(active 1349-1403 in Bologna)

Lucanus: De bello civili (Pharsalia)

Manuscript (Ms. 691), 237 x 160 mm
Biblioteca Trivulziana, Milan

Lucan (born A.D. 39 in Córdoba, Spain), brother of the famous Stoic philosopher Seneca, was well-known as a writer and moved in the circles close to the Emperor Nero. In A.D. 62 or 63 he published the first three books of his epic poem composed in hexameters, De bello civili (Greek: Pharsalia), in which he describes the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. Lucan's work was much read in the Middle Ages and in the wake of the Italian humanism of the Trecento.

The present version of De bello civili was completed in 1373 in Bologna. Its illustrations by Niccolò da Bologna show the typical characteristics of the Bolognese school of manuscript illumination, which produced attractive paintings with spontaneous touches, and a naturalism that repeatedly pushes purely decorative elements into the background.

The miniature on folio 87r shows Caesar's great rival in the civil war, Pompey the Younger, surrounded by his troops as they prepare for battle. The look exactly like a 14th-century Italian cavalry unit.

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