Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

Inv. 1791 - Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy)
Lat. XII, 68 – 4519 - The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Alternate Titles:

Silius Italicus

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Silius Italicus

Type
Extent / Format

14 pages / 33.0 x 20.2 cm

Origin
Date
Around 1448
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Francesco Di Stefano (Il Pesellino)

Former owners

Pope Nicholas V
Dominican monastery of Saints John and Paul in Venice

Short description

These seven grandiose pages attest to the splendor of the manuscript of which they were once a part: one of the most valuable Italian editions of the Punica by Silius Italicus from the 15th century. This epic by the famous ancient Roman poet about the Second Punic War was rediscovered and well-received in the Renaissance. This splendidly furnished edition, illustrated by Francesco Di Stefano, was in the private collection of Pope Nicolaus V. The seven surviving pages present the allegorical figures of Rome and Carthage, portraits of Silius Italicus, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, and Pope Nicolaus V, as well as a depiction of Mars, the god of war.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Silius Italicus: De Secundo Bello Punico Poema

These seven grandiose pages attest to the splendor of the manuscript of which they were once a part: one of the most valuable Italian editions of the Punica by Silius Italicus from the 15th century. This epic by the famous ancient Roman poet about the Second Punic War was rediscovered and well-received in the Renaissance. This splendidly furnished edition, illustrated by Francesco Di Stefano, was in the private collection of Pope Nicolaus V. The seven surviving pages present the allegorical figures of Rome and Carthage, portraits of Silius Italicus, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, and Pope Nicolaus V, as well as a depiction of Mars, the god of war.

The Ancient War Epic

In his famous Punica, also known under the title De bello italico, the ancient Roman poet Silius Italicus tells about the Second Punic War. This epic made the author famous. The text, which was rediscovered and adapted in the Renaissance, celebrated the greatness and power of Rome and its heroes.

In the Pope’s Possession

Pope Nicolaus V (1447-55) owned a richly-decorated codex of the Punica. This came along with the rest of Nicolaus V’s significant collection to the Dominican Convent of St. Peter and Paul in Venice. The excessively-decorated and famous manuscript was finally the victim of robbers and thus only seven pages survive today. Nonetheless, these are a grandiose attestation to the overwhelming splendor of the former codex. Today, these pages are stored in two different collections: the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Seven Masterpieces of Renaissance Painting

The Silius Italicus manuscript originated ca. 1448 in Florence. The blessed artist of the work was Francesco Di Stefano, called Il Pesellino, one of the most significant artists of the Florentine Quattrocento. Francesco Di Stefano was influenced by Italy’s greatest masters, Filippo Lippi and Fra Angelico, inter alia.
The seven surviving pages measuring 33 x 20 cm present gorgeous Renaissance-style depictions in full-page miniatures. Magnificent decorative frames, which imitate marble and other materials, surround the allegorical figures of Rome and Carthage, portraits of Silius Italicus, the generals Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, Pope Nicolaus V, and the god Mars on a war chariot drawn by two horses in a marvelous landscape. They are all presented in profile as elegant figures in colorful garments, and each standing in a bright alcove.

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