History of the City of Troy

MSS/17805 - Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Die Geschichte der Stadt Troja, Historia Civitatis Troianae

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Die Geschichte der Stadt Troja
Historia Civitatis Troianae

Type
Extent / Format

296 pages / 33.8 x 24.5 cm

Origin
Date
1340 - 1350
Style
Genre
Content

Narration the destruction of Troy by the Greeks

Language
Artist / School

Influenced by Paolo Veneziano

Illustrations

93 varying-format miniatures

Former owners

Alvar Gómez de Castro
Marqués de Navas

Short description

The codex known as MS 17805 in the Spanish National Library is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful illuminated histories of the Trojan War. Written in Latin by the famous Italian lawyer, poet, and historian Guido delle Colonne, the text is recorded in red and black ink. The events of the text are reflected in colorful and richly detailed miniatures, and are further adorned by historiated initials with burnished gold. The manuscript originated in Venice ca. 1340-1350, and may have come to Spain in the 16th century during the Italian Wars. There are several of works narrating the fall of the city of Troy, but this is the only one detailing the customs, traditions, leisure activities, etc. of the city. The Historia Civitatis Troiane is a unique source about the lost city of Troy whose significance is matched by its beauty.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Historia Civitatis Troiane

Among the intellectual movements to gain steam during the Renaissance was the fascination with myths and histories from antiquity. Few tales have enjoyed such popularity throughout the centuries as that of the Trojan War. Love, passion, rivalries, betrayal, war, and doomed heroes – the tale has it all and was as attractive to medieval audiences as it continues to be for modern ones. One specimen is unique from the rest, because while all tell of the city’s fall, only one details daily life in Troy before its destruction: MS 17805 of the Spanish National Library, also known as the Historia Civitatis Troiane. Written in Latin by the famous Italian lawyer, poet, and historian Guido delle Colonne, the text is recorded in red and black ink, and is illustrated by brightly colored miniatures.

A Gem of the Early Renaissance

Colonne’s work was turned into a luxury manuscript in a Venetian atelier ca. 1340-1350, where it was adorned with 93 miniatures as rich in color as they are in detail, initials illuminated with burnished gold, and even some vegetal decoration in the margins of the text. Although there are other manuscripts with the story of the Fall of Troy, MS 17805 stands above the rest because it is the only one detailing the customs, traditions, leisure activities, etc. of the city. Although the identities of the work’s patron and the masters responsible for it continue to remain a mystery, the illumination was clearly influenced by Paolo Veneciano. This is an outstanding and unique specimen of the early Venetian Renaissance.

Mysterious Journey from Italy to Spain

Buchtel’s famous study of the manuscript has shed some light on the manuscript’s provenance and turbulent history. Although it is not known for certain, it is speculated that the manuscript made its way to Spain during the Italian Wars of the 16th century, when the major powers of Western Europe vied for control of the rich peninsula. He asserts that it was once owned by Alvar Gómez de Castro, and an anagram indicates that it also belonged to the Marqués de Navas. The manuscript was purchased by the Spanish National Library in 1899 as part of the collection of Pascual de Gayangos.

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