(b. ca. 1445, Firenze, d. 1497, Firenze)

Bible of Matthias Corvinus (Florentine Bible)

c. 1490
Manuscript (Plut. 15. 17)
Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary (1443-1490) had amassed a collection of books unparalleled in the late Middle Ages north of the Alps. This prestigious library eventually housed between 2.000 and 2.500 codices, among them many written in Greek. They were all lavishly decorated with gilded bindings and adorned with the king's coat of arms. The three-volume Latin Bible (the Florentine Bible) now in Florence had initially been planned for Matthias and most certainly was to be integrated into the stocks of his Hungarian library. Only a small number of illustrations were made by the Florentine illuminator Attavante and his workshop, the majority of the paintings are by the hands of the brothers Gherardo and Monte di Giovanni.

Gherardo and Monte di Giovanni were brothers and together with Attavante di Attavanti and Francesco Antonio del Chierico they were the most significant miniaturists of the period in Florence. The brothers worked together, Gherardo making the figurative illuminations while Monte the decoration. Gherardo was a humanist, he is mentioned as the friend of Leonardo da Vinci. He was the pupil of Domenico Ghirlandaio and was influenced by Netherlandish art.

The title page of volume III of the Florentine Bible (folio 1v) constitutes one of the major achievements of the brothers Gherardo and Monte di Giovanni. It shows King David of the Old Testament kneeling in the foreground of the main picture, which is inserted between ornamental pilasters. In the right background, the Israelites pursue the fleeing Philistines who are depicted as Turks wearing turbans. The central figure of the three persons in the middle ground, who are watching the battle, is King Matthias, while the person on the right wearing a crown can be identified as the French king Charles VIII.

The principal character of the picture is the kneeling King David as begging God. The background is very rich in representation of scenes with David. The three historical figures behind the kneeling David can be recognized as Queen Beatrix (or Anne de Beaujeu), King Matthias of Hungary and King Charles VIII of France. The Renaissance town in the background symbolizes Jerusalem. At the bottom of the page two scenes from the life of David are represented.