Silius Italicus

Date: Middle XV Century.
Originl kept:
National Library Marciana of Venice, Inv. 1791
                    and Hermitage Museum, Lat. XII, 68 – 4519

330 x 202 mm.
7 pages fully illuminated.
Miniaturist: Francesco di Stefano “Il Pesellino”.
Edition: Unique and unrepeatable edition of 949 numbered
             and authenticated by notarial deed.


The attraction aroused among Renaissance men Greek and Roman history made him rediscover and return to read Silius Punic De bello Italico. The Second Punic War is the subject of this epic, which tells the greatness of the Romans, exalting the heroic virtues of the Roman leaders and the power of Rome, subject and initially overwhelmed by enemies, finally triumphed in the struggle, which was one of the most epic and deadly in its history.

A codex Silius Italicus text appears in the library of Pope Nicholas V (reign: 1447-1455), whose books are the nucleus of the Vatican Library. In an inventory of the library of the eminent humanist scholar used the adjective "prestigious" to refer to this codex.

That manuscript, of great beauty and magnificence , has been identified as the current Codex Lat. XII , 68 -4519- of the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice.

Probably the codex came out of the Roman collection at the time of Paul II (reign: 1464-1471) and the end of four was already in Venice, in the Dominican monastery of Saints John and Paul. The valuable library of the Dominicans of Saints John and Paul of Venice was one of the first important monastic collections that were received in the Library of the Serenissima. The deposit was made for reasons of protection, since the middle eighteenth century had been verified episodes of theft and dispersion became alarming.

Given the lush beauty of the illustrations of famous Silius Italico, this codex was the victim of a robbery of illuminated pages, which were torn mercilessly for marketing and quickly purchased by members of the Russian court .

Today there are seven images preserved in Venice and St. Petersburg.

The miniatures are the work of one of the most prestigious artists of the Quattrocento Florentine Francesco Di Stefano, also known as Il Pesellino. In his work we can see influences of Filippo Lippi and Fra Angelico, and despite his short career , due to his early death, his works hang in the best museums such as the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Gardner Museum in Boston and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

With this edition Mediaevalis Orbis, the Hermitage Museum and National Library Marciana in Venice recover the allegories that adorned the famous codex and embellish the manuscript again.



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