|Pseudo-Joachim of Fiore, Vaticinia de summis pontificibus (Prophecies of the Popes) with Martin of Troppau, Chronicon Summorum Pontificum |
In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Eastern France (perhaps Savoy, or North-West Italy), c. 1450
57 leaves (4 blank), complete, bound in modern green, gilt-tooled leather binding over pasteboards, fitted slipcase.
57 leaves (4 blank), complete (collation: i-ii 8 , iii-iv 16 , v 9 [of 12, three blanks cancelled], first text with 30 very large miniatures of prophetical scenes with captions above and a few lines of text below, some minor smudging to a few miniatures, slightly cropped at top with very small loss to upper edges of some captions, second text with horizontal catchwords and 35 lines in an angular and sloping lettre bâtarde in black ink (written space 189 x 143 mm.), some capitals touched in yellow, simple 2-line initials in red or blue (3 in variegated red and blue), some stains throughout entire volume, overall in excellent condition. Modern green, gilt-tooled leather binding over pasteboards, fitted slipcase.
The so-called Vaticinia de summis pontificibus is one of the most popular apocalyptic texts of the Middle Ages, surviving in nearly one hundred manuscripts and printed more than twenty-four times from 1505 to 1670. Its abbreviated title, Vaticinia, means “prophetic or vatic, revealing the future by divine inspiration” (as in the naming of Vatican City). Many copies are on paper and not all are as sumptuously illuminated as the present ex-Ritman example. This is a beautiful and mysterious copy of the unique combination of text and image known as the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus (Prophecies of the Last Popes), one of the most important medieval contributions to apocalyptic literature, and one that was both popular and influential. It represents an intriguing combination of criticism of contemporary life, seen within a profoundly Christian conception of the coming of the final days of Judgment and includes apocalyptic imagery such as the Beast of the Apocalpyse.
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Medium/Materials: parchment, bound in modern green, gilt-tooled leather binding over pasteboards, fitted slipcase.|
|Dimensions: 262 x 190 mm|
|Primary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Illuminated Manuscripts & Leaves|
|Secondary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Religious Texts|
The Vaticinia is a unique presentation of the history of the Papacy that combines images, often quite fantastical, and short allegorical captions (as well as the names of actual Popes). It was both a pointed criticism of corrupt figures within the Church, and an expression of a deeply eschatological view of the world that re-interpreted history within the context of the Last Judgment.
The first section of the manuscript is composed of the strange and prophetic Vaticinia de summis pontificibus (Prophecies of the Last Popes), made up of a combination of two separate sequences of prophecies, which by the time of the Council of Constance (1414-1418) were united and misattributed to the Calabrian mystic Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202), thus credited to a Pseudo- Joachim, as follows:
ff. 1-8r, incipit, Ascende Calve (from II Kings 2:23, a prophecy of Elijah), the prophecy collection composed in the mid-fourteenth century and attributed to the mythical bishop Anselm of Marisco; this series was written in imitative continuation of the earlier set (the Leonine Oracles) but was more overtly propagandistic.
ff. 8v-15v, incipit, Genus neque ursa, a Latin version of the twelfth-century Byzantine prophecies known as the Oracles of Leo the Wise that foretell a savior-emperor destined to restore unity to the Empire. Their poems and tempera illuminations mix fantasy, the occult, and chronicle in a chronology of the popes.
The second section of the manuscript comprises the Chronicon Summorum Pontificum by the Dominican preacher Martin of Troppau (died 1278). Three versions were disseminated in the author’s lifetime, and each was added to after his death by a number of continuators, as follows:
ff. 17r-54v, inicipit, “Primus omnium pontificum Romanorum symon petrus ... [the reign of St. Peter], ending in the fifteenth year of John XXII, 1331-1332,with a colophon.
Millet (2004, pp. 213-216) records just over 100 copies of the Papal Prophecies, which she divides in three families. The present manuscript is in the third family, those that follow the order of the Leonine Oracles. Our manuscript, along with two others in Family 3, concludes with the pontficate of John XXIII (reigned 1410-1415) (see Millet, 2004, p. 65). Millet calls it a work of “science fiction,” offering a means of predicting the future at once optimistic and pessimistic.
The earliest versions of the Papal Prophecies were clearly tied to the political realities of their day, but by the early fourteenth century they were embraced by the Spiritual Franciscans, and became a vehicle of seeing contemporary history within a broader eschatological framework. Expanding on the ideas of Joachim of Fiore, they used the Prophecies to express sharply critical views of Popes who are depicted as allied with the Antichrist. Most medieval eschatological interpretations of the Papacy paired this sharp criticism of bad Popes, with hope for the reform and the renewal of the Church, ushered in by the Angelic Pope. Reformation thinkers in contrast, adopted the Vaticinia as a ready tool in their argument that the Papacy itself was evil.
These texts, with their startling predictions and disturbing images, were regarded as controversial and scandalous in the Middle Ages and perhaps for that reason proved extremely popular. They originate in the wake of a faltering and divided papacy. In 1309 Clement V is installed in Avignon, then in 1378 Gregory IX returns to Rome, to be followed in 1378 to 1417 by the Great Schism, during which one pope was in Avignon and another in Rome. There is a noted interest in dissenting or renegade heads of the church with a long interpolation from the decrees of the Franciscan Antipope Nicholas V issued from Avignon on 6 September 1330.
Each prophecy consists of four elements, an enigmatic allegorical text, an emblematic picture, a motto, and an attribution to a pope.
Each prophecy consists of four elements, an enigmatic allegorical text, an emblematic picture, a motto, and an attribution to a pope. The detailed pen drawings heightened with colored wash show stylistic similarities with Bnf. MS nouv. acq. lat. 2130, probably Umbrian work of c .1430 (MS P3, in Millet, 2004, p. 215; Degenhardt and Schmidt, Corpus , I, 1968, pls. 243-244), and the two may be directly related.
The miniatures comprise:
Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate. Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism (1378-1417), University Park, Pennsylvania, 2006.
Facsimile of Stiftsbibliothek Kremsmunster MS CC Cim.6 (one of 2 manuscripts in Family 3 closely related to the present exemplar)
|Provenance: 1. Perhaps made for Louis I, Duke of Savoy (reigned 1440-1465) or a member of his circle. Louis’s father Amadeus VIII (1383-1451) was elected Antipope Felix V and reigned from November 1439 to his resignation in 1449. The volume shows a marked interest in antipopes in the text of Martin of Troppau’s Chronicon (see below), and may well have originated in Savoy: the style of its drawing is markedly Italianate, but its script appears French. certainly, as French poems were added in the late sixteenth century to f. 54v, it appears to have survived in France. 2. Bernard Quaritch, Cat. 146 (April 1857), no. 596, an “extraordinary manuscript very curious.” 3. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), as noted in brown ink, his MS 14883, sold in the Phillipps Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 26 November 1975, lot 836. Sir Thomas Phillipps was an English antiquary and famous book collector who amassed the largest collection of manuscript material in the 19th century. Fittingly self-described as a “vello-maniac,” he collected over 100,000 manuscripts, and in so doing nearly bankrupted himself and his family. Described by G. Waitz in Archiv der Gesellschaft für altere deutsche Geschichtskunde 4 (1879), p. 602. 4. Sion Segre Amar (1910-2003), acquired at the Phillipps Sale; sold London, Sotheby’s, 5 December 1989, lot 100. 5. Belonged to Joost R. Ritman (b. 1941--) the Dutch businessman and distinguished collector of art and books, founder of Biblioteca Philosophica Hermetica, his MS 123, acquired from Tenschert.|
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