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Ground floor - Room II - The illuminated miniatures


Room II, whose atmosphere evokes the ancient scriptoria, contains a rich collection of illuminated manuscripts. Three complete antiphonaries, many sheets and single initials are ordered here in such a way as to present a fair overview of Italian production, with a few foreign pieces.
The ars minatoria, an artistic technique which was particularly important during the Middle Ages and up to the Renaissance, takes its name from minium, the bright red lead oxide used in these precious paintings on parchment.

Second Master of Antiphonary M of San Giorgio Maggiore
Diurnal antiphonary of the proprium de sanctis

This important illuminated codex, complete and datable to the second half of the 15th century, is attributed to the illuminator known as the Second Master of Antiphonary M of San Giorgio Maggiore, whose name is still unknown. This illuminator worked between the Veneto and Emilia regions and was the collaborator of the grand master Belbello da Pavia. The anthem-book, which is in an excellent state of preservation, comes from the convent of St. Sixtus in Piacenza. Its decorations are unusually lush, with two or more illuminated initials for each liturgical celebration.

Antifonario diurno del proprium de sanctis


Belbello da Pavia
Saint with book
Second half of 1400

The large illuminated letter Q, datable to the last working years of this great master (1465-1470), frames a bearded saint holding a book. This fragment almost certainly comes from a second anthem-book made for the community of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.

Santo con libro


Cristoforo Cortese
15th century

The miniature, which is perfectly preserved, is work of Cristoforo Cortese, an important artist working in Venice in the first half of the 15th century. The scene of the Crucifixion is depicted on a chequered gold green and blue background, with the mourners, Magdalen and the busts of four doctors of the Church. Originally this page was part of a Matricola or "Mariegola" in Venetian dialect, i.e. of a register of statutes and cultural rules of craftsmen's guilds. This, and its high-quality pendant, are the second known work signed by the artist.



Master B.F.
Birth of St. John the Baptist
early 16th century

The miniature is attributed to the anonymous, refined Master B.F., so-called because of the letters with which he signed some of his works. The artist, who worked in Lombardy between about 1495 and 1545, here represents the initial letter H with architectural and vegetable motifs. Inside the letter, in a wholly Renaissance domestic setting, the scene of the birth of St. John the Baptist unfolds, with Zachariah in the foreground receiving the swaddled baby from the midwife's hands.

Nascita di San Giovanni Battista


Master of Jean de Dunois (Jean Haincelin?)
Stories of Lancelot

This courtly miniature was part of a codex narrating the deeds of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere. The manuscript was probably created in Paris for the Duke of Berry about halfway through the 15th century, and can be attributed to the Master of Jean de Dunois, who owes his name to the fact of having illuminated the Book of Hours for the bastard son of the Duke of Orleans, Jean de Dunois.

Storie di Lancillotto