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  • The McCarthy Collection, Volume I: Italian and Byzantine Miniatures by Gaudenz Freuler
  • Bryan C. Keene

Manuscript Studies, illuminations, Italy, Byzantine Empire, manuscript leaves and cuttings; private collection; Italian Renaissance art

Gaudenz Freuler. The McCarthy Collection, Volume I: Italian and Byzantine Miniatures. London: Ad Ilissum, 2018. 304 pp. (hardcover) + 250 color illustrations. £90. ISBN: 978-1-912168-07-1.

The McCarthy collection of manuscripts has long been known to specialists, dealers, and other manuscript collectors. In recent years, select works have been exhibited around the world: European medieval and Renaissance leaves and cuttings have been featured in exhibitions at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, European miniatures and Armenian manuscripts and leaves have been shown at the Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery (Florian Knothe, Illustrious Illuminations I: Christian Manuscripts from the High Gothic to the High Renaissance [1250–1540] [End Page 218] and Illustrious Illuminations II: Armenian Christian Manuscripts from the Eleventh to the Eighteenth Century [Hong Kong: University Museum and Art Gallery, 2015–17]), and Ethiopian manuscripts have been displayed at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and analyzed by the Institute for Curatorial Practice and Hampshire College Art Gallery.

The present volume—the first of three—features eighty detailed entries on Italian manuscripts (135 leaves, cuttings, and bifolia) by Gaudenz Freuler, one of the foremost scholars of Italian manuscript illumination, with eight entries on Byzantine manuscripts (eighteen leaves total) by Georgi Parpulov, a specialist in Byzantine and East Christian art. Richly illustrated in full color with consistent codicological and provenance information, this book can serve as a primer on the history of Italian manuscript painting, including major and lesser known centers of illumination (the word "miniature" in each of the volume titles is somewhat misleading). The second volume (The McCarthy Collection, Vol. 2: Spanish, English, Flemish and Central European Miniatures [London: Ad Ilissum, 2019]) by manuscript specialist Peter Kidd will feature entries on sixty-three items: eight Spanish, eleven English, ten Flemish, and thirty-four central European illuminations. Readers should also consult Peter Kidd's weekly blog for information about several of the artists represented in the Italian volume of the McCarthy collection (see The third volume (forthcoming), also by Peter Kidd, will include approximately ninety-five entries on French manuscript paintings. This trio of publications will significantly advance the field of manuscript studies and will no doubt lead to numerous opportunities for future research.

The first volume begins with an introduction by Gaudenz Freuler that provides an overview of the afterlives of illuminated manuscripts, with a focus on the history of the dismembering of Italian codices and the collecting and commerce of Italian miniatures beginning with the Napoleonic invasion of Italy. One encounters a litany of the names of key individuals in this history, including Abbé Celotti, William Young Ottley, James Dennistoun, Ulrico Hoepli, Leo S. Olschki, Charles Fairfax Murray, and others. As Freuler notes, the McCarthy collection has more in common with the Marmottan (Paris) or Lewis (Philadelphia) manuscript collections, in terms of the breadth of geographic styles represented, than to the near-exclusive [End Page 219] Italian focus of the Lehman (previously New York and now dispersed), Cini (Venice), and Milanese private collections. This last collection has been fully catalogued in two volumes (Italian Miniatures from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Centuries [Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2013]) by Freuler, who has also published important studies related to the Lehman and Cini collections, and these texts are useful references when reading the McCarthy volume. An important feature in the present publication—by contrast to the tomes on the Milanese collection—is a complete concordance of manuscript numbers and several helpful indices (of collections and holdings, of subjects, of artists, of places, and of people). In the introduction, several of the references to entry numbers are incorrect, possibly the result of a reordering of the volume, but the reader can discern the corresponding object from context in most instances.

The Italian portion of the catalog is organized chronologically and by region, beginning with cuttings from the ninth century and ending with a page from a mid-fifteenth century manuscript. The collection features...


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pp. 218-222
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