CLOVIO, Giulio
(b. 1498, Grizane, d. 1578, Roma)

The Farnese Hours

1537-46
Manuscript (M. 69), 172 x 108 mm (each page)
The Morgan Library and Museum, New York

Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589), grandson of Pope Paul III, commissioned Giulio Clovio to paint a book of hours now known as the Farnese Hours. This book constitutes the most famous manuscript of the late Italian Renaissance. Its sequence of images, however, is derived from medieval models. All illustrations (26 full-page miniatures and 37 ornamental text pages) are from the hand of Giulio Clovio, praised by Vasari as the most important illuminator of all times. He is said to have worked on these pictures for nine years.

Biblical narratives are paired with apocryphal stories; all are framed with elaborate architectural borders decorated with sensuous nudes, masks, and floral swags, hardly a manifestation of the biblical accuracy and decorum demanded by the Protestant or Catholic Reformation, but certainly something Clovio would have remembered from his training with Giulio Romano before the latter left for Mantua in 1524.

The double page here shows the Annunciation to the Shepherds, and Augustus and the Sibyl.