FRANCESCO DI ANTONIO DEL CHIERICO

Illuminated arms of the Spinelli family of Florence.

Italy (Florence), c. 1460s.

A cutting (90 x 270 mm) from the foot of an illuminated manuscript comprising the lower border of (probably) the opening page, central wreath borne by two delicately painted winged putti and enclosing the Spinelli arms, the border of lush scrolling foliage amidst which two animated birds perch, all painted in shades of green, blue, dull orange and grey and with both shell and burnished gold; some rubbing resulting in small losses of pigment and burnished gold, some light soiling, but in very good condition; in an old card mount and within a late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century English frame stamped ‘Kensington Art Framers’ on the back.

£3000 + VAT

Approximately:
US $3766€3511

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Illuminated arms of the Spinelli family of Florence.

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Florentine border decoration of very high quality from what must have been a luxurious manuscript produced for a member of the wealthy Spinelli family. Sadly there is no indication of the contents of the parent manuscript, nor have we been able to identify a likely candidate, but ruling just visible at the top of the cutting indicates that the manuscript was written in double columns (a Breviary perhaps?), each column 75 mm wide and with a total text width of 170 mm.

The style of the decoration, with its sensitively modelled putti, exuberant blue and green foliage and sprightly dun-coloured birds, is characteristic of the workshop of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (1433–1484) in the 1460s and 1470s. The putti, in particular, are extremely close to the hand of Francesco di Antonio himself.

Francesco di Antonio del Chierico ‘worked for the most important patrons in Italy and abroad, beginning his artistic career under Cosimo il Vecchio and Piero I de’ Medici, and continuing it under Lorenzo the Magnificent. Vespasiano da Bisticci was his contact with patrons outside Florence, who included Federigo II da Montefeltro, Ferdinand I, King of Naples, Louis XI of France and Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. Francesco decorated texts of all kinds – literary, historical, scientific, religious – and of all sizes, from small Books of Hours to huge choir-books … Francesco’s miniatures show a subtle understanding of the Antique, acquired through an interpretation of Classical texts and through his knowledge of, for example, ancient cameos and sarcophagi. All his work shows an experimental, anti-academic approach. Even the borders of his decorated pages show a high level of creativity: in the innumerable putti, the arrangements of flowers and elegant candelabra’ (Grove Art Online).

Given the probable date of the present cutting the most likely first owner of the manuscript is Tommaso Spinelli (1398–1472), wealthy silk merchant and papal banker. Although we have been unable to identify any manuscripts bearing Spinelli’s arms, surviving inventories of his possessions taken in the 1440s demonstrate the extent and nature of his taste in books. The earliest inventory, from 1445, lists a cassone which ‘contained six leather-bound books, including Boccaccio’s Fiammetta, a Roman de Troie (“Troiano”), the Epistles of Saint Paul, and the vulgate of Saint Jerome. Another chest contained a parchment manuscript of Ovid’s letters … Less than a year later … there were a few noteworthy additions: a “libro di ciento novelle”, Donatus’s Latin grammar, the Liber Taxarum entrusted to him by [Pope] Eugenius [IV], the Epistolae of Seneca, Petrarch’s Canzoniere and Trionfi, Dio Cassius, and a “libretto de’ pensieri di Christo”. Whatever Tommaso’s schooling in Latin, his increasing contact with humanists at the Curia must have stimulated an interest in the classical authors. Although Tommaso branded his stemma on many of his more valuable possessions – chalices, cutlery, and salt-shakers – this seems not the case with the manuscripts he owned. Frequently Tommaso withdrew four or five florins from the conto di cassa to purchase a particular book that caught his eye. One codex in the Vatican library containing Ad Atticum among other Ciceronian texts passed into Tommaso’s possession in 1452. According to the colophon, the scribe received in exchange for the manuscript a yard of spun cloth valued at 3½ florins, plus additional cremise and fur lining’ (Philip Jacks and William Caferro, The Spinelli of Florence. Fortunes of a Renaissance merchant family, 2001, pp. 59–60).

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