Celebrating the greatness of a Prince
The Bible of Federico da Montefeltro
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Mss. Urb. Lat. 1 e Urb. Lat. 2
The Bible of Federico da Montefeltro may be considered a great celebration of the art of illumination. This work embodies the peak of development in the fifteenth century of the culture of the figurative arts in Italy and Europe.
A work of monumental proportions
This Bible was produced at a time when the practice of printing with movable types was spreading fast. It differs from the usual codex in its size and the number of illuminated leafs (thirty-five of which are of a truly painterly character).
The script of this Bible – the most beautiful codex of Federico da Montefeltro’s library – is by Ugo Comminelli da Mézières. The illumination work, executed in Florence in just two years (1477-1478), is by Francesco di Antonio del Chierico, an illuminator who had reached the peak of fame at that time, and who was generously ‘loaned’ to the Duke of Urbino by Lorenzo de’ Medici. Alongside these illuminations by Francesco, we find the work of other historically renowned illuminators such as Attavante degli Attavanti, Francesco Rosselli and, in all likelihood, Davide Ghirlandaio (the brother of the more well-known Domenico Ghirlandaio).
The influences of Renaissance masters
In these Bible works we find many ‘echoes’ of the immense heritage of the figurative arts of fifteenth century Florence, and notably also of the major artists of the Tuscan Renaissance.
The Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro, transformed the capital of his small duchy into one of the most imposing cultural centres of the Italian Renaissance. He called to his court architects and artists such as Luciano Laurana, Melozzo da Forlì, Giusto di Gand and Piero della Francesca. He also founded one of the largest libraries of the times, where dozens of scribes transcribed books which were then sent to the Florentine workshop of Vespasiano da Bisticci to be embellished by master illuminators.