Antonio Grifo

illuminator: First Master of the Grifo Canzoniere, Second Master of the Grifo Canzoniere end of the fifteenth-beginning of the sixteenth century parchment; 256 × 158 mm; ff. 410
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, cod. It. Z. 64 (=4824)

The rich chansonnier (song-book) by the Venetian poet Antonio Grifo, who made a living between the second half of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century by lending his services to the most important courts in Milan and Venice, collects more than 900 poems of marked Petrarch flair written by the author in different periods; they are subdivided, within each codex, into two sections that both begin with a miniature (Frasso 1990, pp. 40–57).

The refined title page at f. 233r, introducing the second part of the chansonnier, is made up of an elegant candelabra frieze in gilded bronze on a blue background arranged at the four sides of the sheet, very similar to Bordon’s illuminated frame of the Lucian in Vienna (cat. 19) but decorated with “ancient style” mascarons at the top. The page also illustrates an allegorical scene painted above the text and a medallion at the bottom of the frieze that depicts centaurs and nymphs in a lakeside setting. The allegorical miniature, commonly known as Triumph of Venus, is a complex scene of neoplatonic flair with Venus as its main character, who is depicted naked and balanced on a crystal ball as she holds Cupid with her right arm and points to the sky with her left hand. Alongside the goddess, exalted as an example of beauty and fertility, stand other characters who can be identified as (from left to right) Mercury, Ptolemy, Mars and Adonis who were the symbols (according to Giordana Mariani Canova) of an active, contemplative, bellicose and instinctive life (Mariani Canova 1990, pp. 191–192).

The decoration on the page, that is commonly dated to the 1490s (Mariani Canova 1990, pp. 195–198; Marcon 1994, p. 120), has long been attributed to the Second Master of the Grifo Canzoniere, an anonymous illuminator, since the illustration in his hand appears second in the Marciana manuscript (the first, at f. 1r, is attributed to another master named, precisely, First Master of the Grifo Canzoniere) (Guest 2008a). Stylistically close to Cima’s language expressed in the Lucian in Vienna (cat. 19), as demonstrated by the clear colours and the delicate brightness that pervade the figures and the landscape, the allegorical miniature reveals interesting similarities with woodcuts of the Giunta’s ovid (cat. 31) and with Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (cat. 28) to the extent of supposing the same master’s involvement in the creation of drawings for some of the engravings for the two texts (Szépe 1997, p. 44): not only does Venus comply with female nudes that appeared in many of ovid’s and Poliphilo’s images, but even the poses and costumes of the other characters allow for close comparison with the said illustrations. For example, one should observe the figure of Mars in armour illustrated in profile as he leans upon his weapon, which can be compared to the warrior at f. k8v in Hypnerotomachia, or with the figure of Adonis whose double-belted cloak can be compared, among others, to that worn by Apollo at f. g1v of the Metamorphoses in vernacular.

Giulio Pesavento