Vergilius Romanus

Vat. lat. 3867 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Facsimile edition
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Codiology

Type
Extent / Format

618 pages / 33.2 x 32.3 cm

Origin
Date
Around 500
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Author: Publius Vergilis Maro - Virgil (70 - 19 B.C.)

Illustrations

19 miniatures, most of them full-page

Former owners

Saint Denis Abbey in Paris
Pope Sixtus IV (1471 - 1484)

Short description

Very few manuscripts from antiquity have survived to the present, and the Vergilius Romanus codex is arguably the most brilliantly decorated of them all. Aside from being of interest to art historians, the manuscript contains some of the most important texts of Roman antiquity by one of the bygone empire's greatest authors: Virgil. The Vergilius Romanus combines his masterworks in a single codex, making it one of the most significant ancient documents in existence. This manuscript is one of the oldest and most prized among the vast and storied archives of the Vatican Library.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Literature of the Ancient World in Late-Antique Illustrations

One of the oldest works, which is housed in the Vatican Library, is the Vergilius Romanus codex. It contains the poems of the famous poet Virgil and a total of 19 pictures, which illustrate the events of the text. These images are counted among the main works of late-Antique illumination. It has been consulted by researchers in the examination of the connection between ancient art and medieval illumination. The thrilling, colorful miniatures are bordered with margins of pure gold leaf.

A Unique Collection of Virgil's Works

Publius Vegilius Maro, better known by the name Virgil, was a Latin poet and epicist, who lived during the times of the Roman civil wars and the principate of Octavian. He is one of the most important authors of classical Roman antiquity. His works, The Eclogues, The Georgics, and The Aeneid revolutionized Latin poetry. Already shortly after his death, these were repeatedly copied, edited, commented on, and intertextually distributed. The book edition Vergilius Romanus combines his masterworks in a single codex, which represents of one of the most important documents of ancient book art with breath-taking pictures.

Historical Illumination

The Vergilius Romanus codex is a book treasure that generates awe in its beholders. Only a few original illuminated codices from Antiquity still exist today, and hardly any of these works is as attractively designed. The illustrations of the Vergilius Romanus exhibit stylistic features of the ancient painting tradition, as they were practiced in the 4th century. Nevertheless, the Vergilius Romanus signifies the departure from this classical canon of forms. Its illustrations exhibit in direct comparison with other works the further development of ancient illumination into medieval book art. The historical significance of the work is immeasurable. The exciting pictures are drawn in seven different colors and are set in a frame of valuable gold leaf.

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