(b. 1448, Firenze, d. 1502, Firenze)

Petrarch: Songs, Triumphs

Manuscript (Ms. Vit. 22-1), 358 x 231 mm
Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid

This manuscript contains the Canzoniera (Songs) and the Trionfi (Triumphs) of Petrarch (1304-1374), who was famous even within his own lifetime, continued to enjoy great popularity throughout the 15th century. The Book of Songs sings of the author's unrequited love for a lady named Laura. The Triumphs is an allegorical didactic poem about the soul of the poet and the history of mankind. This copy was commissioned by Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (reigned 1474-1482).

On folio 166v, beneath a damask canopy supported by fantastic candelabra columns and before a landscape panorama, two oxen draw a carriage, or catafalque, towards the viewer. The two animals trample over three dying or dead people lying on the ground - a woman, a young and an elderly man, representing the ultimate fate that faces all mankind. High up on the catafalque sit a cardinal, an emperor, two bishops and a king, below whom appear two scholars, a soldier, four women of various ages and a small child. Above all of them the crowning figure of death wields his scythe.

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