli”: illustrated lives of saints closely linked to the shrine or relics of the saint.

ITALIAN ART

IN THE TRECENTO

Italian art in the Duecento was initially determined largely by the influence of Byzantine art. However at the beginning of the century, the Gothic style started to take a leading role in the spiritual regeneration of Western European culture.

Gothic influences are already noticeable in the masterpieces of the Duecento, for example in the works of Cavallini, Cimabue and Duccio. At the end of the century, painting reached its most mature phase in which the two influences – the existing tradition of the East on the one hand, and the new powerful stylistic language of the West on the other – merge into a magnificent new artistic expression.

CULMINATION OF ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT: THE WORK OF GIOTTO

This development culminates in the work of Giotto, in which both great movements counterbalance and enable the appearance of a completely new art. From this combination arises the universal message of Giotto. His frescos in the Arena Chapel in Padua are the high point of this profound union of styles.

PACINO AND THE “MINIATURIST STYLE”

Pacino di Buonaguida was the first illuminator of Florence who is still known to us by name and the first to include Giotto’s new treatment of space in miniature painting. He was an innovator, capable of creating scenes without reference to previous examples.

His originality was not only revealed in this outstanding work, but also in other masterpieces that show his ability to come up with unusual solutions at the request of his customers, such as for instance the Tree of Life in the Florentine Academy or the Chiarito Tabernacle, now located in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The so-called Miniaturist Style distinguishes the masterpieces of a group of artists led by Bonaguida from the monumental works of Giotto. Both are based on the innovations of the Trecento. The monumental painting of Giotto is impressive, static and, so to speak, eternal, while the small scenes of the miniaturists appear more dynamic, carry forward the story, and, therefore, can be understood more easily by the observer.

Due to the intrinsic size limitation of miniature scenes, the artist needs to effectively capture a single instant – however this instant is depicted with such artistry that the further story suggests itself to the observer and, as a result, an incredibly dynamic picture emerges. Thus, Bonaguida established a new method of narrative development in book illumination.

The Picture Book of Pacino di Bonaguida is undoubtedly one of the most important works of European art from the dawn of the Renaissance.

THE FACSIMILE EDITION

Pacino di Bonaguida is one of the precursors of the art of the Renaissance, whose works are without exception superb. Nevertheless, one in particular stands out: his Picture Book with scenes from the life of Christ depicted completely without text. This unique work of art-historical significance will now be made publicly accessible for the first time in a perfect facsimile edition true to the original.

A BOOK OF MINIATURES IN A UNIQUE EDITION

The original manuscript, now in The Morgan Library, New York, (shelf-mark M.643) originated around 1320/30 in Florence. The are 19 folios in total, with 38 full-page miniatures – 32 scenes from the Life of Christ, two Old Testament scenes and four miniatures with scenes of the life of Blessed Gerard of Villamagna. The sections in gold are realized with 22-carat genuine gold. The dimensions of the manuscript are 24.5 x 17.6 cm. The binding is made of red leather and is richly decorated with gold tooling. The edition is strictly limited to 900 copies worldwide. The facsimile edition is delivered in a green decorated case.

THE COMMENTARY VOLUME

In the comments to the scenes of the Life of Christ of Pacino de Bonaguida, Christine Sciacca, Assistant Curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, describes all the miniatures, the significance of the manuscript, its history and its important role in the medieval art of the Trecento and Pre-Renaissance.

THE DOCUMENTATION KIT

You can easily convince yourself of the exceptional quality created by Müller & Schindler by ordering your copy of the documentation kit of this facsimile edition today.

CONTENTS OF THE DOCUMENTATION KIT

Two original facsimile folios including a detailed description will give you an understanding of the masterpiece of Pacino di Bonaguida in all its bright colours and the masterly elaboration of art in the Italian Trecento. A richly illustrated information brochure gives you an insight into the world of Pacino di Bonaguida and his time, and traces the history of his manuscript up to the present day.

 

 

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