Ms Typ 143


Ms. Typ 143, f. 1v, Lactantius (ca. 240-ca. 320), Divinae institutiones Lombardy, mid-15th century

This copy of Lactantius has a particularly distinguished provenance, having belonged to two noted collectors, Sir Thomas Phillipps and Sir A. Chester Beatty, before passing to Philip Hofer, who gave it to Harvard. As indicated by an erased coat-of-arms on fol. 1r, it originally belonged to a now unidentifiable Cardinal. The style of the border decoration, with delicate vines drawn in pen supporting gold leaves and large acanthus buds and leaves populated by lively grotesques recalls early fifteenth-century Parisian illumination. In contrast, however, the miniature, which shows the bearded Lactantius at work in the presence of one of his patrons (either the emperor Diocletian, or, more likely, Constantine), is unmistakably Lombard in style. Lactantius was a rhetorician celebrated for his mastery of Ciceronian idiom, praised by Jerome as "the most eloquent man of his time." In comic contrast, the grotesque immediately adjacent to the miniature shows a squatting figure with an outlandish particolored cap who points to a scroll bearing an illegible pseudo-script. The rowdy carousing in the margin provides a foil for the serious colloquy depicted in the central scene.