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ArtCodex atelier del codice miniato

The Legends of St. Margaret and St. Agnes

ms. Ricc. 453 (13th century)
conserved in the Riccardian Library – Florence, Italy
biblioteca Riccardiana Firenze


Presentazione video del volume

The legend of the two saints’ lives, inspired by the models of the Byzantine martyrs, has many points of contact: both of the young girls, who had dedicated themselves to God, were the object of attentions on the part of powerful men, and as a result of their rejection were subjected to horrible forms of torture: following their death, miraculous events demonstrated their holiness.
The Riccardian manuscript is composed of two sections joined together probably at the beginning of the 14th century; only the story of the Passion of Margaret of Antioch is depicted with illuminated images that are positioned as a visual commentary on the text whose most prominent moments they highlight, with a rhythm that is almost page by page.
The codex contains the richest ornamental accompaniment to the legend, a refined edition surely intended for a considerably elevated audience. Produced in Bologna at the end of the 13th century in a workshop that was specialized in the creation of luxurious volumes and included among its “clients” kings and high-ranking prelates, the volume constitutes a product of high quality, in spite of its small dimensions. Filigree letters of elegant composition spell out the text, whereas 33 illuminations, along with two illustrated initials, constitute the beautiful visual comment. The scenes, composed with a pictorial style typical of the most ancient codices and rich with classical reminiscences, are enclosed within frames that delimit them, isolating them on the page and giving them the prominence and significance of the little stories in large painted tableaux dedicated to the celebration of the two saints. On the gold-leaf background, the protagonists are light and elegant in their movements among sober suggestions of landscapes and architecture, with a refined style that unites the Byzantine culture to a solid classical setting, revealing the hand of a great master, able director of the whole decoration.
There is a very suggestive hypothesis that the composition of the manuscript might be tied to the figure of the blessed Margaret, daughter of the king of Hungary, Bela IV. Miraculously, the Mongols, who at the time of her birth had invaded the country and forced the rulers to seek refuge in Dalmatia, withdrew, and the court was able to return with the child to Budapest. On the island that would then have her name, surrounded by the waters of the Danube, Margaret became a Domenican nun and lived in the faith, receiving even the stigmata. The princess could not be explicitly celebrated as blessed because her saintliness had not yet been proclaimed, but she could be venerated through the greater saint whose name she bore. Lastly, there remains a touch of curiosity and of mystery concerning the strange word with which the copyist terminates his efforts, and which sounds like an attempt to ward off the demon in order to save his soul…a good presage for the reader!

Characteristics of the facsimile

  • Integral reproduction in pure 23kt gold on cartaPergamena® of the Riccardian codex 453, realized by ArtCodex®, the Atelier of the Illuminated Codex
  • Volume format: 10.3 x 14.5 cm.
  • 61 leaves (122 pages, of which 15 are white) with 33 full-page illuminations.
  • Binding done entirely by hand, with respect for the trimming of the pages, the foliation, and the colors of the headband.
  • Cover in blue silk velvet, plates of gold and silver foil, natural lapislazzuli set in the front plate.
  • Numbered edition with a printing of 999 numbered and certified copies.
  • The work is conserved in a precious blue slipcase with a double compartment, where it is placed on an elegant lining of champagne-colored satin.
  • Volume of commentary compiled by Giovanna Lazzi, director of the Riccardian Library of Florence.

Pure 23kt gold

The pure 23kt gold, applied on the paper by means of the patented ArtCodex® system, appears in relief as in the original codex, as though it had undergone the effect of time. Each detail is faithfully reproduced, from the engravings to the designs on the gold, from the gold dust wrought with a brush, to the gilding with pure 23kt gold foil. The splendid effect obtained is that of a harmonious chromatic fusion between the gold details and all the iconographic elements of the illuminations.

Binding and cover

The process of binding the codices is realized by adopting the customs of the ancient artisan binderies. The work, which is conducted in handicraft workshops that still preserve the antique manual press, consists in the hand sewing of the headband and folios, with an absolute respect for the profiling of the manuscript pages. Lastly, the cover is reproduced in facsimile, with a rigorous respect for all the characteristics of the original: each work process is carried out by hand, while respecting the foliation of the codex and utilizing the materials of the time.

The cartaPergamena® (paper parchment)

The kind of parchmented paper employed, whose peculiarity guarantees that each single sheet is equal to the original, is produced by a trusted paper mill: the cartaPergamena® paper parchment, following an “ageing” treatment, recreates the same effect of movement that the passage of time has brought about on the original. The color of the parchment is then faithfully reproduced during the printing stage: each sign of time - such as the folds, spots, and transparencies - is reproposed exactly, contributing to confer upon the codex the same sensation of antiquity that characterizes the medieval manuscript.