Italian Paleography


Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum Ms. Ludwig XV 13
The Flower of Battle
Venice, around 1410

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Fiore Furlan dei Liberi da Premariacco (ca. 1350–before 1425) was a renowned swordsmith and fencing master at the court of Niccolò III d’Este (1383–1441; r. 1393–1441), marquis of Ferrara.  The present codex, commissioned by the marquis himself (indicated on fol. 1v), is one of four manuscripts to contain the text of the Flower of Battle _(_Flos duellatorum in Latin or Fior di battaglia in Italian): The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XV 13; The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M. 383; a copy owned by the Pisani-Dossi family in Corbetta, Italy; and Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms. Latin 11269 (additional lost copies were once preserved in the Biblioteca Estense in Ferrara, as Ms. 84 and Ms. 110).  Niccolò may have wanted this text for its humanist educational value for himself and his three sons, who could have shared the spare copies.  The Getty volume begins with a prologue (fols. 1-2), followed by hand-to-hand combat (fols. 6-8v), then single combat on foot with dagger (fols. 8v-18v), with sword and longsword (fols. 19-35), with pole-ax (fols. 35v-37v), another page with the dagger (fols. 38-38v), with spear (fols. 39-40), and equestrian combat (fols. 41-47).  Pen and ink drawings (with limited washes or gold leaf) accompany the text in each of the surviving volumes.  The Getty volume is the most refined in terms of line, shading, and the rendering of figures three-dimensionally, followed by the Morgan and Pisani-Dossi volumes.  A poignant allegorical figure with seven aiming points on the body and four animal-virtues appears in each copy of the text (except the Morgan): the master must be a good judge of distance like the lynx (top), swift like a tiger (left), strong and balanced like an elephant (below), and brave like a lion (right).

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