Attavanti, Vante di Gabriello di Vante
Master of the Hamilton Xenophon; Italian scribe, act. ca.1480-1485
book of hours; type of text
use of Rome; liturgical use
circa 1480 circa 1490
fifteenth century, fourth quarter
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Parchment, ii paper flyleaves + i modern parchment flyleaf + 195 fols. + i contemporary parchment flyleaf + ii paper flyleaves, 142 x 102 mm (67 x 47 mm), 12 long lines, ruled in red ink, catchwords.
BINDING: Nineteenth century, red velvet over wooden boards, edges gilt and gauffered.
fols. 1r-12v Calendar
fols. 14r-83v Hours of the Virgin
fols. 85r-99r Penitential Psalms
fols. 99r-109v Litany and prayers
fols. 111r-114v Short Hours of the Cross
fols. 115r -147r Hours of the Passion
fols. 147v-188v Office of the Dead
fols. 189r-194v Prayers to the Virgin, St Sebastian, and the Guardian Angel
DECORATION: Three full-page framed miniatures with four-sided floral borders containing putti, jewels, candelabra, and medallions with scenes or busts of prophets: fol. 13v Hours of the Virgin, Matins, Annunciation, with four-sided border containing medallions with the Sacred Monogram (lower border, centre), a leopard, two deer, busts of prophets and God the Father blessing (top border, centre); fol. 84v Penitential Psalms, David beheading Goliath, with four-sided border containing medallions with busts of prophets and the Sacred Monogram (top border, centre); fol. 110v Short Hours of the Cross, Crucifixion, with four-sided border containing medallions with Pelican in her piety (top border, centre) and busts of prophets, including Isaiah holding a scroll inscribed Vere lan[guores] (Is. 53:4).
Thirteen historiated initials formed of foliage, gems and precious stones on burnished gold ground, and accompanied by four-sided floral borders identical with those surrounding the full-page miniatures at major text divisions or by one-sided floral borders at lesser text divisions: fol. 14r Hours of the Virgin, Matins, [D, 8 ll.] Adoration of the Child, with four-sided border containing medallions with busts and the Sacred Monogram (lower border, centre); fol. 24r Lauds, [D, 5 ll.] Bust of a holy virgin, with one-sided floral border; fol. 45v Prime, [D, 4 ll.] Bust of a holy virgin, with one-sided floral border; fol. 51r Terce, [D, 4 ll.] Bust of a holy virgin, with one-sided floral border; fol. 55v Sext, [D, 5 ll.] Bust of a holy virgin, with one-sided floral border; fol. 58v None, [D, 5 ll.] Bust of a holy virgin, with one-sided floral border; fol. 62r Vespers, [D, 5 ll.] Bust of a holy virgin, with one-sided floral border; fol. 69v Compline, [D, 5 ll.] Bust of a holy virgin, with one-sided floral border; fol. 85r Penitential Psalms, [D, 8 ll.] David penitent in the wilderness, with four-sided border containing medallions with busts of prophets; fol. 111r Short Hours of the Cross, [D, 8 ll.] Lamentation, with four-sided border containing medallions with Sacred Monogram (top border, centre), busts of prophets and the Man of Sorrows (lower border, centre); fol. 115v Hours of the Passion, [D, 9 ll.] Flagellation, with four-sided border containing medallions with a cross (top border, centre), busts of prophets and bust of Christ (lower border, centre); fol. 147v Office of the Dead, Vespers, [D, 8 ll.] The three living and the three dead, including a nimbed hermit kneeling in prayer, with four-sided border containing medallions with crowned skulls, an altar with three crosses (top border, centre) and bust of a crowned skeleton with a scroll inscribed Memento mortis (lower border, centre); fol. 157r Office of the Dead, Matins, [V, 8 ll.] Bust of a crowned skeleton, with one-sided border.
ORNAMENTATION: Foliate initials [4 ll.] on burnished gold grounds with floral infill of liquid gold on blue or red grounds and one-sided floral borders; alternate gold and blue initials [2-3 ll.] with blue or red pen-flourished infill and marginal extensions; alternate gold and blue one-line initials with blue or red pen flourishing.
Florence, production, place
bequeathed; 1816; Fitzwilliam, Richard, 7th Viscount
Richard, seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745–1816), acquired in 1812; his bequest, 1816.
Fitzwilliam, Richard, 7th Viscount; previous owner
The Roman Calendar includes three Florentine saints: Zenobius (25 May), Reparata (8 Oct.), and Minias (25 Oct.). Among the Confessors in the Litany are two saints venerated in Florence and Tuscany, Zenobius and Frediano of Lucca. The manuscript was illuminated by two Florentine artists, both trained in the atelier of Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (1433-1484), the Medici’s favourite illuminator in the preceding generation (Garzelli 1985, I, 101-156; Bollati in Bollati 2004, 228-32. The double openings for Matins of the Hours of the Virgin (fols. 13v-14r) and the Penitential Psalms (fols. 84v-85r) were painted by Vante di Gabriello di Vante Attavanti (1452–1520/1525), the leading illuminator in High Renaissance Florence commonly known as Attavante (Galizzi in Bollati 2004, 975-79). He entrusted the smaller initials for the remaining Hours of the Virgin and for the Hours of the Passion to an assistant. The double opening at the Hours of the Cross (fols. 110v-111r), and the elaborate initials and borders for the Hours of the Passion (fol. 115v) and the Office of the Dead (fol. 147v) have been attributed to another Florentine artist, the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon (act. c.1470–1480). Named after a copy of Xenophon’s Cyropaedia illuminated shortly after 1475 (formerly MS 686 in the Hamilton collection, now Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78 C 24), he has been seen by some scholars as Attavante’s contemporary and collaborator (Garzelli 1985, I, 157-62). However, his short career, with no works attributed to him after the late 1480s, has led others to identify him with the young Attavante himself (Fahy in Milan 2002, 96-97; for a summary of the conflicting opinions, see Bollati in Bollati 2004, 666-67). Many of the compositions and the design of the double openings in the Fitzwilliam Hours feature in works of the 1480s attributed to the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon or to Attavante, and continue to appear in manuscripts produced by Attavante’s prolific atelier from the 1490s onwards (cf. Garzelli 1985, II, figs. 492-493, 840-860). Close parallels are found in the Adoration of the Child in Attavante’s earliest signed and dated manuscript, the 1483 Missal of Thomas James (Lyon, Bibl. mun., MS 5123, fol. 16; London and New York 1994-1995, no. 3); in the double openings of two Books of Hours attributed to the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon (Liverpool, UL, MS F.2.23; San Marino, Huntington Library, MS HM 1132; Dutschke 1989; http://sunsite3.berkeley.edu/hehweb/HM1132.html); and in another Hours made for the Pitti-Taddei de’ Gaddi family in the 1490s and attributed to Attavante, but more likely by a member of his workshop (New York, Morgan Library and Museum, MS M. 14, fols. 19v-20r; Wieck 1997, no.73; http://corsair.morganlibrary.org). A close comparison between the Books of Hours associated with the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon and the work attributed to him in the Fitzwilliam manuscript, superior in technical execution, reveals differences in the facial features and the treatment of fabrics and landscape. Whether the Fitzwilliam images are by him or by another illuminator, they show the hand of a highly competent artist, closely related to, but distinct from Attavante. This, as well as Attavante’s leading role in the production of the Fitzwilliam Hours and the presence of an assistant, working faithfully in his idiom, would suggest a date in the late 1480s, by which time Attavante was established as an independent artist. A thorough re-examination of the large body of works attributed to him, his workshop and his contemporaries may shed new light on the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon. No internal evidence survives as to the manuscript’s original patron, but its exceptional quality testifies to a commissioner of considerable taste and wealth. There may have been a change in intended ownership while the illumination was still underway. The border medallions, which may have contained the patron’s arms or devices, were over-painted with the Sacred Monogram on fols. 13v-14r, while later in the volume they were filled with busts of prophets and Apostles (e.g. fols. 84v-85r). It is worth mentioning that numerous manuscripts commissioned from Attavante by Matthias Corvinus remained unfinished upon the king’s death in 1490 and remained on the market in Florence, some of them making their way into the Medici library (Galizzi in Bollati 2004, 977). The death in 1492 of Attavante’s other great patron, Lorenzo de’ Medici, may also be relevant.
second folio; fol. 15r; Venite exultemus
Illuminated Manuscripts in the Fitzwilliam Museum: An Exhibition to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Death of the Founder, Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion. 1966 - 1966
Organiser: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Venue: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Catalogue number: 98
Treasures of the Fitzwilliam Museum. 2005 - 2005
Organiser: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Catalogue number: 104
Splendours of Italian Illumination: Romanesque - Gothic - Renaissance. 1989 - 1990
Organiser: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Venue: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Notes: unpublished handlist of an exhibition held in the Adeane gallery, October 1989 - February 1990
Catalogue number: 80
, The Fitzwilliam Museum1982. Treasures of the Fitzwilliam Museum.Cambridge (Cambs.): Pevensey Press
cat no 104
James, Montague Rhodes, Dr. 1895. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Fitzwilliam Museum.Cambridge (Cambs.): Cambridge University Press
pp. 349-50, pl. XVIIb (fol. 13v)
D' Ancona, P.. 1914. La Miniatura Fiorentina secoli XI-XVI.Florence: p. 650
Wormald, F.. Giles, P. M.. 1966. Illuminated Manuscripts in the Fitzwilliam Museum: An Exhibition to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Death of the Founder, Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion.Cambridge (Cambs.):
cat. no. 98
Bollati, M.. 2004. Dizionario dei miniatori italiani.Milan: p. 666
Garzelli, A.. 1985. Miniatura fiorentina del Rinascimento 1440-1525: un primo censimento..Florence:
I, 161, 242, II, figs. 499 (fol. 147v), 839 (fols. 13v-14r), 843 (fol. 84v)
Object Number: MS 154
(Manuscripts and Printed Books)
(record id: 118711; input: 2005-05-31; modified: 2012-08-28)