Pacino di Bonaguida’s Picture Book

MS M.643 - Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)

Alternate Titles:

Pacino de Bonaguida - Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Life of the Blessed Gerard of Villamagna, Pacino de Bonaguidas Buch der Bilder

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Pacino de Bonaguida - Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Life of the Blessed Gerard of Villamagna
Pacino de Bonaguidas Buch der Bilder

Type
Extent / Format

40 pages / 30.9 x 22.5 cm

Origin
Date
1320-1330
Style
Genre
Content

32 scenes from the Life of Christ, two Old Testament scenes and four miniatures with scenes of the life of Blessed Gerard of Villamagna

Language
Others
Artist / School

Pacino di Bonaguida and his workshop

Illustrations

38 miniatures: 32 scenes from the Life of Christ, two Old Testament scenes and four miniatures with scenes of the life of Blessed Gherardo of Villamagna

Former owners

Henry Yates Thompson
Bernard Quaritch
J. Pierpont Morgan

Short description

Pacino di Bonaguida’s Picture Book is counted among the most significant works of Italian Trecento book art. The Florentine artist used the developments of Trecento painting in Italy, represented in particular by the monumental painting of Giotto, in the more intimate medium of illumination. In luminously bright miniatures of great intensity, he visualized the life of Jesus Christ in his manuscript from ca. 1320.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Pacino di Bonaguida’s Picture Book

Pacino di Bonaguida’s Picture Book is counted among the most significant works of Italian Trecento book art. The Florentine artist used the developments of Trecento painting in Italy, represented in particular by the monumental painting of Giotto, in the more intimate medium of illumination. In luminously bright miniatures of great intensity, he visualized the life of Jesus Christ in his manuscript from ca. 1320.

The Power of Images

The first thing to catch one’s eye is probably the intensive blue of the background. This luminous color is a dominant feature of the book’s miniatures. Always surrounded by red-blue frames, biblical scenes play out against the blue background. The total of 38 full-page miniatures begins with a depiction of King David with a scroll in his hand. Following thereafter are 32 scene from the life of Christ, from the Annunciation through the birth and childhood of Jesus up to the Passion and Ascension. The last five picture pages deal with the life of St. Gerardo da Villamagna, a 13th century crusader and Franciscan monk, who lived as a hermit at the end of his life.

The Great Art of Trecento in Small Format

The scenes play out in front of or in architectural spaces, whereby perspective found its first implementation, or in nature before stylized trees and green hills. The reduction of the figures depicted to only the persons taking part in events is admirable. All of them are dressed in in beautiful arrangements of folds and are portrayed with forceful gestures that elucidate the events. Pacino de Bonaguida consequently conveyed the developments in the painting of the Trecento in Italy with all the innovations of illumination. Especially worthy of mention is the implementation of perspective for the first time, Trecento’s new spatial concept of imagery, in illumination. He accomplished that however, in spite of everything, not by directly referring to examples, but by implementing his own pictorial ideas. By breaking up the large depictions of panel and mural painting into several smaller scenes in his miniature painting and making them more easily comprehensible, he likewise created a new method of narrative development.

The Work of a Pioneering Artist

With his book, Pacino de Bonaguida made a manuscript completely without text, which depended solely on the expressiveness of this pictorial representations. Across 19 pages, he assembled emphatic depictions from the life of Christ in powerful temperas and with the application of valuable gold leaf. Pacino de Bonaguida is the first illuminator of Florence, who is known by name. His name is associated today above all with his picture book and or the Tree of Life in the Florentine Academy, but also the only panel painting with his signature, the so-called Chiarito-Tabernacle from the 1340’s, which is housed today in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The illuminated manuscript dealt with here probably originates from ca. 1320 and today is part of the collection of the **Morgan Library in New York.

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