Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 262

Gratian, Decretum
Bartholomew of  Brescia, Glossa ordinaria
France or England, c.1300-1310

Manuscript on parchment, incomplete, i + 174 fols, 435 x 285 mm, 4 cols, varying number of lines.
Formerly owned by John Ruskin, whose Brantwood bookplate survives on the inside cover.
Purchased from Alexander Denham & Co in 1902.

The origins and early history of this manuscript are rather enigmatic. Its illumination has been attributed to French, English, or German artists, and has been compared with the style of manuscripts associated with the presumed Parisian Master Honoré, with the Tickhill Psalter group, and with Johannes von Valkenburg who worked in Cologne. Its script and some of its minor decoration emulate the rounded script (littera bononiensis) and ornamental initials of thirteenth-century Italian legal manuscripts, and point to Southern France and more specifically to Toulouse, a major centre of legal studies. Yet, major codicological features are compatible with Parisian manuscript production of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The large miniatures also seem to be related to the Parisian style of the period, but some of the secondary features suggest an English emulation of French aristocratic art.

The two large Trees of Consanguinity and Affinity appear on the recto and verso of folio 71 which was left blank by the scribe. Their inclusion was not common in 14th-century Italian copies of Gratian’s Decretum. By 1300 they were normally included in Gregory IX’s Decretales, accompanied by Johannes Andreae’s Treatise on the Arbores, and represented more effectively on facing pages. The degrees of consanguinity (relationship by blood) and affinity (relationship by marriage), essential in the politics of marriage in the Middle Ages, were counted backwards from the intending couple, with their parents being the first degree. Marriage within seven degrees was not allowed until the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) reduced the forbidden degrees to four.

The Tree of Consanguinity shows Adam as a king, his feet resting on seated lions, holding two palm-like branches above the arrow-shaped table. The Affinity Tree depicts a young nobleman and a lady on either side of ivy, fig or vine scrolls rising from the intersecting arcs of the table. Adam and the lady have miniver-lined mantles that relate the rich modeling of their draperies to the diaper-patterned grounds. This type of variegated fur, called ‘vair’ in contemporary sources, signified wealth and luxury, and was a common feature of aristocratic imagery.


Fitzwilliam Museum, Marlay Cuttings It. 3-11

Gratian, Decretum
Bartholomew of  Brescia, Glossa ordinaria
Bologna, c.1320

Manuscript on parchment, 9 detached folios, 440-460 x 295 mm, 4 cols, varying number of lines; the folios have been mounted to display the frontispieces, not necessarily in their true relationship to the original manuscript: in the descriptions below recto and verso refer to the original codex rather than the present mount.
Charles Brinsley Marlay’s bequeast, 1912

The text and gloss are written in an excellent round littera bononiensis. The Causae and De Poenitentia have single column frontispieces of refined execution and moderate pictorial complexity. These are extended by elaborate foliate sprays and full-length marginal figures which form rich opening pages to each section of the manuscript. There appear to be three artists collaborating on the miniatures: one was responsible for Marlay Cuttings It. 7, 8, 9, and 10; his close assistant worked on Marlay Cuttings It. 3, 5, and 6; and a slightly different hand executed Marlay Cutting It. 4. It may well be that one of these or a different artist had responsibility for the general design or for the architectural detail: there is a considerable coherence between all these scenes in style and execution. The workshop responsible for the manuscript to which the nine leaves once belonged is one of the finer Bolognese ateliers of the period around 1320, familiar from other complete copies of Gratian’s Decretum.

Marlay Cutting It. 3 (recto), Causa II: "A certain bishop is accused by a layman of sins of the flesh. Two monks, a subdeacon and two Levites testify against him. He feels the case against him to have been prejudged by his archbishop. Three of the witnesses against him, suborned by false promises or disproved by canonical examination, fail to hold up. The bishop is, however, deposed, because his crime is notorious."

Marlay Cutting It. 4 (verso), Causa VII: "A certain bishop worn down by long illness asked that another should take his place. The supreme pontiff agreed to his pleadings and granted his request. The bishop recovered, however, and wished his request rescinded. He took action against his successor and demanded that his see be returned to him by right."

Marlay Cutting It. 5 (verso), Causa XIII: "The parishioners of a baptismal church, harassed by the disasters of war and fear of the enemy, moved to another parish without abandoning their original lands, to pay tithes and to be buried there. Fifty years later the clergy to whom they formerly paid their tithes took legal action against the clergy to whom they now paid their tithes."

Marlay Cutting It. 6 (verso), Causa XV: "A cleric was known to have lived in sin before being ordained as a priest. After his ordination, however, he killed a man in a fit of wrath. Recovering his sanity, he was accused by his former mistress."

Marlay Cutting It. 7 (verso), Causa XVIII: " A certain abbot who had brought much wealth to his house was consecrated bishop, and subsequently acquired many further riches. When his brothers sought a successor, the bishop wished to be involved in the election so that the new abbot should be ordained in the monastery by himself; the monks refused."

Marlay Cutting It. 8 (verso), Causa XIX: "Two clergymen wished to transfer to a monastery; each requested permission from their bishop. One left his church without the bishop’s approval, the other after renouncing his orders as a regular canon."

Marlay Cutting It. 9 (verso), Causa XX: "Two youths were handed over to a monastery by their parents. One took the habit unwillingly, the other of his own choice. On reaching puberty the unwilling youth returned to secular life, while the other sought a more strict monastic regime."

Marlay Cutting It. 10 (verso), Causa XXI: "The archpriest of a certain church accepted ordination as the provost of another but refused to surrender his first living. He also agreed to act as procurator in secular business affairs. Dressed in inappropriately flashy attire he was disciplined by his bishop. He abandoned his office and sought refuge before a secular judge."

Marlay Cutting It. 11 (recto), De Penitentia: a preacher in black addresses a seated congregation from a pulpit.


Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 183

Gratian, Decretum
Bartholomew of  Brescia, Glossa ordinaria (with sigla of Laurentius)
Bologna, c.1320-1330

Manuscript on parchment, 341 fols, 490 x 300 mm, 4 cols, varying number of lines
Illuminator: the B 18 Master

The scribe or the client recorded as dominus Hertmndus or Bertmndus = Bertrandus (fol. 99r); 17th-century inscription Ex bibliotheca V….li (fol. 1r); Libri sale to Jackson for £130; lot 688 Dering sale, P&S, 1865: annotated catalogue; William Bragge, engineer and antiquary of Sheffield; purchased at his sale (Sotheby’s, London, 7-10 June, 1876, lot 149).

The range of book hands in this manuscript is close to and spaced as littera bononiensis, but more informal and angular. The illumination and decoration are the work of the B 18 Master, the most reductive and possibly the most productive Bolognese illuminator of the 2nd and 3rd decades of the 14th century. He is named after a copy of Justinian’s Volumen in Padua, Bibl. Capit. B 18, and his alternative title, the Second Master, refers to the choirbooks of S. Domenico in Bologna. He appears to have learned his art working with the Seneca Master, alias the First Master of the S. Domenico Choirbooks, and their art has not only many similarities but occurs in similar contexts, on at least one occasion in succession in the same manuscript.

The 2-column frontispiece on fol. 1r diverges strikingly from the normal iconography of the period in showing Christ not as the mature God conveying the twin laws of church and state to pope and emperor but as the twelve-year old boy conversing with the doctors of the Temple and then taken home by his distraught parents (bottom right). He is seated on the same high podium as normally shown for the Distribution of Powers, but is arguing both with senior councilors and scholars on a bench below whose irate expressions allude to the Jewish elders overwhelmed by the divine insights of the boy Jesus. The main illustration is surrounded with unusually disparate imagery: Above the text the Annunciation is represented, including the relevant words of Gabriel, AVE [MARIA][GRACIA PLENA (Hail Mary, full of grace), along with an old man, haloed, sharpening a pole with an axe, presumably Joseph as carpenter, perhaps a reference to the wood of the Cross. Three different figures act as caryatids for the main scene. Gratian writes his book in the text initial, and a priest introduces the first of the Questions into which the opening section is subdivided.


Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 400-2000

Gratian, Decretum: De poenitentia
Bologna, c.1320-1330

Manuscript on parchment, miniature cutting from a single leaf, 101 x 182 mm.
Illuminator: the B 18 Master

Purchased at Sotheby’s, London, 5 December, 2000, lot 12.

This is the frontispiece to De Poenitentia, the treatise on Penance found in Causa XXXIII of the Decretum, which would have belonged to a lavishly illuminated copy of the Decretum. The iconography of a congregation listening to a preacher and of a confessional is typical of this subject and found in other copies of the Decretum Gratiani illuminated by the artist, notably in the Fitzwilliam Museum MS 183. A bishop preaches from a tall pulpit to a group of men. A woman is given confession by a Dominican on the right; the two are seated under one of the 3 bays of quadripartite vaulting that were probably inspired by Giotto’s illusionistic chapels flanking the chancel of the Arena Chapel in Padua. There is clear evidence that several major Bolognese illuminators, including the 1328 Master who dominated Bolognese illumination in the 1320s and 1330s, knew Giotto’s frescoes. The strong presence of Dominicans in this artist’s presentation of Penance is surely not only a reflection of their prominence as penitential preachers but also to his close association with them. He worked on no less than three different sets of Dominican choirbooks in Bologna around the time of Thomas Aquinas’s canonisation in 1323.


Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 136

Gregoty IX, Decretales
Bernard of Parma, Glossa ordinaria
Southern France or England, c.1300

Manuscript on parchment, i + 257 + i fols, 422 x 245 mm, 4 cols, varying number of lines
Illuminator: The Jonathan Alexander Master

Arms of the Earls of Cornwall (fol. 1r). Inscriptions recording ownership and the scribe: Decretum Dmni Vuillermi de Kirkos (William of Kirkoswald?, fol. 187v); sum Robertus ego qui ma[nu?] scripta rogo (fol. 187v); sum Robertus ego qui ma[nu?] scripta rogo (fol. 257v). Purchased by Frank McClean from Olschki, 1893. Frank McClean’s bequest, 1904.

The main text and the gloss are written in an unmistakable imitation of the broad round littera bononiensis. The illumination and decoration are the work of a Southern French illuminator of c. 1300 and the Jonathan Alexander Master, a remarkable illuminator who appears to have begun his recognisable oeuvre with a set of later 13th-century manuscripts brought back from Bologna by a family of Durham lawyers. The origins of his style appear to lie with Southern French manuscripts and his legal illumination is more likely to have been executed in Toulouse. On the other hand, this artist had a central role in English painting around 1295. He had several English patrons and worked in England on the Vaux-Bardolf Psalter which transmitted aspects of his style to a major English workshop.

In this copy of the Decretals, one-column miniatures mark the opening of each book and each title has an illuminated initial both to main text and gloss. The text is partly framed by foliate staves and knots reminiscent of Bolognese design, and containing musicians, scholars, birds and animal grotesques.

The elegantly executed miniature to Book IV, on Marriage (fol. 188r), is the work of the Jonathan Alexander Master. It depicts a couple kneeling before a priest on the left; behind them an acolyte holds up a sumptuous diapered gold wedding pall, behind which the heads of members of their families can be seen. In the centre the priest holds an open book up to the couple, inscribed DOMINUS VOBISCUM (The Lord be with you), two more clergy behind him. The diapered gold clashing with the gold border creates an impression of refined splendour.


Fitzwilliam Museum, Marlay Cutting Fr. 2

Gregory IX, Decretales, Book III
Bernard of Parma, Glossa ordinaria
Southern France, c.1330-1340

Manuscript on parchment, single leaf, 474 x 309 mm, 4 cols, 366 x 240 mm
Charles Brinsley Marlay’s bequest, 1912

The text is in a round gothic hand reminiscent of littera bononiensis, with capitals decorated in contrasting violet and red filigree common in Southern French manuscripts, perhaps from Toulouse or Montpellier. The rather blank or severely intense expressions of the figures distinguish them from the dainty elegance and smiling faces of contemporary Northen French work.

Book III of Gregory IX’s Decretales deals with the clergy. Its first subsection, as its title, De vita et honestate clericorum (On the Life and Morality of the Clergy) indicates focuses on proper conduct. Clerical discipline was one of the central concerns of Canon Law, especially since the Church claimed exclusive jurisdiction over the clergy in both criminal and civil proceedings. 

The common iconographical subject for this book is a representation of a mass with the priest raising the host or the chalice at the altar. The church setting is essential for the precise illustration of the opening canon (Quum celebratur, divisus esse debeat clerus a populo) from the second Council of Tours in 567 (erroneously listed as the Council of Mainz in the rubric) on which this scene is drawn: ‘That the laity should be away from the altar when the holy mysteries are celebrated, both for vigils and mass, and should not presume to stand or sit among the clergy, but that area separated from the altar by screens should be kept for the clergy. They should have access, however, for praying and communion to the sancta sanctorum…’ Bernard of Parma’s gloss is clear: ‘he laity should not stay near the altar or in the choir while the mass is celebrated….. they should not sit in the choir among the clergy when divine office is being sung,.. Likewise, the church has two parts, the choir, which is divided by screens from the altar, and the sancta sanctorum, i.e. the lower part of the church, which is popularly called the nave.’

The frontispiece of the Marlay cutting shows the celebration of the mass with the priest raising the host at the altar, two acolytes kneeling behind him, two clergymen singing at a lectern, and two rows of lay people kneeling and standing behind them. The laity are structurally separated, though with a less clear architectural division than the text might suggest.


Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 331

Johannes Andreae, Novella in Decretales, Book V
Bologna, ca. 1350-1360

Manuscript on parchment, single leaf, 445 x 280 mm, 2 columns, 74 lines
Scribe: Bartolomeo dei Bartoli
Illuminator: Niccolò di Giacomo da Bologna

Purchased at Sotheby’s (25 July, 1932, lot 196) and given by the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The miniature constitutes the frontispiece to Book V of Johannes Andreae’s commentary on Gregory IX’s Decretales. With reference to the opening rubric De accusationibus, inquisitionibus et denuntiationibus, it depicts a cardinal wearing the fur-lined cappa reserved to his rank, enthroned as a judge and conducting a hearing in the presence of clerical and secular bystanders. A soldier in green and a layman in red press upon him a large scroll from the left, and at the right a lawyer kneels with another plea. Below the cardinal three lawyers, a cleric in white habit and two doctors of law in miniver-lined hooded gowns, record the court procedures.

The Fitzwilliam leaf has a sister leaf, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (MS B-22225), which contains the frontispiece to Book IV of the same text. Their much pillaged mother manuscript is the copy of Johannes Andreae’s Novella at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York (MS M. 747), illuminated by Niccolò da Bologna, the most celebrated fourteenth-century Bolognese artist. Its elegant script, lavish use of gold leaf, and primary and secondary illumination executed by a renowned master, imply an important, wealthy, and highly discerning patron. The fine vellum margins, clear from readers’ notes, suggest that the manuscript was admired more often than it was consulted.


Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 139

Justinian, Volumen parvum
Accursius, Glossa ordinaria
Italy, c.1300

Manuscript on parchment, i-iiii + 307 fols., 398 x 250 mm., 4 cols, 360 x 230 mm

Notes by previous owners: Dom. Nicholaus vopetrus da lichanagh. Pro. m. Roncino pro xx flor[...]; d. grimaldus...libr. Xxxiiij - f - xl. (fol. ia); two cancelled inscriptions in Hebrew.
 Purchased from Hoepli. Frank McClean’s bequest, 1904.

This copy of the Volumen parvum contains the full range of texts that may compose this part of the Corpus iuris civilis: Institutiones, Authenticum, Tres libri, and Libri feudorum. It begins with the complex Tree of Actions (Arbor actionum), divided into two tables on two full pages. These two added folios, composed earlier than the text itself, were probably retained from a previous copy, to avoid the complex task of composing new versions. Tables of this sort would be executed separately by specialised craftsmen, experienced with unique physical formats and the exigencies of aligning text coherently within a geometrical structure. A form of encoded language is in use: areas inscribed with letters of the alphabet are topped with mysterious Braille-like arrangements of dots, in rows of one to four. The backgrounds have suffered the attention of a later owner who also added painted ornament to the manuscript in various places.

The layout of the Arbor actionum was composed by the Bolognese civilian Johannes Bassianus in the last years of the twelfth century. The tables together consist of 180 circular cells of equal size, usually with a larger number grouped in the left-hand (verso) table than on the right (recto). They are distributed so that praetorian suits occupy most of the left-hand table, while the fewer civil suits are all contained in the table on the right. The name of a lawsuit is inscribed within 169 cells, the remaining eleven containing glosses that comment on the suit they immediately precede. Above each cell in a separate space the letters a-m, (omitting the letter j) represent twelve categories under which each suit is classified. The status of each suit is further categorised by placing vertically above each letter one, two, three, or four dots, each option denoting a variation, for instance: a - one dot = praetorian (pretorie); two dots = civil (ciuiles); b - one dot = real (in rem); two dots = personal (in personam); three dots = hybrid (mixte). One hundred and eighty lawsuits in their varying contexts are thus presented in an ingenious and neatly packaged format which, for the trained medieval civilian, defined them at a glance, and presents us with an impressive testimony to medieval scholarship.

Many thirteenth-century versions of these tables are accompanied by a female figure placed in the space between them, usually in the upper right-hand margin beside the left-hand tree. Referred to as domina actionum, the figure had been explained as a purely decorative element, irrelevant to the classification of lawsuits. One such Arbor actionum, however, inserted in a thirteenth-century Decretum Gratiani, bears an inscription between the two tables - Juris prudentia est mater actionum (Jurisprudence is the mother of suits) - that accompanies a drawing of an attenuated, long-haired female figure, holding up a flower in her right hand and a sceptre in her left. In the light of long- established pictorial personifications of concepts such as Justice, the Virtues and Vices, Philosophy, Fortune, and the Liberal Arts, it seems natural to suppose that medieval illuminators might have been asked to supply a representation of Jurisprudence as well. The present tables were seldom given two personifications, male and female, perhaps executed by an illuminator unacquainted with the usual conventions for the Arbor actionum, and confusing them with the figures in representations of the Trees of Affinity and Consanguinity.


Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 201.f.15

Matricola of the Bolognese Guild of the Cordwainers (Cordovanieri) of 1378, fol. xx
Bologna, 1378

Manuscript on parchment, single leaf, 350 x 250 mm, 34 lines
Illuminator: Niccolò di Giacomo da Bologna
Frank McClean’s bequest, 1904.

Legal documents for professional societies and local government offices were executed by the same scribes and illuminators who worked on medieval Roman and canon law texts, although they were decorated on a more modest scale. Extant statutes of communes, corporations (guilds) and religious societies (confraternities) were headed by a miniature or historiated initial, usually with representations of the organization’s patron saint(s). This leaf, illuminated by one of the most celebrated fourteenth-century Bolognese artists, Niccolò da Bologna, came from a Bolognese register of the Guild of Cordovanieri, makers of the finest shoes whose name derived from Cordova, the notional source of fine Spanish leather and the skills associated with it. It opens with the blessing figure of St. Petronius, patron saint of Bologna, holding a model of the city of Bologna with its leaning towers.

It marked the opening to the 1378 Matricola for the Quartiere de Porta Ravennata, the last of the 4 quarters defined by the principal gates (the Ravenna gate in this case), into which the city’s populace was divided for administrative purposes. The date of the register, contemporary with the City’s Statutes, also illuminated by Niccolò, is of particular significance, since it follows the revolt against papal control in 1376 and the accord by which Bologna recovered autonomy for a quarter of a century. The opening folio to this register, bearing the dedication of the register to the Holy Trinity and the city’s patron saints (the Virgin Mary, Peter and Paul, Petronius, Ambrose, Francis and Dominic), is now in the Museo Civico d’Arte Antica in Turin.

St Petronius, the early Christian bishop and governor of the city, and the patron saint of the quartiere de Porta Ravennata, is depicted as a bishop holding up a representation of the city with its leaning towers, still Bologna’s principal landmark, and the Ravenna gate prominent in the wall that surrounds them. His red cope is closed by a morse emblazoned with the arms of the Commune formed by a Bolognese shield: a red cross on white. The guild members of the first parish of the quartiere to be recorded, active at the time the register was written, appear alongside the saint, with later additions penned below them. Each of the original guild members’ names has been annotated mor[tem] as an indication for them to be remembered in the guild’s prayers. The lower border bears the arms of the cordwainers: a leather-worker’s knife, a shoe in profile and a sandal seen from above, in black on a silver ground. Niccolò’s workmanship undoubtedly contributed to the city’s own self-image and the cult of its main patron saint, and provided a powerful visual symbol for the greatest centre of medieval law.


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