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  • 1 Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, H-1827, Budapest, Budavári Palota “F” building
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Abstract

The Beatrice Psalter (Wolfenbüttel, HAB, Cod. Guelf. 39 Aug. 4º) belongs to the problematic part of the Corvina library, to pieces that are hard to date or localize as regards place of origin. As Matthias Corvinus's coat of arms on the cover proves, the binding was made for the Hungarian king, yet it deviates in character from the typical gilded leather Covina bindings and is unique in the history of 15th century Italian manuscript bindings. There is a single analogous Corvina, the Bible once bound for Matthias (Erlangen, Universitätsbibliothek, Ms. 6). The presently accepted view on the binding is based on the researches of Tommaro de Marinis and Antony Hobbson. De Marinis published a Livy manuscript once in the Aragonese royal library of Naples whose binding, or its central part, is identical with the binding of the Beatrice Psalter. In de Marinis's view the bindings of both manuscripts are of Neapolitan origin. Probing deeper, Hobbson associates the origin of the two manuscripts with the circles of Giovanni d'Aragona, and identifies their bookbinder as Felice Feliciano. He names Rome as the location where the binding was made.

Most probably, neither researcher ascribed any significance to the edges of the Psalter, which was described by earlier Hungarian research as gilded and decorated in colour, without being subjected to more thorough analysis. Thus, the Psalter edges were not identified with the Buda type of the gilt and painted edges, although they conform to this types, its constituents being easily recognized among the motifs of similar pieces. This fact alone may ascribe great probability to the hypothesis that the binding of the Psalter was not made in Naples or Rome but in Buda. This does not necessarily contradict Hobbson's results, for Felice Feliciano stayed in Hungary from autumn 1479 to summer 1480 accompanying Giovanni d'Aragona.

The hypothesis is supported by other specificities of the manuscript, too. As regards the quality of the parchment, the size, and the person of the scribe, the Psalter is part of a triple group within the Corvinae. The Plato in El Escorial (G. III. 3.), the Aristeas manuscript in Munich (BSB, Clm 627) and the Beatrice Psalter are three small manuscripts of similar size, all three written on rougher parchment than the Italian type and the scribe of all three was Gundisalvus Hispanus, who stayed in Italy in the mid-1470s until 1478 when he was appointed bishop of Barcelona. Albina de la Mare already asked: Are we to presume that Gundisalvus visited Buda, too? For the time being, this cannot be verified. It is, however, thought-provoking that the calendar taking up the first leaves of the Psalter is of a Hungarian, more precisely a Zagreb type with minor Pauline features, and the litany at the end of the manuscript also contains the major Hungarian saints. An additional coincidence is that the Plato in El Escorial and the Aristeas in Munich are proven to have been illuminated in Buda around 1480. On the basis of their style they belong to the circle of the manuscript decorated for Domokos Kálmáncsehi around that time. As for the inner figural initials of the Psalter, the Buda origin is highly likely, too. The one-line initial capital letters are very close to those in the Kálmáncsehi breviary (Budapest, OSzK, cod. Lat. 446).

The title-page of the manuscript is in Florentine style, but the attribution is uncertain. Earlier the name of Francesco Antonio del Cherico, more recently Francesco Rosselli and the Master of the Medici Iliad are mentioned. Rosselli also stayed in Buda in 1478/79–80, but in my view the leading illuminator of the title-page was not he but a better painter who might be identical with the leading artist involved in the Medici Iliad. The latter, however, probably never visited Buda.

To sum up: the writing of the Psalter may support a Buda origin, but this is questioned by the presumable illumination of the title-page in Florence. The inner part of the manuscript, however, was most certainly decorated in Buda, and on the basis of the specificities of the edges and other features of the binding, it must be seen verified that the rare binding was made in Buda. The latter must have been an inspiring, model example for the elaboration of the gilded leather bindings of Matthias's corvinae. The available data suggest that it can be dated to the very end of the 1470s or around 1480. The phases of the making of the Psalter shed light on the activity of the Buda workshop around 1480s, revealing a surprising complexity and exuberant activity there.

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