In the last issue of FMR magazine (no. 8 in the new format), there is an essay by Maria Grazia Recanati (translated from the Italian by Judith Landry) entitled A Fabulous Bestiary which describes the drawings and paintings of animals in the Taccuino di disegni (sketchbook) associated with the Milanese painter, illuminator, sculptor and architect Giovannino de’ Grassi (d. 1398). The essay is accompanied by many beautiful reproductions of pages from the Taccuino, of which I have scanned just a few: details from these follow below.
Recanati writes that only the first seven folios of the Taccuino can be attributed with any certainty to de’ Grassi himself. The later pages were apparently decorated by several different hands—including, probably, Giovannino’s son Salomone—during the first two decades of the fifteenth century. I have mentioned the decorated alphabet from this book before: according to Recanati, this probably dates from around 1410, and shows the influence (and perhaps even the handiwork) of an artist known only as ‘the Master of the Modena Hours.’
The Taccuino’s whereabouts during the later fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries are not known. From an inscription in the book, it is surmised that it was in possession of the Olmo (or Lolmo) family who worked as calligraphers in Bergamo in the later 16thC. It later passed to the Licinio family and then to one Alessandro Tassi (1691-1771). After Tassi’s death, the book came into the possession of Leonino Secco Suardo, who donated it to the Bergamo Library, now the Bibliotheca Civica Angelo Mai, in 1845.
These drawings and paintings were made with a degree of ‘attention to observation from life’ that was very unusual in late-mediæval Europe. Besides the pages I’ve scanned here, there are others depicting homo salvaticus (a shaggy, club-wielding wild-man); a lion killing a deer; a pack of dogs devouring a boar (a design strikingly similar to another contemporary manuscript illumination); an heraldic griffin; a peacock; and an eagle’s nest… Click on the details above to see them in context.Posted by misteraitch at October 23, 2005 10:52 AM