Royal Book Collections

Aragonese Kings of Naples


The royal library assembled by the Aragonese kings from Alfonso V to Federico III is typical of 15th century royal collections. Soon after his arrival in Naples in 1443, Alfonso V established his library at Castel Nuovo. The collections comprised many royal commissions from various artists of the time, first Catalan and then Italian copyists and illuminators.
After 1495, the collections of the library were broken up. King Federico III sold part of it to Cardinal George d’Amboise while in exile in France. Federico’s son, the Duke of Calabre, succeeded in keeping a great part of the manuscripts and he took these to Valencia in order to build the library up again. Meanwhile in Naples, French King Charles VIII appropriated another part of the collection.

Book of Hours of Frederic of Aragon

This Book of Hours was made for Frederic of Aragon, former King of Naples. The King fled the kingdom of Naples when French troops arrived in 1495, and was exiled to Plessis-les-Tours from the end of 1501 until his death in November 1504.
Three artists collaborated on this manuscript. The Italian Giovanni Todeschino, who followed the King in France between winter 1501 and spring 1502, created the very Italian iconographic program and illuminated some of the frames and frontispieces. The famous French artist Jean Bourdichon, who later worked on the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany, illuminated the figurative scenes which were glued onto the pages. An assistant of Bourdichon, nicknamed Master of Claude de France, worked on the illuminations of part of the frames, copying the style of Todeschino.

The Breviary of Martin of Aragon

The Breviary of Martin of Aragon is one of the most illuminated manuscripts in the Aragonese collections. It was made in Catalonia between 1398 and 1410 for Martin of Aragon, the last king of the Catalan branch of the family. Then the manuscript passed into the hands of Alfonso V the Magnanimous, who had it completed around 1420-1430.
A masterpiece of Catalan illumination, each page of The Breviary is decorated with leafy borders, sometimes also with animals or chimaeras (mythical animals). Furthermore, the manuscript contains 5 full-page miniatures, 24 half-page miniatures and 68 smaller miniatures. These last miniatures, of religious subjects, mark the beginning of each text sequence.

Johannes Tinctoris, Opus musices 

This manuscript from the University of Valencia was written in Naples around 1483. It is a musical manuscript by Johannes Tinctoris, a versatile author considered to be one of the most outstanding music theorists of his time. He created his 12 treatises while staying in Naples between 1472 and 1487. Only a few copies from the 15th century have been preserved. The Valencian codex contains 9 of the 12 works known to be written by Tinctoris, and is one of the most complete copies. The manuscript begins and ends with two laudatory poems written by the monk Fortunato da Ferrara, in honor of Tinctoris. It includes some parts dedicated to King Ferrante and Princess Beatrice, of whom Tinctoris was the tutor. The illumination in this manuscript, according to Professor Genaro Toscano (Historian of Art specialist of the Italian and Aragonese Illuminations), is one of the most representative of the works of Nardo Rapicano.