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ArtCodex atelier del codice miniato

Saint Francis of Assisi, the life and works

Gaddi 112
Medicean Laurentian Library
biblioteca medicea laurenziana


Presentazione video del volume

One of the most important codices of Italian illumination: The Gaddian manuscript 112 of 185 leaves, preserved at the Medicean Laurentian Library of Florence and containing an extraordinary collection of Franciscan works, among which a Legend and Life of Saint Francis in two versions (leaves 1-43; 137-141), the Little Flowers of Saint Francis - as well as his testament, the Rule, and considerations on the stigmata - is one of the most fascinating products of Italian illumination.
His testament (leaves 164-166), the considerations on the stigmata, and the treatise on the miracles of Tommaso da Celano form an introduction to the touching mystic itinerary, whereas the lives of Fra Ginepro, Leone, and Egidio put the readers into contact with some of the protagonists of the birth of the Franciscan Order.
Saint Francis of Assisi – a revolutionary choice 1182 - ca. - Born in Assisi
1206 – 1207 - Conversion and abandonment of the paternal home
1210 - Presentation of the First Rule
1217 - First chapter of the Franciscans
1219 - Trip to Egypt
1220 - Leaves the position of Superior General
1223 - Approval of the Franciscan Rule
1224 - Receives the stigmata on Mount La Verna
1226 - Dies in Assisi
Founder of the Franciscan Friars Minor, he is one of the most venerated saints of Christianity. The son of a rich merchant, Pietro di Bernardone, his ambition was that of becoming a knight and marrying a young noblewoman. But a religious crisis led him to conversion and, subsequently, to the decision to sell all of his wealth and distribute the proceeds to the poor. The Church had always helped the poor, without however abandoning its privileges and wealth. Francesco wanted to make himself poor on his own and wanted that also his companions lived like the poor. He forbade his companions to ask for money as charity: all the brothers had to maintain themselves by working with their hands, in exchange for which they could accept only a bit of food. As a sign of humility, they decided to call themselves minor friars. Francesco had understood that his experience of God had a revolutionary component with respect to the Church, but he consciously did not want to sever ties with Rome, preferring instead to act with the influential strength of his example.
The history of the manuscript and the Franciscan spirit: From an ownership note of the codex, we know that it belonged “to the women of Saint Onofrio of the order of Saint Francis said to be from Foligno,” which is to say, to the Franciscan Third Order. The colophon, placed on leaf 170, documents that the writing of the manuscript was completed on 29 December 1427. It passed then to the Gaddi Library and in 1755 to the Magliabecchiana Library, and lastly in 1783 reached the Laurentian Library.
The decoration of the codex, which is composed of thirty filigree illuminated initials of 39 narrated stories, avails itself of a technique, at the time rarely adopted, based on ink and watercolors. In reality, this technique was in the Middle Ages considered basically poor as compared to the richer and more sumptuous one of tempera colors applied with a brush. The drawing with quills and watercolors during the 14th and 15th centuries was tied to the solemn recuperation of ancient culture, to a renewed interest for classical culture, and to the desire to make use of a technique at the same time poor and utilitarian, as is testified by the unknown illuminator of the Franciscan codex.
The choice of this expressive means fully responds to the ideal of poverty preached by Saint Francis, who along with stylistic and historical reasons, ties the illuminations of this precious codex, already in the past attributed to the Florentine workshop of Bicci di Lorenzo (a late-Gothic Florentine artist), to the Umbrian environs of the convent of Saint Onofrio and of the Franciscan tertiary in Foligno to whom the codex immediately belonged.
All of the codex, in its historical-literary and also figurative content, is pervaded by a profoundly Franciscan spirit and imprint, in an intensely spiritual perspective, to the point that the prevailing hypothesis is that the writer and illuminator belonged to the Franciscan Order, as documented by the last words of the colophon on leaf 170: “oh you who read, pray God to forgive me and that I can serve Him.”
On the other hand, during the entire Middle Ages, the great illuminated codices were, for the most part, the work of monastic centers, and in the first decades of the 15th century this tradition was alive and operative especially in the two most important Mendicant Orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans.
The Gaddian 112 manuscript emphasizes with the texts and iconography the fundamental values of the vivid and intense evangelical experience of Francesco and his first companions, as opposed to the Order’s incipient worldliness.
The sober filigree initials and thirty illuminated stories: The decoration of the codex is subdivided in filigree letters, that is to say, those at the beginning of the texts and chapters, and in illuminated “stories.”
The letters, small alternating red and blue initials, are decorated with motifs of a vegetable origin so stylized as to be realized with sections done by pen and with alternating red and blue ink, obtaining a filigree effect.
All the filigree letters have a field, defined by parallel lines and bordered by a thick series of little leaves, with the bottoms of the letters filled with palmettes, small trefoiled branches, and strips of serpentine tapes. The tails of the letters are made up of long fibers that terminate with a coil, decorated with a few small oval-shaped leaves, three-petaled flowers, eyelets, Greek crosses with tiny terminal discs, and an occasional little rose detached from its stem.
The thirty illuminations are all stories positioned like vignettes, either within the columns or at the bottom of the page, often occupying the whole page together with a few lines of titles, and executed with a pen and brown ink, along with watercolors. For the titles, which are phrases of clarification and very brief syntheses of content, a red ink is used, producing an ornamental effect.

Characteristics of the facsimile

  • Integral reproduction on cartaPergamena® of the codex Gaddi 112 of the Medicean Laurentian Library of Florence, realized by ArtCodex® , the Atelier of the Illuminated Codex.
  • Volume format: 21.7 x 29 cm, 186 leaves (372 pages) in cartaPergamena® (paper parchment). Watercolor illuminations of the 15th century.
  • Binding executed entirely by hand, with respect for the trimming of the pages and for the foliation.
  • Cover of brown calfskin leather, vegetable-tanned in a vat, with oval centerpiece and cornerpieces of embedded silver.
  • Integral reproduction of the cartulary with the “blessing of Frate Leone,”conserved in the Holy Convent of the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, original manuscript of the Saint, left to his confrere and travel companion Fra Leone.
  • Printing limited to 999 numbered and certified copies. The work is preserved in a slipcase of wood and jute.
  • Volume with commentary by a Scientific Committee, coordinated by expert scholars of Saint Francis.

The cover and binding

The leaves of the codex, embellished by recuperating the skills of the ancient amanuenses, are finally ready to be trimmed and bound, following attentively the collation of the manuscript. The binding, executed in handicraft workshops that still use the antique hand press, consists in the hand sewing of the headband and leaves, with an absolute respect for the borders and foliation of the codex. The leather cover of brown full-grain calfskin leather presents central and corner ovals in handworked silver.

The cartaPergamena®

The recreated paper, denominated cartaPergamena® following the patent that ArtCodex® perfected in numerous years of research, is produced by expert paper makers, and elaborated according to the characteristics of the codex; each leaf is then aged manually so that it presents the two different sides of the parchment (the “hair side” and the “flesh side”).