Made, likely, by Batolomeo Sanvito in Central Rome, Italy around 1483-1485. Sanvito lived from 1435 to 1518 and was a scribe from Padua, Italy. He was a master of humanistic italic script and it is likely that he also illustrated the manuscript. The manuscript was made for Ludovico Agnelli an apostolic protonotary (a high papal official) and bishop of Consenza, reigning from 1497-1499. On folios 1, 17, and 59 there are his arms, which have the black hat of an apostolic protonotary above it with his device, which is a lamb. The manuscript contains the work of Virgil and Psuedo-Ovid. It is written in Latin with the script humanistic cursive. The manuscript contains seventeen miniatures. The binding, post-1600, is calfskin with added gilt-stamped insignia of George III; there are marbled endpapers and gilt edges. The manuscript itself is well made though not necessarily on the level of manuscripts made for royalty which is evidence of popular and more accessible book production . There are detailed illustration and historiated initials throughout. The text itself was made for a clergyman but the text is secular, specifically a reproduction of the work of Virgil.
The manuscript contains seventeen miniatures scenes that include putti, dolphins, sphinxes, and more. There are also decorated initials and borders. The figures within the illustrations are not depicted in a contemporary fashion but instead in antique clothing. I have included four illustrations from the text below. Three of the illustrations have to do with Greek mythology of the Trojan horse and the underworld. Each of these images is clear narrative with identifiable characters. In the miniature of the underworld the most identifiable character for anyone with knowledge of the Greek afterlife, the boatman is easily identified as Chiron. The scene with the Trojan horse is well known and in the illustration shows the moment the Trojan horse was delivered. The fourth illustration I included is called Rural Life, which is interesting because the scene seems contemporary rather than showing that of antiquity. There is a small farm house among a very pastoral scene with quite a few farm animals. The narrative in this illustration shows the life of a Shepard with them shearing their animals to milking them.
In Northern Italy during the thirteenth century there was a rise of interest in using the newly discovered copies of works by rare or forgotten authors. The thirteenth century authors who used these newly discovered works were laymen interested in literature but also members of notarial or judicial profession. An example of this is Albertanus of Brescia who copied from Carolingian codex of letters of Seneca and added marginal comments and sketches. The Virgil of Batolomeo is not so different with its added illustrations to a new copy of Virgil’s work. This new interest in antique books also came along with a reform in writing, which led to the humanistic scripts, more specifically a cursive. In Italy there was also a resurgence of book art. Humanistic art trends of the period included small initials with white shoots in colored panels, architectural borders, putti, half-length figures, antique motifs, coats of arms, emblems and medallions of the patrons. Many of these illustrations are seen in the Virgil of Batolomeo like the decorated initials, coats of arms, and more.
Miniature of the Trojan horse
The Trojan Horse: Miniature of the Tojan horse entering the gates of Troy and the historiated initial ‘C’ of Aeneas carrying Anchises and leading Ascanius, at the beginning of the book II of Virgil’s Aeneid. With display capitals in a four-color sequence and decorated initial ‘C’.
The horse appears to have been modeled after antique bronze horses of St. Marks in Venice. The artist created the scenes so that there was a clear narrative, in this case the narrative of the Trojan horse and its entrance into the city of Troy.
Miniature of Rural Life: Detail of miniature illustrating book III of Virgil’s Georgics, with shepherds in a landscape with sheep, goats, cattle, sheep shearing, and milking.
The Underworld: Detail of a miniature of Aeneas with the Sibyl at the entrance to the Underworld; with Charon in his boat and Cerberus at the gate at the beginning of book VI of Virgi's Aeneid.
Bernard Bischoff, Latin Paleography, “The Age of Humanism”, Cambridge, 1990.