BIRAGO, Giovanni Pietro
(active 1471-1513 in Milan)
Italian illuminator and engraver. In 1894 he was tentatively associated with his principal work, the Hours of Bona Sforza (British Library, London), and became known as the Master of the Sforza Book of Hours; in 1956 he was conclusively identified by his signature PSBR IO PETR BIRAGVS FT on the frontispiece of a copy (National Library, Warsaw) of Giovanni Simonetta's life of Francesco Sforza, the Sforziada, published first in Latin and then in Italian translation at Milan in 1490.
He was employed in Milan in the second half of the 15th century, building up an extensive oeuvre there. His hand can be seen in the illustrations to a number of choral books now in the Biblioteca Tosio Martinengo in Brescia, which he had already completed between 1471 and 1477 together with another miniaturist. These show that his early work was influenced by the school of Padua-Ferrara.
At around the same time as the Sforza Hours, Birago was illustrating the three books of the Sforziade, the glorification of the life of the first Francesco Sforza. In the 1490s he created miniatures in the pontifical of Bishop János Vitéz of Veszprém in Hungary. Further significant works include the Latin Grammar Book of Maximilian Sforza.