JWCI, Volume LXXXIII (2020)

edited by Rembrandt Duits, Jill Kraye, Guido Rebecchini and Paul Taylor 

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A Greek Alchemical Epigram in Its Middle Byzantine Context
by Alexandre M. Roberts

This article examines the dedicatory epigram of the earliest and most important witness to the Greek alchemical corpus, the tenth-century manuscript donated by Cardinal Bessarion to the Republic of Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana MS gr. 299, as a window onto the cultural coordinates of the manuscript’s middle Byzantine readers. Scrutiny of the epigram’s meter, language, literary conventions, and the handwriting of the scribe who copied it into the manuscript point to a tenth-century date not only for the manuscript but also for the epigram itself and make it possible to situate the epigram, and with it the alchemical manuscript that contains it, within the mainstream of middle Byzantine elite culture.

Fifteenth-Century Sienese Copybooks and the Origins of Francesco di Giorgio’s Codicetto
by Elizabeth Merrill

The Sienese tradition of technical design is perhaps most emblematically represented in the treatises of Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439–1501), illustrated compendia that were widely popular and frequently reproduced in the early modern period. The number of manuscripts featuring drawings associated with Francesco di Giorgio numbers in the hundreds. But in underscoring Francesco’s connection with this rich body of material, scholars have often overlooked the inherent value of the manuscripts as copy volumes: technical design manuals that guided practitioners in a course of autodidactic education. What is more, by insisting that such manuscripts are part of Francesco’s legacy, scholars have never fully considered the alternative: what if this distinctive corpus of designs did not directly derive from Francesco di Giorgio? At stake here is not only a revisionist history of the celebrated Sienese architect, but also an enriched understanding of early modern architectural training. Two anonymous manuscript model books—London, British Library Add. MS 34113 and Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek MS Ob. 13—provide the basis for a critical enquiry into this very question. Careful study of the manuscripts’ contents, both graphic and textual, reveals an extraordinary number of parallels: between the volumes themselves, and with the ‘signature’ compilations of Francesco di Giorgio. The disclosed material does not recast Francesco as a mere copyist. Rather, it shows him as an engaged member of a vibrant artistic community: one in which information of all kinds was openly exchanged, and copying was the established means by which designers trained and assembled a repertoire of practical models.

Ghirlandaio Brothers Reconsidered: The Master of the Saint Louis Madonna as Young Benedetto Ghirlandaio
by Takuma Ito

Davide and Benedetto Ghirlandaio’s close association with their brother Domenico has made it difficult to individuate their own artistic styles and evaluate their contributions to the Ghirlandaio workshop. Benedetto’s artistic character is particularly elusive, since the Nativity in the church of Notre-Dame in Aigueperse, Auvergne, is the only work firmly attributed to him. This paper proposes a reconstruction of Benedetto’s career by reassessing the works once ascribed to a painter known as the Master of the Saint Louis Madonna. Most of these paintings, centred on the eponymous work in the Saint Louis Art Museum, have been incorporated into Davide’s oeuvre. Stylistic analysis, however, reveals their distinct artistic character and uncovers numerous points of comparison with the Aigueperse Nativity. On that basis they are reattributed here to the young Benedetto in his initial Florentine period. This identification is also corroborated by an analysis of his sojourn in France between 1486 and 1493, where he developed his technical skills and his interest in Netherlandish painting, possibly through the interaction with the Master of Moulin (Jean Hey). The paper then goes on to an examination of his activities after his return to Florence, and the ways in which he integrated his experience gained in France into the late Ghirlandaio workshop style. Benedetto’s artistic development revealed by this reconstruction suggests a rich cross-fertilisation within the Florentine workshops in the late fifteenth century, with particular focus on the artists around the Verrocchio workshop in the early 1480s and those who participated in the Ghirlandaio workshop after Domenico’s death. Also, as Benedetto was one of the few Italian painters who worked north of the Alps, the reappraisal of his career offers insights into the ways in which travelling artists could interact with local artistic environments and develop their own styles.

Guidebooks, Museum Catalogues and the Growth of Public Interest in Painting in Italy, Germany and France
by Charles Hope

The article is an overview of the growth of an interest in painting, from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, among a public not much involved in either the production or purchase of works of art. For the earlier period the main evidence is provided by guidebooks and other publications of a more general type, especially in Italy, which often incorporated the names of leading artists, but seldom provided information about their careers or where their works could be seen. This situation only began to change in a significant way in the second half of the seventeenth century. From that time onwards a new type of publication appeared, that is to say catalogues of major collections of paintings usually open to members of the public. This development was particularly evident in Germany and later in Austria. Such publications rarely included much historical or chronological information about the artists themselves, and the collections were only rarely arranged on geographical or chronological lines, a practice at first mainly confined to early paintings which previously had rarely been displayed at all. A more didactic and historical approach to display and to the compilation of museum catalogues only emerged from around 1850, after Frédéric Villot, curator of paintings at the Louvre, created the model for a new type of catalogue intended both as a contribution to art-historical knowledge and as a source of information for visitors.

Matteo Geronimo Mazza: A Rediscovered Sylloge by a Renaissance Antiquarian and Collector
by Bianca De Divitiis

This article restores to us one of the manuscript collections of inscriptions compiled at the turn of the sixteenth century by Matteo Geronimo Mazza, a jurist, politician and scholar from Salerno. A prominent figure in Renaissance antiquarianism, Mazza compiled several epigraphic sylloges, which, together with his own collection of inscribed marbles, remained after his death in the villa he had built in Marechiaro at the edge of the bay of Naples, among the ruins of a Roman Temple of Fortune and the ancient villa of Vedius Pollio. Most of Mazza’s manuscripts have long been considered lost. In the mid-nineteenth century, when Theodor Mommsen was compiling volume X of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, he searched unsuccessfully for Mazza’s sylloges, eventually making do instead with a set of eighteenth-century copies, which he found in the archives of Ludovico Muratori in Modena. One of Mazza’s manuscripts, however, had come into the hands of Sir William Hamilton, who, in 1801, donated it to the Society of Antiquaries in London. The recovery of this single epigraphic sylloge provides us with new information not only on Mazza himself but relating to inscriptions, monumental sites and sixteenth-century collections in southern Italy. The article also retraces the external history of the manuscript and the routes by which it left Naples for London, thereby revealing the dense network of eighteenth-century antiquarians who actively studied and copied materials preserved in Mazza’s villa, and shedding new light on some of his other sylloges, which are still lost. All these findings are additionally presented in tabular form at the end of the article in a series of Appendices, supplemented by Indices which group and distill the inscriptions themselves.

Eugenio Cajés’s Meeting at the Golden Gate: Purity and Procreation in Seventeenth-Century Madrid
by Cloe Cavero de Carondelet

St Joachim and St Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate, painted by Eugenio Cajés between 1604 and 1605, is the sole remnant of a major commission for the Cercito chapel in the church of San Felipe el Real in Madrid. The painting has been praised by modern critics, who have drawn attention to the painter’s emulation of Italian artistic precedents. Illuminating as this appraisal may be, such an approach does not explain why the patrons chose an iconographic subject that had become increasingly rare, especially since the traditional association of the Meeting with the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin had been questioned in the late sixteenth century. Above all, focussing on the painting’s style fails to take into account the specific context for which this painting was conceived. As it happens, the Cercito family chapel was dedicated to a very particular cult, that of the Holy Child of La Guardia, the purported victim of one of the most notorious blood libels in late medieval Spain. The purpose of the present study is to redress the previous art-historical oversight with regard to this painting, through an in-depth study of the artistic, devotional and socio-cultural significance of the Meeting at the Golden Gate in seventeenth-century Madrid. An analysis of the extensive and to date unpublished archival documentation for the commission makes it possible to reconstruct key elements of the lost chapel. These sources, when read together with devotional texts that circulated at the time, reveal the personal motives that underpinned the foundation and decoration of the Cercito chapel. The reconstruction of the Cercito chapel proposed in this article offers a new perspective on the way in which religious art engaged with the tensions prompted by the issue of the purity of blood, as well as with anxieties related to family and procreation.

Aesthetic Experience, Investigation and Classic Ground: Responses to Etna from the First Century CE to 1773
by Dawn Hollis

In 1773, the Scottish traveller Patrick Brydone published an account of visiting Mount Etna, in which he drew on three distinct categories of thought: the scientific, the aesthetic, and the cultural. He carried his barometer up the volcano to measure it; he was overwhelmed with awe on viewing the sunrise from its summit; and he carefully set his account in the context of different mythological and philosophical explanations of Etna, largely drawn from the writings of classical authors. In preceding centuries, Thomas Burnet’s Theory of the Earth (1690) and Athanasius Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneus (as presented in a 1669 English translation) viewed mountains as laboratories for better understanding nature, for evoking a sense of eschatological awe, and as embedded in long traditions of cultural appreciation. Earlier still, Pietro Bembo in 1496 recounted his journey to the summit of Etna which wove together personal observation, classical insights, and aesthetic admiration. In an ancient example, the first-century anonymous Aetna poem urged readers to move beyond mythological explanations for volcanic activity and to instead enjoy true aesthetic pleasure in investigating the volcano and its causes for themselves. This article offers a close reading of these texts in order to demonstrate three key points. The first is that an intense aesthetic experience of volcanoes can be found in accounts predating the eighteenth-century articulation of the ‘natural sublime’. The second is that the compulsion to investigate and understand natural phenomena, as a key element of aesthetic appreciation, is also evident before the Enlightenment. Third, the article suggests that a sense of Etna as ‘classic ground’ – as a feature which both intensified the viewer’s interest in its natural phenomena and produced an ‘interested’ aesthetic experience of its natural greatness – likewise extends back even to the ancient texts from which later travellers would draw their own cultural associations.


The Editions of Gabriele Zerbi’s De cautelis medicorum and their Influence
by Richard Tait

The eminent Veronese physician Gabriele Zerbi (1445–1505) held senior positions in three northern Italian cities and was the author of several major books on anatomy, ageing, philosophy and the role of the kidney. His much smaller De cautelis medicorum (‘Precautions for Doctors’), first published in 1495, describes the characteristics of good and bad professional conduct and provides advice on how to achieve professional success in medical practice. The work was reprinted several times in the course of the sixteenth century, but it is difficult to understand the influence it might have had on contemporaries, not least because of considerable confusion concerning the number of its editions. Thirteen separate printings of De cautelis medicorum have been recorded in the literature. In this Note, after assessing the extant copies and the historical record, I conclude that there were only six, all produced in the period from 1495 to 1528. This number includes two little-known editions: one produced by Cesare Torti of Asculana around 1500, and a second included in the 1525 edition of Pantaleone da Confienza’s Pillularium. In evaluating the geographical influence of the various editions, I also provide evidence that Zerbi’s book was owned or mentioned in both northern and southern Italy, Lyon in France, southern Austria, the Kingdom of Hungary, and Salamanca in Spain. Finally, marks in the surviving copies indicate that readers were engaging with what Zerbi had to say. From these findings, I conclude that De cautelis medicorum had a broad distribution and that Zerbi’s views on the professional conduct of physicians were influential among his contemporaries.

Correggio, the Humanists, and the Homeric nepenthes
by Claudio Franzoni

The portrait of a lady by Correggio in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, has long attracted the attention of scholars. While the attribution to Antonio Allegri has been established beyond doubt, the identification of the young woman remains in dispute. The principal aim of the present essay is to explore the ways in which the painting interacts with classical literature, and in turn with the ideas permeating northern Italy in the early sixteenth century. In particular this paper contends that the composition ought to be thought of in the context of humanist interpretations of Homer’s Odyssey, IV.221, around the time it was painted.

Rubens, Snijders and the Emperor’s Mullet
by Elizabeth McGrath

The focus of this paper is a large painting in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, often attributed to Anthony Van Dyck in collaboration with Frans Snijders, which illustrates a fish market with figures engaged in a purchase. Clearly not a simple ‘genre’ subject, the theme of this painting has hitherto proved a puzzle. That it turns out to be a classical story involving a mullet, the Emperor Tiberius and two rival ancient gourmets, confirms the idea, argued from other evidence, that, though Van Dyck appears to have been involved in the execution of the painting, it was his master, Peter Paul Rubens, who was the inventor of the theme and the composition. The painting is thus another example of Rubens’s fruitful collaboration with his friend, the animal and still-life painter, Frans Snijders. Like the Discovery of Philopoemen (Madrid, Museo del Prado) and Pythagoras Advocating Vegetarianism (Royal Collection), it combines a lavish display of foodstuff by Snijders with a novel, and ingeniously apt, classical theme.