Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Pietro Ursuleo of Capua: A New Attribution

In a previous post about the Psalter and Passion Sequences written by Pietro Ursuleo, I used images of a Psalter in Baltimore (Walters Art Museum, MS W.330) to suggest what two features of the missing leaves might look like.

What I did not mention is that the Baltimore manuscript appears to me also to have been written by Ursuleo, an observation that has apparently not previously been made.[1]
Baltimore, Walters MS W.330
The illumination of the Baltimore book has been attributed to Cristoforo Majorana, who is first documented working for the Aragonese Court in Naples in 1472. The illumination of the dismembered manuscript is attributed to Cola Rapicano, in whose workshop Cristoforo is thought to have trained. Pietro Ursuleo, the scribe, died in 1483.

The mise-en-page of the two books is very similar, with 19 lines of text per page, although the Baltimore book is much larger, at about 290×155mm, as compared to the Tregaskis book at about 170×130mm. This being the case we cannot expect the script of the two to be identical, especially as they may have been written some years apart.

The most unusual letter-form of the Walters MS is perhaps the r with a top-stroke that curves all the way back so that it touches, or nearly touches, the minim, and the foot of the minim with a very large serif:

The letter r does not always take this unususal form, however; on the same page as all the above examples we find:

The unusual form of the letter is not usually used in the dismembered Tregaskis manuscript:

but examples of it can be found, sometimes in close proximity to a more 'normal' r:

I could go through the whole alphabet trying to demonstrate that the Baltimore manuscript is by the same scribe as the ones signed by Pietro Ursuleo, but I will leave it for you to make you own minds up.

[1] Chiara Valle, Zanvyl Krieger Fellow in the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books at the Walters, kindly tells me in an email (1 Oct., 2014) that "I have looked at the curatorial files of the manuscript W.330. I have not found anyone who recognized the hand of Pietro Ursuleo of Capua, or any other scribe, in the manuscript."

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