Offiziolo di Guillebert di Metz

Officium by Guillebert de Metz

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis by Guillebert of Metz

ms. 1138

Bologna, University Library

Limited Edition: 499 copies

  • Dimensions 185×130 mm
  • cc. 300
  • Stampa fine art
  • Applicazione dell’oro in lamina
  • Carta pergamena trattata a mano
  • Incassatura su carta antica
  • Cucitura artigianale su corde
  • Legatura in pelle con fregi in oro a caldo
  • Taglio in oro

This primer of extraordinary beauty was certainly written for a rich lady, perhaps named Barbara, wife of a nobleman
of the court of Filippo il Buono awarded with the Golden Fleece, established by that very sovereign in 1430.

Its greatest
value, in the opinion of Caterina Limentani Virdis, consists in the undisputed stylistic and decorative unity, which
knows no lapses and tiredness: in fact, having removed three papers only (cc. 76, 265v and 272v), work of a less brilliant
collaborator, probably belonging to the miniaturist al center of Mons, the codex represents one of the highest creations
of the Master of Guillebert of Metz.

This name alludes to an illuminator specialized in primers, active around 1410-40
in southern Flanders, identified for the first time with this name by the copyist of the Decameron codex preserved at Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal di Parigi (ms. 5070) and that, for the frequent use of the silver leaf, was also called “Maestro dei cieli argentei”: by admission of all the scholars of the history of the miniature our primer is undoubtedly one of his most
beautiful masterpieces.

The decoration, with profusion in every corner of the manuscript, in fact includes twenty-three
large miniatures depicting episodes from the life of Christ and the Virgin and also of some saints, among which Barbara
stands out, perhaps the same name of the aristocratic client; in the calendar, however, the saints of the diocese of Utrecht.

The ornate initials, frames and friezes cannot be counted, from the characteristic acanthus leaves interrupted by
ivy leaves and grotesques and scenes with human and animal figures, all rendered with a fresh and luminous use of color,
illuminated by flashes of gold and silver.

As we read on a fragment of the original guard sheet, the codex was donated by the Count of Brescia Durante Duranti (1718-1780), poet imitator of Parini, “to the valiant Father Abate Trombelli,”, who then gave it to the Biblioteca del Convento del SS. Salvatore, in whose eighteenth-century catalog it appears with the number 780.

In the opinion of Frati, the codex was donated to Duranti by King Carlo Emanuele III of Savoy in 1755 to thank him for the dedication of his rhymes.

In the Library of SS. Salvatore, the manuscript remained until 1796; poi, the after the Napoleonic adventure and the stay in France, in 1828 it was donated by the Canons to the then Papal Library, together with the Lattanzio codex and ms. 1554 as a reward for the custody of their precious manuscripts.