Philostratus: Heroica

The Philostratus corpus was a great discovery of Renaissance. As revealed by Bonfini’s preface, the Greek original was handed over to him by Taddeo Ugoleto during the siege of Bécsújhely (Wiener Neustadt). Bonfini completed the translation in three months under the attention of a small circle of learned friends. He dedicates to King Matthias especially the first work of the volume with an odd summary: “If you consider the Greek and Trojan heroes, you will see that they were more inclined to lies than truth”. Bonfini says Matthias achieved greater fame with his triumphs in Austria than the participants of the Trojan War. Therefore, Philostratus’s dialogue on the Homerian heroes plays the role of example in the corpus as a tool of royal laudation in line with the translator’s preface.

The preface of laudation plays a key role in the volume. Bonfini praises the monarch on the occasion of the take of Wiener Neustadt with the description of the siege and the following march of glory. The exquisite decoration of the double title-page (See the digitized corvina!) is related to this message. The iconography is composed according to the classical rhetoric rules of laudation and presents the king’s virtues in war and peace. Obviously, the martial virtues are more emphasized. On the right, in the initial letter, we can see the march of glory (The figures in the corners might be identified with the author [upper left] Bonfini [upper right], Prince Johannes Corvinus [lower right], and his fiancee Bianca Maria Sforza [lower left]). On the borders of the left title-page, there is a row of antique style medals with the portraits of Roman Caesars who supported culture and military leaders who excelled at war: Hadrian (lower left), Nero (upper left), Germanicus (upper right), Faustina, wife of Marcus Aurelius (lower right). King Matthias is among them, at the center of the left side border decoration. Opposite to him, within the right border decoration, we can see Lorenzo de’ Medici’ famous antique carneol intaglio (gem with a figural decoration) that depicts the musical contest between satyr Marsyas representing violent barbarian orgy with his flute and the god Apollo playing pure and lofty music on his lyre. (The contest ended with Apollo’s triumph; the god finally skinned Marsyas as wisdom and art defeated barbarism.) Matthias’s cultural virtues are represented also by the library, referred in the index of contents of the left title-page as Corvina Bibliotheca. The decoration of the manuscript made great influence on the lesser masters of the Buda workshop who often followed its patterns in their works. (Edina Zsupán)

 Source: The Corvina Library and the Buda Worskhop: [National Széchényi Library, November 6, 2018 –February 9, 2019] A Guide to the Exhibition; introduction and summary tables: Edina Zsupán; object descriptions: Edina Zsupán, Ferenc Földesi; English translation: Ágnes Latorre, Budapest: NSZL, 2018, p. 168


Shelfmark: Cod. Lat. 417.
Country: Hungary
City: Budapest
Keeper location: National Széchényi Library
Author: Philostratus
Content: Heroica; Imagines; De vitis sophistarum; Epistolae
Translator: Antonio Bonfini
Writing medium: parchment
Number of sheets: 173 fol.
Sheet size: 358 × 222 mm
Place of writing: Buda
Date of writing: late 1480s
Scriptor: Scriptor of the Philostratus corvina (probably local)
Illuminator: Boccardino il Vecchio; "first" heraldic painter (ff. … waist figures of historicizing initials)?
Place of illumination: definitely Buda
Date of illumination: late 1480s
Crest: King Matthias' Hungarian and Bohemian royal coat-of-arms (underneath: Matthias ….), Boccardino il Vecchio, probably Buda, between 1487 and 1490 (folio numbers)
Possessor, provenience: King Matthias Hunyadi; Johannes Gremper; Johannes Cuspinianus; Johannes Fabri, Bishop of Vienna (comp. possessor entries on the endleaves and the printed bookplate at the right); St. Nicolas College of the University of Vienna (1540); University of Vienna; Imperial Court Library, Vienna (1756); in line with the Venice Agreement (signed on November 27, 1932), it was returned to National Széchényi Library.
Binding: original gilded leather corvina binding; gauffered, gilded edge (1490, made during the reign of King Ulászló II); (heavily restored)
Language of corvina: Latin
Condition: Restored: NSZL Éva Fodor 1981-1982
Hungarian translation(s) of work(s) included in the corvina: None