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AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Technology, Science and Art is a
series produced by AVISTA (The Association Villard de Honnecourt for
Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science and Art), and published
by Ashgate. The aim of the series is to promote the cross-disciplinary objectives
of AVISTA by publishing in the areas of the history of science, technology,
architecture, and art. The society takes its name from Villard (Wilars) de
Honnecourt, an elusive persona of the 13th century whose autograph portfolio
contains a variety of fascinating drawings and descriptions of both the fine and
mechanical arts.

AVISTA President
Robert Bork

Volume Editors-in-Chief
Jean A. Givens
Karen M. Reeds
Alain Touwaide

Volume Editorial Board

Ellen Shortell
Anne Van Arsdall
Steven Walton
Lynn T. Courtenay
Michael T. Davis
Robert Bork
AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Technology, Science and Art
Volume 5

Visualizing Medieval Medicine

and Natural History, 1200–1550

Edited by
First published 2006 by Ashgate Publishing

Published 2016 by Routledge

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

Copyright © Jean A. Givens, Karen M. Reeds, Alain Touwaide, 2006

Jean A. Givens, Karen M. Reeds, Alain Touwaide have asserted their moral right under the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the editors of this work.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any
form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented,
including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publishers.

Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only
for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Visualizing Medieval Medicine and Natural History, 1200–1550. – (AVISTA Studies in the
History of Medieval Technology, Science and Art)
1. Leonardo, da Vinci, 1452–1519. 2. Medicine in art. 3. Art, Renaissance.
4. Art, Medieval 5. Literature, Medieval – History and criticism. 6. Medicine in
literature. 7. Renaissance. 8. Nature in art.
I. Givens, Jean A. (Jean Ann), 1947– . II. Reeds, Karen. III. Touwaide, Alain

US Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Visualizing medieval medicine and natural history, 1200-1550 / edited by Jean A. Givens,
Karen M. Reeds, and Alain Touwaide.
p. cm. – (AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Technology, Science and Art)
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Medicine, Medieval. 2. Science, Medieval. 3. Medical illustration – Early works to 1800.
4. Botanical illustration – Early works to 1800.
I. Givens, Jean A. (Jean Ann), 1947–. II. Reeds, Karen. III. Touwaide, Alain. IV. Series.
[DNLM: 1. History, Medieval. 2. Natural History – history. 3. Medical Illustration –
history. 4. Manuscripts, Medical–history. WZ 54 V834 2006]
R141V57 2006

ISBN 13: 978-0-7546-5296-0 (hbk)


List of Illustrations vii

Notes on Contributors xiii
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction xvii
Jean A. Givens, Karen M. Reeds, Alain Touwaide

1 Image, Word, and Medicine in the Middle Ages 1

Peter Murray Jones
2 Latin Crusaders, Byzantine Herbals 25
Alain Touwaide
3 The Illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis Manuscripts from Northern
Italy ca. 1380–1400: Sources, Patrons, and the Creation of a New
Pictorial Genre 51
Cathleen Hoeniger
4 Erudition on Display: The “Scientific” Illustrations in Pico della
Mirandola’s Manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History 83
Sarah Blake McHam
5 Reading and Writing the Illustrated Tractatus de herbis, 1280–1526 115
Jean A. Givens
6 Leonardo da Vinci’s Anatomical Studies in Milan: A Re-examination
of Sites and Sources 147
Monica Azzolini
7 (Hu)moral Exemplars: Type and Temperament in Cinquecento Painting 177
Piers D. Britton
8 Leonardo da Vinci and Botanical Illustration: Nature Prints,
Drawings, and Woodcuts ca. 1500 205
Karen M. Reeds
9 The Uses of Realism in Early Modern Illustrated Botany 239
Claudia Swan

Index 251

1.1 Fetal positions within the womb. Gilbertus Anglicus, The

Sekenesse of Wymmen. London, British Library, Sloane MS 249,
fol. 197 recto. Fifteenth century 4
1.2 Cautery scenes with Isaiah receiving the burning coal. Medical
miscellany. London, British Library, Sloane MS 1975, fol. 92
verso. Ca. 1190–1200 6
1.3 Galen, the King, and lightning burning the book. Pseudo-Galen,
Experimenta. Paneth Codex, New Haven, Yale University
Cushing/Whitney Medical Library MS 28, p. 121. Ca. 1285–1300 8
1.4 Zodiac man from a folding calendar. London, British Library,
Harley MS 5311, section F. Fifteenth century 10
1.5 Volvelle with saints. Guild-book of the Barber-Surgeons of York.
London, British Library, Egerton MS 2572, fol. 51 recto. 1486 12
1.6 Fistula in ano operation with instruments. John of Arderne,
Practica. London, British Library, Additional MS 29301, fol. 25
recto. Ca. 1420–30 16
1.7 Coventry Ring. London, British Museum, MME AF 897.
Late fifteenth century 21
2.1 Adiantos vel politricum (maidenhair). Illustrated herbal written in
French and Latin. Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott
190 2º, fol. 15 verso. Late thirteenth/early fourteenth century 32
2.2 Adiantos vel politricum (maidenhair). Dioscorides, De materia
medica. Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS med.
gr. 1, fol. 42 verso. Ca. 513 33
2.3 Cauda vulpina (horsetail). Illustrated herbal written in French
and Latin. Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 190 2º,
fol. 20 recto. Late thirteenth/early fourteenth century 36
2.4 Cauda vulpina (horsetail). Dioscorides, De materia medica.
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS med. gr. 1,
fol. 144 verso. Ca. 513 37
2.5 Feves (beans). Illustrated herbal written in French and Latin.
Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 190 2º, fol. 40
recto. Late thirteenth/early fourteenth century 38
2.6 Feves (beans). Dioscorides, De materia medica. New York,
Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M 652, fol. 75 verso. Tenth century 39


3.1 Sparagus (asparagus). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque

nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 26 recto.
Ca. 1380–90 56
3.2 Roxe (rose). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale
de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 83 recto. Ca. 1380–90 60
3.3 Autumpnus (autumn). Tacuinum sanitatis. Vienna, Österreichische
Nationalbibliothek, MS series nova 2644, fol. 54 verso.
Ca. 1390–1400 64
3.4 La vigna (grape vine). Carrara Herbal. London, British Library,
Egerton MS 2020, fol. 28 recto. Ca. 1390–1404 70
3.5 Hyemps (winter). Tacuinum sanitatis. Vienna, Österreichische
Nationalbibliothek, MS series nova 2644, fol. 55 recto.
Ca. 1390–1400 71
3.6 Coytus (coitus). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale
de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 100 verso. Ca. 1380–90 74
3.7 Rizon (rice). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale
de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 48 recto. Ca. 1380–90 79
4.1 Attributed to the Pico Master. Portrait of Pliny the Younger?
Pico della Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural
History. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245
(coll. 2976), fol. 1 recto. Ca. 1480s 91
4.2 Attributed to the Pico Master. Frontispiece of Letter to Titus
with Pico della Mirandola’s coat of arms and portrait of Pliny
the Elder. Pico della Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s
Natural History. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS
lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 3 recto. Ca. 1480s 94
4.3 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book Two. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll.
2976), fol. 27 recto. Ca. 1480s 99
4.4 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book Five. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll.
2976), fol. 68 verso. Ca. 1480s 100
4.5 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book Seven. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll.
2976), fol. 96 recto. Ca. 1480s 103
4.6 Attributed to Giuliano Amadei. Incipit to Book 22. Gregorio
Lolli Piccolomini’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural
History. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, MS
L. 1504–1896, fol. 321 recto. 1460s 105

4.7 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book 22. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Venice Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll.
2976), fol. 286 recto. Ca. 1480s 107
4.8 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book 37. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll.
2976), fol. 446 verso. Ca. 1480s 108
4.9 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book 35. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll.
2976), fol. 420 verso (bis.) Ca. 1480s 110
4.10 Cristoforo Cortese. Incipit to Book 35. Pliny the Elder’s
Natural History. Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, MS 1278, fol. 210
recto. Ca. 1420–30 111
5.1 Preface, table of entries beginning with the letter “A,” and aloen
(aloe). Tractatus de herbis. London, British Library, Egerton
MS 747, fol. 1 recto. Ca. 1280–1300 120
5.2 Appium commune (celery), appium raninum (buttercup), and
appium risus (celery-leaved buttercup). Tractatus de herbis.
London, British Library, Egerton MS 747, fol. 3 verso.
Ca. 1280–1300 122
5.3 Appium emoroidarum (lesser celandine), amidum (starch),
antimonium (antimony), and acatia (blackthorn). Tractatus de
herbis. London, British Library, Egerton MS 747, fol. 4 recto.
Ca. 1280–1300 124
5.4 Preface. Livre des simples médecines. Copenhagen, Kongelige
Bibliotek, MS GKS 227 2º, fol. 28 recto. Ca. 1430 126
5.5 Apium emoroidarum (lesser celandine) and amidum (starch).
Livre des simples médecines. Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek
MS GKS 227 2º, fol. 34 verso. Ca. 1430 129
5.6 Antimonium (antimony). Livre des simples médecines.
Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek MS GKS 227 2º, fol. 35
recto. Ca. 1430 130
5.7 Registre of the chaptrees. The Grete Herball. Southwark: Peter
Treveris, 1526. London, British Library, C.27.11 139
5.8 De aloe (aloe). The Grete Herball. Southwark: Peter Treveris,
1526. London, British Library, C.27.11 140
5.9 Table of Remedies. The Grete Herball. Southwark: Peter Treveris,
1526. London, British Library, C.27.11 142
6.1 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. Two small drawings
of the alimentary system (with a note on the erection of the penis).
Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, W. 19019v 149

6.2 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. Two drawings of the

cranium (with the date of 2 April 1489). Windsor Castle, Royal
Collection, W. 19059r 156
6.3 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. Large study of the
left foot and leg, showing muscles of the calf and tendons;
sketch of the arm and hand (with the date of winter, 1510).
Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, W. 19016r 157
6.4 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. The superficial veins
of the left arm and the vessels of the young and old. Windsor
Castle, Royal Collection, W. 19027r 164
6.5 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. The portal veins in
old age and notes recording observations on the death of an old
man in Florence. Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, W. 19027v 165
6.6 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. Coition of hemisected
man and woman (with dissection of the penis). Windsor Castle,
Royal Collection, W. 19097v 169
7.1 Domenico Ghirlandaio. St Jerome in his Study. Fresco,
184 x 119 cm. 1480. Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence 185
7.2 Agnolo Bronzino. Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni
de’ Medici. Oil on panel, 115 x 96 cm. 1544–5. Galleria degli
Uffizi, Florence 192
7.3 Raphael. St Cecilia with Sts Paul, John Evangelist, Augustine,
and Mary Magdalene. Oil on canvas (transferred from panel),
238 x 150 cm. Ca. 1513–16. Pinacoteca, Bologna 198
7.4 Bernardino Luini. Christ Teaching [generally called Christ
Among the Doctors]. Oil on panel, 72.4 x 85.7 cm. Ca. 1515–30.
National Gallery, London 201
8.1 Leonardo da Vinci and Francesco Melzi. Salvia (sage). Nature
print and notes (in hypothesized original orientation). Milan,
Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Codex Atlanticus, fol. 197v, formerly
fol. 72v–a. After 1507 206
8.2 Attributed to Konrad von Butzenbach. Elifagus (sage), pilifagus
i[d est] salvia (sage), herba virga pastorum (teasel), siriaca
i[d est] malva (mallow) [identified from top left]. Nature prints
and mantic text. German and Latin medical–astrological
miscellany. Salzburg, University Library Salzburg MS M I 36,
fol. 155 recto. 1425 or later 213
8.3 Wenzeslaus Brack. Celidonia? (celandine?). German and Latin
miscellany of magic, astrology, and medicine. Nature print and
line-drawing. Prague, Národni knihova, MS XXIII F 129, fol.
213 verso. Late fifteenth century 214

8.4 Leonardo da Vinci. Two “rushes”: Scirpus (top) and Cyperus.

Pen and ink over traces of black chalk. Windsor Castle, Royal
Collection, W. 12427. Ca. 1510–14 223
8.5 Ciperj (Cyperus). Erbario [Herbal containing 192 drawings of
plants]. Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection,
MS LJS 419, fol. 33 verso. Late-fifteenth-century drawing 225
8.6 Angales (anagallis, pimpernel). Erbario [Herbal containing 192
drawings of plants]. Drawing. Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J.
Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 419, fol. 34 recto. Early-fifteenth-
century drawing 227
8.7 Salvia salvaticha (clary, catnip?). Erbario [Herbal containing
192 drawings of plants]. Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J.
Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 419, fol. 99 verso. Late-fifteenth-
century nature print 228
8.8 Ciperus (Cyperus). Tractatus de uirtutibus herbarum [Herbarius
Latinus]. Vicenza: Leonardus (Achates) de Basilea and Gulielmus
de Papia, 1491, C. XLIII 233
8.9 Cicorea (chicory). Woodcut [printed upside down]. Tractatus
de uirtutibus herbarum [Herbarius Latinus]. Vicenza: Leonardus
(Achates) de Basilea and Gulielmus de Papia, 1491, C. XXXII 235
9.1 Self-portraits of the artists, Heinricus Füllmaurer and Albertus
Meyer, and of the blockcutter, Vitus Rodolph Speckle. Leonhart
Fuchs, De historia stirpium. Basel: Michael Isingrin, 1542 [897] 242
Notes on Contributors

Monica Azzolini
Monica Azzolini teaches at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
She is a 2006 Ahmanson Fellow at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for
Italian Renaissance Studies, and a former fellow of the Society of Scholars, The
Simpson Center for the Humanities, the University of Washington. She is the author of
two other essays on Leonardo da Vinci which have appeared in Early Science and
Medicine (2004) and Renaissance Studies (2005). This latter essay, entitled “In Praise
of Art: Text and Context of Leonardo’s Paragone and its Critique of the Arts and
Sciences” was awarded the Renaissance Studies Essay Prize for the best essay
published by the journal in 2005. She is currently working on a monograph on learned
medicine and astrology at the Sforza court.

Piers D. Britton
Piers D. Britton is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Redlands,
Redlands, California, USA. While his primary area of specialization is art in Rome and
Florence during the sixteenth century, he has also co-written a book on production
design for television, Reading Between Designs (with Simon J. Barker; University of
Texas Press, 2003). The author of several articles on the invocation of humoral theory
in the literature of the arts during the Renaissance, he is currently preparing a study on
Francesco Salviati and the notion of “the melancholy artist” in cinquecento Florence.

Jean A. Givens
Jean A. Givens is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Connecticut,
Storrs, Connecticut, USA. She is the author of Observation and Image-Making in
Gothic Art (Cambridge University Press, 2005). The recipient of fellowships from the
American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, the J. Paul
Getty Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, her current project
is Picturing the Healing Arts: Word, Image, and the Illustrated Tractatus de Herbis,

Cathleen Hoeniger
Cathleen Hoeniger is a specialist in Italian Renaissance art who has long been interested
in the relationship between art, science, and medicine, particularly the rise of naturalism
in the pictorial arts. Her publications include articles on Simone Martini and a book,
The Renovation of Paintings in Tuscany, 1250–1500 (Cambridge University Press,
1995). She is Associate Professor of Art History at Queen’s University, Kingston,


Peter Murray Jones

Peter Murray Jones is Fellow and Librarian at King’s College, Cambridge, UK. Author
of Medieval Medicine in Illuminated Manuscripts (British Library and Centro Tibaldi,
1998), he has also written on medical books and libraries, and on the practice of
medicine and surgery in the Middle Ages.

Sarah Blake McHam

Sarah Blake McHam, Professor of Art History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick,
New Jersey, USA, has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton
and has won fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the American
Council of Learned Societies, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Gladys Krieble
Delmas Foundation. She has written several books and numerous essays on fifteenth-
and sixteenth-century Italian sculpture and painting, most recently an article on sculpted
memorials to Roman authors erected in Italy in the fifteenth century published in
Renaissance Studies. She is currently working on a book about the influence of Pliny
the Elder’s Natural History in Italian Renaissance art and theory.

Karen M. Reeds
Karen Meier Reeds, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, is the author of Botany in Medieval
and Renaissance Universities (Garland, 1991) as well as books on biomedical
discovery and on New Jersey’s medical heritage. For the 2007 Linnaeus Tercentenary
at the American Swedish Historical Museum, Philadelphia, she serves as guest curator
of the exhibit, “Linnaeus and America.” She is a visiting scholar in the History of
Science at the University of Pennsylvania and affiliated with the Princeton Research
Forum and the National Coalition of Independent Scholars.

Claudia Swan
Claudia Swan is Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University,
Evanston, Illinois, USA. Her publications include The Clutius Botanical Watercolors:
Plants and Flowers of the Renaissance (Harry N. Abrams, 1998); Colonial Botany:
Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World (University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2004) with Londa Schiebinger; and Art, Science, and Witchcraft in
Early Modern Holland: Jacques de Gheyn (1565–1629) (Cambridge University Press,
2005). She has been a member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton
(1998–99) and a fellow at the Max-Planck Institute (2002).

Alain Touwaide
Alain Touwaide is Historian of Sciences at the National Museum of Natural History of
the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. The recipient of many grants, awards,
and honors; he has published extensively on the history of therapeutics in the cultures
of the Mediterranean world from antiquity to the Renaissance.

As the words of thanks in each essay make clear, many individuals and institutions
generously supported the research in these collected studies. The volume and the
conference sessions on which the book is based also benefited from the help and
encouragement of still others. First of all, thanks are due to the Samuel H. Kress
Foundation. Continuing their generous funding of the arts, the Kress Foundation
awarded a Sharing-of-Expertise grant to this project, and their support helped
bring international scholars to the International Congress for Medieval Studies at
Kalamazoo to speak; they also provided a much-appreciated subvention that has
helped underwrite the cost of this volume.
These papers derive from sessions sponsored by AVISTA and the History of
Science Society at the 2003 International Congress for Medieval Studies in
Kalamazoo, as well as the session sponsored by the International Congress of
Medieval Art at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the College Art Association. We
could have asked for no better venues in which to start this conversation about the
intersection of art, science, and medieval intellectual traditions; and we are
profoundly grateful for the interest and support of our colleagues that helped make
these events possible.
Above all, at the most personal level, it is, of course, our families whose
interest, patience, and good humor ultimately helped this project to go forward,
and it is to Bruce Raymond, Jim Reeds, and Emanuela Appetiti that this volume
is dedicated with thanks and affection.

Jean A. Givens, Karen M. Reeds, and Alain Touwaide

This volume represents a conversation among scholars in fields at the intersection

of the history of art, science, and medicine. Like most cross-cultural encounters,
this one brings together participants who might not otherwise meet and who often
talk past each other when they do. As a consequence, as editors and writers, we
find ourselves engaged in a process of translation. As we discovered, little can be
taken for granted; basic, common knowledge in one field is arcana in another. As
important, few definitions are universally applicable to our multiple communities,
and all profit from a degree of clarification. In the process of defining ourselves
and our assumptions, we have discovered that the conversation is well worth
having: we have learned as much about our own work and our own working
premises as we have learned about other fields.
One of the first and most obvious points requiring clarification concerns the
framework and, by extension, the chronology established in this volume’s title. Why
“medieval” medicine and natural history, and why the dates “1200–1550?” This
volume focuses chronologically and geographically on what most scholars would
regard as the high and late Middle Ages from Byzantium to the British Isles. That
said, this territory offers no clear boundaries between medieval and Renaissance –
or as it is more often characterized these days – “early modern” culture. Moreover,
when it comes to chronology, there is a reasonably clear divide, north and south. For
students of southern European history, 1550 is decidedly post-medieval territory, but
when it comes to northern Europe, continuity with the products and practices of
earlier “medieval” centuries is evident well into the sixteenth century.
The history of art and that of science similarly diverge when it comes to the
task of locating works of art and intellectual approaches within these parameters.
For students of the visual arts, changes in workshop practice and conventions
(among them, the shift from the anonymity of medieval craft to the authority of
named artistic personalities) as well as the mastery of observational techniques
and naturalistic rendering define an opposition between medieval and Renaissance
visual culture that is one of the central tropes of most histories of art. It is useful
to note that Leonardo da Vinci – the focus of several articles in this volume –
normally figures within this narrative structure as the Renaissance artist par
excellence, a master who clearly breaks with medieval traditions in style, subject
matter, and intellectual ambition. Even so, for historians of science, Leonardo’s


science – if not his visual productions – has a decidedly retrospective, “medieval”

cast, particularly in light of his reliance upon Galenic tradition.
The picture of Leonardo that emerges in the essays by Piers Britton, Monica
Azzolini, and Karen Reeds helps bridge these disciplinary commonplaces.
Leonardo’s work clearly registers Galenic tropes and ways of understanding the
body and personality, a conceptualizing mode available to other artists of the
period (and perhaps, as Britton puts it, given a “new complexion” by Leonardo).
For Azzolini, juxtaposing Leonardo’s anatomical drawings with what we know of
his access to autopsies and dissections reveals him in a new light, as a figure
whose work is deeply embedded in practices common to other professionals in
fifteenth-century Milan. Finally, as discussed in Karen Reeds’s essay, the nature
prints associated with the circle of Leonardo reflect both a process of technical
experimentation and a context for that experimentation that is older, broader, and
more diverse in its implications than heretofore suggested.
As these comments on Leonardo suggest, the essays in this volume often
highlight elements of continuity rather than rupture in European intellectual life
through the early sixteenth century. Moreover, the research presented here reflects
a rich and frequently retrospective interplay between classical and post-classical
ways of knowing about the body and the world. Among these, the many and
various ways in which the teachings of Galen, the writings of Pliny, and the
botanical knowledge of Dioscorides and others inform the speculation of writers
in subsequent centuries play a key role.
As revealed here, this dialog registers a continuous – if multifaceted – tradition,
and one in which past knowledge and ways of understanding the world are
actively reshaped for present need. Thus, for example, as Alain Touwaide’s
account of a previously unstudied herbal from the late-thirteenth- or early-
fourteenth century shows, much older Greek manuscripts of Dioscorides’ De
materia medica continued to serve as the foundation for the study of herbal
medicine. Even though Jean Givens highlights different technologies and
intellectual contexts, she similarly demonstrates the manner in which a text first
assembled for the use of thirteenth-century scholars was remade, both textually
and graphically, in ways that preserved its utility well into the sixteenth century.
This volume follows medieval practice by taking an ecumenical approach to
our subjects, concluding that natural history and medicine are best construed very
broadly. This conclusion comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with Pliny’s
Natural History, an encyclopedia built on a particularly expansive notion of what
constitutes nature (and illustrated in a comparably wide-ranging manner in the
manuscript described by Sarah McHam). The Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts
discussed by Cathleen Hoeniger encompass a similar breadth; as they build upon
the remedies and the precepts for healthful living in an Arabic treatise in
translation, they also express belief in the fundamental equivalence of the sound
body and the foundations of a well-run society.
Although most of the essays in this volume deal with books and the pictures

they contain, our interest and that of our authors extends well beyond what is
generally considered scientific illustration – as important and broad a topic as that
may be. Our choice of the word “visualization” is deliberate, for as Peter Murray
Jones aptly put it, our aim has been “to eschew anachronistic assumptions about
medical illustration in the Middle Ages and consider the relationship of image,
word, and medicine afresh.” There are several parts to this topic, among them the
functions served by visual imagery in the context of medicine and natural history.
And Jones’s essay masterfully defines a range of possibilities that extends well
beyond the material within the covers of books to include images and their use
within the healing setting of hospitals; the instrumental, therapeutic benefits
invested in healing tokens and amulets; as well as the use of images to validate the
healer’s authority.
Several of the essays in this volume further explore the synergy between visual
and verbal communication. Givens and Swan suggest that at times pictures and
other visual cues supplemented, extended, and even replaced words in both
manuscripts and printed books devoted to topics in medicine and natural history.
As Swan reminds us, what she aptly calls the “functional” account of herbal
illustration, for example, holds that images – and particularly descriptive images
– “closed the gap between textual knowledge of nature and the experience of it.”
The essays in this volume, however, offer an expanded range of relationships
between visual and verbal communication and between reading, readership, and
the communication of medical and scientific knowledge.
As Peter Jones observes, in many cases, images take priority over words,
particularly in genres such as cautery images, “cases where the texts themselves
appear only inscribed within the image, not as discursive entities written in
defined areas of the written page.” In a related vein, Jean Givens highlights the
manner in which book design and the incorporation of a paratextual apparatus of
locational devices that are as much visual as verbal might assist and direct a
reader’s experience as a seeker of information. Approaching the topic of function
still more broadly, Claudia Swan’s discussion of a text that was not illustrated,
Euricius Cordus’s Botanologicon, offers a cognitive explanation for the presence
of illustrations and one that highlights their mnemonic function.
The conclusions reached here offer an alternative to the ways in which the
production of medieval medical and scientific illustrations often has been
described. Whereas several classic accounts (one by no less a figure than Pliny
himself) memorably highlight the ways copying pictures could reduce and garble
visual information, the essays in this volume reveal several other dynamics of
visual communication, including the medieval illustrators’ practice of gathering
models from multiple sources to expand their repertoire and to satisfy their
patrons’ expectations. Jones cites “medical” images that clearly rework the visual
language contained in religious texts. According to Hoeniger’s analysis of the
Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts, the illuminators of these luxury productions
appropriated image-types from the moralizing context of the “labors of the

months,” from courtly imagery, from romance manuscripts, as well as seemingly

more obvious, related texts such as herbals. In some cases, notably the nature
prints examined by Reeds, first-hand knowledge of the subject under discussion
may have formed part of the illustrator’s repertoire. But even when it did not, and
we clearly find evidence of copying as in the corpus of illustrations described by
Touwaide, or the relationship between the Latin and French copies of the
Tractatus described by Givens, the results suggest deliberate change and
Along with highlighting the production of images (and imagery), these essays
underline the conditions of patronage and their reception – both intended and
actual. In this context, geography matters, whether it is on a small scale as in
Azzolini’s discussion of Milanese medical practice, or large-scale as in
Touwaide’s account of heretofore unrecognized contacts between Byzantine East
and Latin West. Equally important, technology matters, too, and it is here that the
economics of book production – both in manuscript and in print – come into play.
Several of the books discussed in this volume were clearly intended for the
leisured or learned classes, among them the Egerton Tractatus de herbis
manuscript discussed by Givens (a work that was almost certainly made for
scholars at Salerno), the Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts discussed by Hoeniger,
and Pico della Mirandola’s copy of the Natural History, as discussed by McHam.
The ownership of others is less certain, and best treated with a degree of
circumspection, particularly when it comes to printed books. Even so, in this last
context, the economics of the early book trade certainly played a role; despite the
sixteenth-century popularity of illustrated medical texts, they clearly were
expensive to produce.
In virtually all of the settings discussed in this volume, images required a
special effort – no less in human time and the cost of materials than in intellectual
commitment. The producers, audiences, and disseminators of this imagery
certainly knew this and, clearly, the decision to employ visual images implicates
both the viewer and the viewed. As our authors repeatedly remind us, medieval
medicine and natural history were deeply logocentric enterprises. Even so, the
works surveyed here reflect both the capacity and the desire of multiple
communities to capitalize on the unique capacities of visual communication.
Finally, as these essays demonstrate, images and imagery powerfully and
meaningfully give concrete form to essential relationships: between healer and
patient, between the cure of souls and cures of the body, and between memory and
the mastery of the healing arts.
For Bruce Raymond, Jim Reeds, and Emanuela Appetiti
Chapter 1

Image, Word, and Medicine in the

Middle Ages
Peter Murray Jones

Images in medical manuscripts from the Middle Ages are commonly and
understandably described as medical illustrations.1 Trouble arises only when we
start to assume that the conventions of twentieth-century medical textbooks,
written by doctors, illustrated by professional medical illustrators or
photographers, and published by specialist medical publishers, apply to the
Middle Ages. The nexus of author, illustrator and publisher that is taken for
granted as defining medical illustration is anachronistic when it comes to
medieval manuscripts. Even the idea of authorship does not really fit well. Many
medical texts do not have authors in the modern sense – they may be compilations
and written for the use of the scribe himself – while auctoritas may attach to them
in varying degrees. There were no professional medical illustrators; illuminators,
whether monks or lay persons, would never have considered themselves as
medical illustrators, and would be far more likely to have been employed by
owners or commissioners of books than by authors. The publication of a
manuscript might involve an author giving out his work to selected friends or
patrons with a view to its being circulated more widely; it was not the equivalent
to launching a modern medical textbook on a selected market of potential
The aim of this contribution is to see what happens if we try deliberately to
eschew anachronistic assumptions about medical illustration in the Middle Ages,
and consider the relationship of image, word, and medicine afresh. We will still
need, of course, a pragmatic definition of what is to be included and what is to be
left out. So far as books are concerned, we can include images found in medical
books from the first survivors of the Western medical codex in the sixth century
CE to an end-point assumed rather arbitrarily as the end of the medieval period
around 1500 CE. There might reasonably be some argument at this point as to
whether images of medical subjects that are found in non-medical books should

1 See, for example, the pioneering surveys of Loren C. MacKinney, Medical

Illustrations in Medieval Manuscripts (London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library,
1965); and Robert Herrlinger, History of Medical Illustration from Antiquity to A.D. 1600,
trans. G. Fulton-Smith (London: Pitman Medical, 1970).


be included. Does St Roch showing a plague sore on the thigh found in a Book of
Hours count, or should astrological and alchemical imagery be included simply
because these sciences were employed sometimes for healing purposes?2 I
propose for present purposes to be inclusive rather than exclusive, and not to try
to distinguish medical books from non-medical books too sharply. Part of being
watchful against anachronistic assumptions is avoiding too rigid a definition of
what constituted a medical book, and, as shall see, images with a part to play in
healing are found in other places than books.3
A trawl through the medical manuscript books in any substantial library will
yield a haul of images that might be called medical illustrations if we are simply
establishing a population to consider. In the 1980s I carried out such a trawl in the
British Library and the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine; more
recently, I have done the same in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
and the Cushing/Whitney Historical Medical Library at Yale.4 However, since my
days working through manuscripts in London, when I was happy to classify these
images as medical illustrations under different chapter headings – anatomy,
diagnosis, and prognosis; materia medica, cautery, and surgery; diet, regimen, and
medication – I have become more and more puzzled about explaining how exactly
these images function in relation to the texts they accompany. Apart from the
anachronism potentially involved in talking of medical illustration, there are other
problems with that model that arise out of the interaction of words and images in
medical manuscripts.

Problems with the Model of Medical Illustration

One difficulty with the model of medical illustration applied to manuscripts is that
there are many cases where images that we want to label as illustrations do not
accompany medical texts, because there are no texts, or because text and image
have gone separate ways. In some instances, particularly those created at dates
nearer 1000 CE than 1500 CE, we may be tempted to assume that the illustrations
we have found did once accompany a text, but that as a result of some accident in
the transmission by copying from manuscript to manuscript, text and image
became separated. This is presumably the case for the image of a seated physician

2 Peter Murray Jones, Medieval Medicine in Illuminated Manuscripts (London: British

Library, 1998), fig. 13: London, British Library, Additional MS 18854, fol. 146 verso;
French Book of Hours, 1525.
3 I am confining the discussion here to Western medieval manuscripts, though I believe
the same considerations could apply to Byzantine or to Islamic material.
4 Peter Murray Jones, Medieval Medical Miniatures (London: British Library, 1984),
revised as Medieval Medicine in Illuminated Manuscripts; exhibition, “The Art of
Medicine: Medical Manuscripts from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and
the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library,” Beinecke Library, 16 April–22
May 2004 (

taking the pulse of a woman patient found in a German medical manuscript of the
thirteenth century, which seems to have no connection with any of the other
medical texts in the book.5 Moreover, we cannot assume that even when text and
image are found together that they have always kept company. There is, for
instance, a set of thirteen images of fetal positions within the womb. In the earliest
ninth-century CE example these images accompany a text of Muscio Gynaecia, but
in manuscripts of the thirteenth century and later, the set detaches itself from that
text and circulates independently (Fig. 1.1). To add to the confusion, the set
reappears in the fifteenth century with extracts on obstetrics from Muscio, where
it is translated into Middle English, and included without ascription to any author,
in the so-called The Sekenesse of Wymmen, a version of Gilbertus Anglicus,
Compendium Medicinae, itself adapted from Roger de Baron, Practica
medicinae.6 We cannot presume, therefore, that all medical “illustrations” can be
considered as the intended accompaniment to a particular text – some may have
circulated with no text at all, or with alternative texts. This looseness of fit
between text and image is not at all uncommon as a phenomenon, and may in part
at least be due to varying preferences among copyists for one at the expense of the
Second, even in cases where we have both text and illustration, and they seem
to be a good fit, we cannot assume that the text takes priority over the illustration.
Because university medicine in the Middle Ages was so logocentric in its devotion
to exposition of authorities, and to commentary on texts (like other scholastic
disciplines), it is tempting to assume that word determines image, that illustration
is really a means of enhancing access for readers to the text.7 But there are
instances in which the words are secondary to the images. Take, for example, the
cases where the texts themselves appear only inscribed within the image, not as
discursive entities written in defined areas of the written page. Sets of cautery
figures, very widely circulated in the early Middle Ages, have instructions for
burning at a particular place on the body depending on the nature of the disease

5 London, British Library, Arundel MS 295, fol. 256 recto; Jones, Medieval Medicine,
fig. 37. Presumably, if it accompanied a text originally, that was a work on pulse. I refer to
images from Jones, Medieval Medicine, wherever possible as a convenient resource for
looking up images.
6 See London, British Library, Sloane MSS 249 and 2463 (the latter edited in Beryl
Rowland, Medieval Woman’s Guide to Health: the First English Gynecological Handbook
(Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1981). The complicated fortunes of text and
images are discussed in Monica H. Green, “Obstetrical and Gynecological Texts in Middle
English,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 14 (1992): 53–88, esp. 81–2, and Jones, Medieval
Medicine, 39–41, figs 28–9. For Gilbertus Anglicus, see O. Riha, “Gilbertus Anglicus und
sein ‘Compendium medicinae’: Arbeitstechnik und Wissensorganisation,” Sudhoffs Archiv
78 (1994): 59–73; and for Roger de Baron, see E. Wickersheimer, Dictionnaire
Biographique des Médecins en France au Moyen Age, Hautes Etudes Médiévales et
Modernes 34 (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1979), 720–1.
7 On the teaching of medicine see Cornelius O’Boyle, The Art of Medicine: Medical
Teaching at the University of Paris, 1250–1400 (Leiden: Brill, 1998).

1.1 Fetal positions within the womb. Gilbertus Anglicus, The Sekenesse of
Wymmen. London, British Library, Sloane MS 249, fol. 197 recto.
Fifteenth century. Photo by permission of the British Library

with which the patient is afflicted (“for sickness of the head and swelling of the
chest, and torturing pain of hands, knees, and feet, burn thus,” written round the
head of the patient pictured). These instructions are normally written within the
confines of the image itself rather than alongside it or above or below it on the
page. It would not make sense to talk of these as cautery illustrations, for they do
not illustrate a text; rather the text explains how to interpret the image.8
There is a third further difficulty. Can we be confident that illustrations that
accompany medical texts in manuscripts are exclusively medical in their range of
signification? There are examples of images in medical manuscripts that cannot
be explained without recourse to the importing of motifs from religious art. The
same illustrated set of the points at which the hot cautery iron is to be applied
mentioned above contains one image that at first sight has nothing to do with
cautery. On fol. 92 verso of London, British Library, Sloane MS 1975, a hand
appears from a cloud and puts a burning coal on the tongue of a man whose head
is in profile (Fig. 1.2). This is not a recommendation to use heated coals on the
tongue for medical purposes. The hand is from heaven, and the motif is borrowed
from the story of Isaiah 6:6–7, in which the burning coal brought by a seraph
symbolizes the forgiveness of sin and the gift of prophecy. Its relevance to cautery
is metonymic; the brazier in which the cautery irons are heated is also depicted,
and must have suggested the story of the hot coals and Isaiah. It is not a case of a
model in religious art supplying a solution to the technical challenge posed to the
artist by a medical image. Instead the artist has supplied an image that is borrowed
directly from biblical art, but has no medical meaning.9 This should force us to
think not just of the technical challenges posed to the artist, but of the vocabulary
of images that artists and spectators must have had in common – based on their
shared participation in the visual conventions of contemporary religious art, so
much more readily present to them within churches, in processions, as well as in
the Bible and other illustrated religious books.
Finally, there is the question of illuminated and historiated initials in medical
manuscripts. From the thirteenth century onwards, it became common in both
university and lay circles for illuminators to supply images in the initials at the
beginning of medical texts. Normally the historiated initial is identifiably relevant
to the subject of the text, and in some sense may be said to introduce or at least
supply a visual marker for the text. As an example we may take the so-called

8 Examples may be found in Jones, Medieval Medicine, figs 5, 18, 68–70, in Italian and
English manuscripts ranging from ca. 1000 to ca. 1300 CE. Examples illustrated there
include: Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS plut. 73.41, fol. 127 verso and fol.
122 recto; Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense, MS 1382, fol. 2 verso and fol. 19 recto; and
London, British Library, MS Sloane 2839, fol. 1 verso.
9 London, British Library, MS Sloane 1975, fol. 92 verso (online image at This manuscript was made
either in northern England or northern France around 1190–1200, and was owned by the
monastery of Ourscamp, a Cistercian house near Noyon, north of Paris. See Nigel Morgan,
Early Gothic Manuscripts, [I], 1190–1250 (London: Harvey Miller, 1982), no. 10.

1.2 Cautery scenes with Isaiah receiving the burning coal. Medical miscellany.
London, British Library, Sloane MS 1975, fol. 92 verso. Ca. 1190–1200.
Photo by permission of the British Library

Paneth codex, illuminated towards the end of the thirteenth century in Bologna.10
It contains as many as 42 texts, and in fact there are 57 initials to medical texts;
there are some texts without historiated initials, but other texts have initials at
major divisions as well as at the beginning. Two artists were involved, and while
they may have received instructions from a patron who commissioned the
manuscript, it seems that they chose the subject of the images without any
sustained commitment to differentiating all the medical texts or sticking to the
most obvious medical subject.
Both artists bring a certain literalness of approach to the task of illustration.
The first artist illustrating the lapidary text on the 12 gems or 13 stones attributed
to King Evax of Arabia shows the seated King wearing a crown and holding a
scepter as he proffers a green stone to a man standing before him. This represents
the first words of the text “Evax rex arabum … ” and one of the gems or precious
stones mentioned in the title.11 Similarly the second artist illustrates a pseudo-
Galenic text on medicinal experiments by showing Galen talking to a king facing
him (Fig. 1.3). Between them, a red bolt comes out of the cloud above and sets on
fire a book, which is lying at Galen’s feet. The first words of the prologue to the
text are “Dixit Galienus Ignis qui descendit de celo super altarem combuxit libros
regum.”12 The subject of the picture is, thus, not one suggested by any feature of
the text proper, but what Galen is supposed to have said by way of prologue about
the circumstances in which the text came to be written, involving the destruction
of a number of royal books. Taking the first or early words of the text written
alongside the space left for the illuminator to fill was a very common strategy for
illuminators seeking a subject for initial pictures, and it is no surprise to find that
both artists of the Paneth codex relied on that strategy rather than on an informed

10 The Paneth codex is New Haven, Yale University Harvey Cushing/John Hay
Whitney Medical Library, MS 28. It takes its name from Fritz Paneth and his family, early
owners of the manuscript. The contents are described and numbered in Karl Sudhoff,
“Codex Fritz Paneth,” Archiv für Geschichte der Mathematik, der Naturwissenschaften und
der Technik 12 (1929): 2–31. A valuable listing and description of the images within this
work is to be found in the Index of Medieval Medical Images in North America, which may
be accessed via the RLG Union Catalog on the World Wide Web or the UCLA Digital
Library. One initial on p. 1149 at the beginning of the Tractatus de oleis of the Rogerina
has been missed in the IMMI listings: author Roger de Baron, wearing an academic cap and
ermine-trimmed gown, gestures with both hands, facing half right. For further discussion
of the program of images in the Paneth Codex, see Jones, “Picturing Medicine in the Age
of Petrarch,” forthcoming in Petrarca e la Medicina. Atti del Convegno di studi, Capo
d’Orlando, 27–28 giugno 2003, Messina, ed. Tiziana Pesenti and Vincenzo Fera (Messina:
Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi Umanistici, 2006).
11 This is the opening chapter to an incomplete version of Marbode of Rennes’
(1035–1123) De Lapidibus, ed. John M. Riddle, Sudhoffs Archiv, Beiheft 20 (Wiesbaden:
Franz Steiner Verlag, 1977), 34. The text, with its initial “E,” begins on p. 1197 of
Cushing/Whitney MS 28, Sudhoff, “Codex Fritz Paneth,” no. 37. The Paneth codex is not
listed among the manuscript witnesses known to Riddle.
12 Pseudo-Galen, Experimenta, Cushing/Whitney MS 28, p. 121, Sudhoff; “Codex Fritz
Paneth,” no. 12.

1.3 Galen, the King, and lightning burning the book. Pseudo-Galen,
Experimenta. Paneth Codex, New Haven, Yale University
Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, MS 28, p. 121. Ca. 1285–1300. Photo
courtesy of Yale University, Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical

medical judgment of what would best represent the author’s work. The sense in
which such initial images can be said to illustrate the text is very different from
the circumstances we have in mind when we suppose a medical author
commissioning a set of images to throw light on the various subjects of his work.
The illuminators to the Paneth codex also supplied images in the illuminated
borders that might best be characterized as displaying an ironic or at least
detached view of medicine as a subject.13

Practical Images

These four problems stand in the way of any simple assumption that what we find
in medical manuscripts of the Middle Ages are medical illustrations. Images in
medical manuscripts turn out to have ambiguous or even non-existent
relationships to the words of the texts, those words we might have thought of as
originating and determining the character of the images. There are causes that help
to explain this breakdown of the model of medical illustration in the face of the
variability of relation between word and image in medical books. We need in
particular to bear in mind that medicine in the Middle Ages was an art as well as
a science, and that medical books might be related in an instrumental way to
medical practice, as well as being a means of transmitting medical knowledge.
Some of the distinctive features of medieval medical images are closely related to
this instrumental or practical orientation.14
A good example of this practical orientation is to be found in the so-called
physicians’ calendars. These have a distinctive and spectacular appearance as books,
quite different from what we think of as the usual codex form. They were written and
illuminated on parchment leaves which were subsequently folded into an oblong
shape, sewn together at one end and connected to a silken cord, from which the
calendar hung at the physician’s belt or in a purse at his waist. Each of the separate
leaves might contain sets of monthly tables of astrological data or a medical text and
image. The images in these calendars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
typically include tables with circular eclipse diagrams, colored urine glasses, a
bloodletting man, and a zodiac man (Fig. 1.4). For each of these kinds of image we
find canons, sets of rules to interpret and to explain how to use the image. The images
themselves are really parchment instruments or calculating engines, a kind of medical
technology. They were used to determine when and where to let blood or to apply
medicines, in conjunction with the calendrical data. They are not illustrations to the
text in the sense that gives the text priority – it is really the opposite way round, where
the text plays a secondary role in explaining how the image is to be used.

13 For the “ironic” potential of border illumination, see the Smithfield Decretals
(London, British Library, Royal MS 10 E IV), fol. 54 illustrated in Jones, Medieval
Medicine, fig. 39 and Cushing/Whitney MS 28, p. 92.
14 The series of cautery pictures discussed above is clearly related to practice.

1.4 Zodiac man from a folding calendar. London, British Library, Harley MS
5311, section F. Fifteenth century. Photo by permission of the British Library

The physician’s calendar may have had a social as well as an instrumental use.
It seems likely that the physician’s calendar had a role to play in the encounter of
doctor and patient; it was perhaps meant to impress and reassure the patient as
much as to enable the doctor to make diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. The
rather elementary information found in the medical images and textual canons
might easily, in fact, have been memorized by the learned owner, who would have
had little need for such a guide. Frequent mistakes in the execution of images and
text perhaps hint at more concern for display and embellishment than accuracy.15

15 On physicians’ calendars see J. P. Gumbert, “Über Faltbücher, vornehmlich

Almanache,” in Rationalisierung der Buchherstellung im Mittelalter und in der früher
Neuzeit, ed. Peter Rück (Marburg: Institut für Historische Hilfswissenschaft, 1994),
111–21; Hilary M. Carey, “What is the Folded Almanac? The Form and Function of a Key
Manuscript Source for Astro-medical Practice in Later Medieval England,” Social History
of Medicine 16 (2003): 481–509; and C. H. Talbot, “A Medieval Physician’s Vade Mecum,”
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 16 (1961): 212–33, as well as the
examples shown in Jones, Medieval Medicine, figs 45, 46: London, British Library, Sloane
MS 2250; and London, British Library, Harley MS 5311.

It is not uncommon to find urine flasks wrongly colored, or indication lines

running to the wrong captions. Perhaps the calendars were badges of authority and
opening up the leaves was an impressive part of the ritual of medical consultation.
There are images that are used for purposes of calculation and prognosis in
medicine. The volvelle constructed of parchment for the Company of Barber-
Surgeons of York in 1486 is one such (Fig. 1.5). The graduated circle drawn on
the page gives the days of the month throughout the calendar year, while inside it
are the signs of the zodiac. There is a movable circular disk attached to the page
by a thread which has a long finger attached. The finger could be set to any
calendar day and would indicate the sign and degree of the zodiac concerned. On
the outside of the disk are written the days of the moon from 1 to 30. Inside the
disk should be another (actually missing from the manuscript), whose finger could
be moved to set at the day of the moon. With both dials set, the barber-surgeon
could determine the zodiacal sign and degree of the moon for the day concerned,
which would allow him to work out whether it was a good or bad day for a
procedure, whether bloodletting or a minor operation. The symbolic appearance
of Saints Cosmas and Damian, and of Saints John the Baptist and John the
Evangelist, the patron saints of the guild, in the four corners of the page containing
the volvelle were not simply added decorations to the working instrument but
suggest an additional ceremonial function. Since the volvelle is found not in a
manuscript that was privately owned, but in the Guild-book of the Company, it
may be that its function was as much ceremonial and symbolic for the
membership of the Company as it was instrumental.16 Other instruments of
prognostication used by practitioners were less spectacular. They include the
Sphere of Pythagoras or sphere of life and death, a means of forecasting the
outcome of an illness from the letters of the patient’s name.17
Another practical factor affecting the relationship of text and image in
medieval medical manuscripts was the need to describe the appearance of things
so that the reader could visualize them for himself.18 The skills of diagnosis from

16 Guild-book of the Barber-Surgeons of York, London, British Library, Egerton MS

2572, see Jones, Medieval Medicine, fig. 48.
17 For a sphere of life and death in a very early version of ca. 1050 CE see Jones,
Medieval Medicine, fig. 44: London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, fol. 6 verso.
See also H. E. Sigerist, “The Sphere of Life and Death in Medieval Manuscripts,” Bulletin
of the History of Medicine 11 (1942): 292–303; and Linda E. Voigts, “The Latin Verse and
Middle English Prose texts on the ‘Sphere of Life and Death’ in Harley 3719,” Chaucer
Review 21 (1986): 291–305.
18 Many of the same considerations that apply to the medieval surgery as described here
also apply to other categories of practical medical image – for instance those found in
herbals. Despite the enormous interest shown by modern scholarship in illustrated medieval
herbals, far too little attention has been paid to issues of the practical use of such herbals
and the relationship of image to text. For a recent survey of the subject of herbals see Minta
Collins, Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Traditions (London: British Library, 2000). The
work of Jerry Stannard, Herbs and Herbalism in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed.
Katharine E. Stannard and Richard Kay (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999) is exceptional in
relating herbal texts to herbalism.

1.5 Volvelle with saints. Guild-book of the Barber-Surgeons of York. London,

British Library, Egerton MS 2572, fol. 51 recto. 1486. Photo by
permission of the British Library

the appearance of the patient could only be described by attempting to convey the
visual experience of looking at particular signs on the body. It is not surprising that
the use of images to supplement and extend the work of the prose surgery
followed soon after the first surgeries came into circulation. Roger Frugardi’s
Chirurgia, dating from the late twelfth century, was the first to be illustrated, and
is the most frequently illustrated of medieval surgeries, at least until that of the
English surgeon John of Arderne in the late fourteenth century. Early examples of
surgical illustration stick to the pattern of initials that introduce and exemplify the
subject matter of particular chapters of the work, but the constraints of this format
led illuminators to experiment with forms of illustration that would be more
responsive to the challenge of surgery’s inherent bias towards visuality. We find,
for example, that the early-fourteenth-century program of illustrations to Roger’s
Chirurgia found in London, British Library, Sloane MS 1977 abstracts from the
text the miniatures that would normally introduce separate chapters, and groups
them in an illuminated series before the text begins. The surgery miniatures form
the bottom two registers on each page of illuminations while the top register is
taken up with a narrative of the life of Christ. This allows the first page, for
example, to show successive stages of an operation for depressed fracture of the
skull. Other images in the series are closely related to the words of the text, despite
their physical separation, and they display a surprising literalness of approach to
the business of illustrating surgery.19
The techniques of operational surgery or the administration of certain remedies
had to be described so as to be envisaged by the reader, as did the instruments that
were to be used in the course of an operation, or the bandages that had to be
applied afterwards. Thus surgical texts in particular were far more likely to seek
to describe the appearance of things than even practical medical texts of other
kinds. Surgeons devoted much effort to trying to distinguish different forms of
ulcer, or the precise sequence of events in an operation, and they sought to evoke
not just the appearance of things, but their smell, taste, or how they felt to the
touch. They might employ similes or metaphors to help in this task, talking of the
ulcer that gnaws like a rodent, or the gazelle-like pulse. It is no accident, of course,
that surgical texts also contained more case histories than other kinds of text, and
that surgeons were more likely to stress the unusualness and novelty of the cases
they had treated. The storytelling involved in such narrationes was a means to the
end of illustrating the phenomenon of particularity, so that the general rules could
be shown to apply in practice.20

19 Jones, Medieval Medicine, figs 75, 76, 78: London, British Library, Sloane MS 1977,
fols 2 recto, 6 recto, and 6 verso. The same approach is taken in another French Roger
Frugardi manuscript, as discussed by Helen Valls, “Illustrations as Abstracts: the
Illustrative Programme in a Montpellier Manuscript of Roger Frugardi’s Chirurgia,”
Medicina nei Secoli 8 (1996): 67–83. On Roger’s Chirurgia, see Tony Hunt, The Medieval
Surgery (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1992) and Hunt, Anglo-Norman Medicine, vol. 1
(Woodbridge: Boydell, 1994).
20 The descriptive language employed by medieval surgeons is emphasized in Marie-

In rhetorical terms, surgeons were given to ecphrasis, attempting to summon

up the appearance of the person or object using all the linguistic devices at their
disposal. Not surprisingly, however, surgical texts are also more frequently
accompanied by images than other sorts of medical text. The most inventive use
of images is that of the English fourteenth-century surgeon John of Arderne.21 In
a series of over 250 marginal images he exploits the potential of such imagery as
an extension of the descriptive power of words. He uses the phrase “sicut hic
depingitur … ” (as is here shown), or some variant of this, to introduce images
that will carry on where the words leave off. The image might show, for instance,
the pattern of fistulous holes as it presents itself in particular cases of fistula in
ano, the subject of his most famous treatise or Practica, or the appearance of a
medicinal plant called for in the text, or the correct way to pass a needle under the
vein when sewing up a severed blood vessel. What Arderne seems to be telling us
is: if you the reader are going to be able to make a proper diagnosis, perform the
necessary procedures in an operation, use the right implements and medicaments,
you need to be able to visualize them – and this means you need to have them
described to you as accurately as possible in both words and images.
This is not to say that Arderne was inhibited in any way by a commitment to
the world of appearance. In one example from his series of marginal pictures we
see a corkscrew-like device represented. This image pictures not some instrument
used in surgery but the pain of the iliaca passio – the guts are twisted as if by a
gimlet, says the text alongside. Arderne’s simile of the gimlet is actually what is
pictured in the margin.22 The program of marginal images can reasonably be
regarded as the visual equivalent of a commentary on the text, glossing words and
illustrating concepts as well as objects.
But the program is more than a just a visual commentary, because Arderne
deliberately seeks to use images to do the descriptive work that words cannot.
Time is involved as well as spatial understanding. Surgical operations involve a
sequence of events that must be followed, from the first encounter with the sick
patient to the dressings that will eventually be removed from the healed wound.
In the absence of the medieval equivalent of a video camera, this imposes quite a
challenge on the surgeon instructor. Words can do most of the work because

Christine Pouchelle, Corps et chirurgie à l’apogée du Moyen Age: savoir et imaginaire du

corps chez Henri de Mondeville, chirurgien de Philippe le Bel (Paris: Flammarion, 1983),
translated as The Body and Surgery in the Middle Ages (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers
University Press, 1990). On case histories see C. Álvarez-Millán, “Practice versus Theory:
Tenth-Century Case Histories from the Islamic Middle East,” Social History of Medicine
13 (2000): 293–306; and Nancy Siraisi, “L’‘individuale’ nella medicina tra medioevo e
umanesimo: I ‘casi clinici,’” in Umanesimo e medicina: il problema dell’individuale, ed.
Roberto Cardini and Mariangela Regoliosi, Humanistica 17 (Rome: Bulzoni, 1996), 33-62.
21 For this treatise see John Arderne, Treatises of Fistula in ano, Haemorrhoids, and
Clysters by John Arderne, from an Early Fifteenth-century Manuscript Translation, ed.
D’Arcy Power, EETS 139 (New York: H. Frowde, 1910).
22 See, for example London, British Library, Harley MS 5401, fol. 17 verso.

sentences can construct a sequential narrative, but it is easy to lose the big picture
as the details succeed each other in the course of describing an operation. Arderne
produces in response to this challenge a tour de force of part-schematized, part-
naturalistic visualization in the half- or full-page drawings that accompany the
description of his big operation for fistula in ano (Fig. 1.6). Here we see
successive stages in the operation pictured side by side, with the appropriate
instruments for each stage in their proper positions. An index sign to that place in
the narrative where the relevant stage in the operation is described provides a key
to each of the four images here. This sophisticated passing back and forth between
text and image has few or no rivals as an example of how to represent dispositions
both in time and space on the pages of a book – in the late Middle Ages or, for that
matter, today.23

The Healing Image

We have exposed some of the problems that attach to trying to define medical
images in their relation to texts within medical books, and some of the effects that
practical interests had on the use of medical imagery in text and pictures. It is
instructive to compare these manuscript images with forms of imagery that had a
much more direct impact on the patient, rather than on the reader of medical
books. For this exercise, we need to examine what part visualization and the
production and consumption of images played in the healing of the sick or the
warding off of illness. This takes us into a world of visual imagery beyond medical
manuscripts. That world includes: pilgrim badges; frescoes in hospitals;
devotional images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints; amuletic suspensions
and ligatures worn on the body. All of these images played a part in healing, as we
can learn from contemporary literary and archival sources. If sometimes, as in the
case of amulets worn to ward off disease and sudden death, they have survived
only in the exceptional case of valuable jewelry rather than the far more widely
used vegetables, stones, and scraps of parchment used for humbler amulets, we
still have enough material to study and to gain a better appreciation of the role of
visual culture in healing. There are many texts prescribing the use of amulets, even
though the objects themselves have disappeared.
The first field to consider is that of institutional medical art, the imagery that
was used in the late-medieval hospital. Second we will consider apotropaic

23 The fistula in ano operation is shown in Jones, Medieval Medicine, fig. 82. See also
Peter Murray Jones, “ ‘Sicut hic depingitur … ’: John of Arderne and English Medical
Illustration in the 14th and 15th Centuries,” in Die Kunst und das Studium der Natur vom
14. zum 16. Jahrhundert, ed. Wolfram Prinz and Andreas Beyer (Weinheim: VCH, 1987),
103–26; and Jones, “John of Arderne and the Mediterranean Tradition of Scholastic
Surgery,” in Practical Medicine from Salerno to the Black Death, ed. Luis Garcia-Ballester,
Roger French, Jon Arrizabalaga, and Andrew Cunningham (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994), 289–321.

1.6 Fistula in ano operation with instruments. John of Arderne, Practica.

London, British Library, Additional MS 29301, fol. 25 recto. Ca. 1420–30.
Photo by permission of the British Library

images intended to ward off evil as well as therapeutic images deployed in

suspensions and ligatures worn on the human body, or sometimes displayed more
publicly. Let us start with the use of pictures in hospitals of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. It is important to realize here that medieval hospitals did not
began as medical institutions, and, indeed, that most medieval hospitals at the end
of the Middle Ages were not medical at all. Hospitals were primarily places where
pilgrims, lepers, the old, and the poor congregated to receive charity, to carry on
a monastic round of devotions, and to pray for the hospital patrons so as to help
those rich folk through purgatory. It is only in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries and, above all, in Italy and France that hospitals were founded, or
rededicated in some cases, to give medical care to the sick. The most influential
model for the medicalized hospitals was the great hospital of Santa Maria Nuova
in Florence, founded towards the end of the thirteenth century, and extensively
expanded and redeveloped over the following two hundred years. In hospitals
generally, the cure of souls continued to be as important as the cure of the body –
even in an institution that employed physicians, surgeons, and nurses to give
medical care to a population of patients who left the hospital when they were
considered to be better. In fact, cure of souls was seen as more important, for the
Lateran Council of 1215 instructed the physician to summon the physician of
souls before administering bodily medicines.24
The inspiration for the medical hospital can be seen in the sermons of St
Augustine in which he figured Christ as the divine physician, Christus medicus.25
Christ receives and cares for the sick poor in the image of Christ the pilgrim. The
medical hospital expressed this imagery in terms of the buildings, its community
of staff and patients, and in the liturgy that was at the center of daily life. The
architectural shape of these hospitals was often cruciform, with long male and
female wards intersecting so as to allow for the liturgy of the mass and the daily
offices to take place within sight of the whole community. The hospitals also had
chapels attached in which those patients not bed-bound could worship. The wards
and the chapels had elaborate programs of visual decoration. The Pellegrinaio at
the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala near the Duomo in Siena has an intact
series of fifteenth-century murals taking up all the wall space of the room in which
the male beds were placed. Santa Maria Nuova in Florence had a similar series of
the Life of the Virgin in the female ward, fragments of which still remain in the
Archivio Notarile, which has taken over the space once occupied by the ward.
Patrons, sometimes confraternities or other groups rather than single individuals,
commissioned such programs, and they addressed the cure of the souls and of the
bodies of the patients who could see them every day from their beds. Similarly the
chapels of the hospitals were the sites of altarpieces, statuary, and other images in

24 H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils. Text, Translation and

Commentary (St Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1937), 570 (Latin), 263 (translation).
25 See Rudolph Arbesmann, “The concept of ‘Christus Medicus’ in St Augustine,”
Traditio 10 (1954): 1–28.

stone, wood, and paint which reinforced the invitation to direct meditation and
prayer to the intercessor saints or to the Virgin.26
The most spectacular works of art conceived for medieval hospital chapels are
the mid- to late-fifteenth-century altarpieces for the Hôtel Dieu in Beaune, painted
by Rogier van der Weyden, the Portinari altarpiece at Santa Maria Nuova in
Florence painted by Hugo van der Goes, and the Isenheim altarpiece painted by
Matthias Grünewald, slightly later in 1508–16. Less well known is the fifteenth-
century altarpiece in the possession of the almshouse at Sherborne in Dorset, and
painted by a follower of Rogier van der Weyden, probably based in Picardy. The
circumstances in which this picture arrived in the almshouse are unclear; local
tradition holds that it was hanging in the Chapel there before the Reformation. The
almshouse was dedicated to Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and
had been founded by royal charter from King Henry VI in 1431. The license
granted was for 20 brethren, 12 poor or sick and impotent men and four women,
with a chaplain. The Chapel was completed in 1442. Above the nave of the Chapel
is a gallery, enabling the infirm to participate in the services from above. Like the
original by van der Weyden on which it was probably based, the picture was
certainly meant for such a hospital or almshouse. The miracles depicted are the
Raising of Lazarus in the central panel, Christ casting out the devil in the left
wing, and Christ raising the son of the widow of Nain in the right wing. Further
miracles of healing and resurrection are represented in the background of the wing
scenes, the Healing of the blind man Bartimaeus in the left wing and the Raising
of the daughter of Jairus in the right wing.27
To gaze on images of these miracles will have helped the sick viewer to
meditate on the hope of healing and salvation they held out. No doubt the chaplain
would have been able to explain to the sick and the poor the story of each of the
biblical miracles, and to encourage the appropriate devotions. The meaning of the
picture did not need any written words to accompany it. Of course, similar subject
matter was also pictured in Books of Hours, whose purpose was also to stimulate
meditation and devotion, but in a private rather than a public space. The very same
subjects of the healing miracles of Christ are, for example, to be found in detached
leaves from a late-fifteenth-century Italian Book of Hours, a near contemporary of

26 I am following here the account given in John Henderson, “Ospedali fiorentini ed

opere d’arte nel Rinascimento: valore storico e ruolo sanitario-devozionale,” Medicina nei
secoli 12 (2000): 273–95. See also Carole Rawcliffe, “Medicine for the Soul: the Medieval
English hospital and the Quest for Spiritual Health,” in Religion, Health and Suffering, ed.
John R. Hinnells and Roy Porter (London: Kegan Paul, 1999), 316–38.
27 Christa Grössinger, “The Raising of Lazarus: A French Primitive in Sherborne
(Dorset),” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 132 (1979): 91–101 (plates
XIV, XVa, XVb); and Grössinger, North-European Panel Paintings: A Catalogue of
Netherlandish and German Paintings before 1600 in English Churches and Colleges
(London: Harvey Miller, 1992), no. 54; Richard Marks and Paul Williamson, eds, with
Eleanor Townsend, Gothic: Art for England 1400–1547 (London: Victoria and Albert
Publications, 2003), no. 346.

the Sherborne altarpiece. One leaf shows Jesus curing the centurion’s servant of
paralysis. The prayer alongside invokes Christ’s aid for a child sick with paralysis.
Here the literacy of the book owner can be assumed, and the prayers and images
work in a complementary way to encourage the reader to invoke Christ’s
intercession for healing.28
A second way in which images were used in healing was in warding off or
healing sicknesses when the imagery was worn on the body – and sometimes
transferred to other more public sites. Most medieval amulets as prescribed in
medical texts were not designed to last longer than the illness that caused them to
be made, so we do not have a huge body of surviving material to draw on for
evidence. But we do have texts, recipe books, surgeries, and practical treatises on
medicine, on the one hand; and saints’ lives, exempla and manuals of pastoral care
on the other, which prescribe their use and tell us how they are to be made and
how they are to be used (also, particularly important in penitentiaries and records
of bishops’ visitations, how they are not to be made and used). With the help of
these written sources we can hypothesize the widespread use of the wax agnus dei,
stamped with the image of the lamb and the words “ecce agnus dei.” This was
used like baptismal water to protect from illness and sudden death – for, of course,
these wax images do not often survive, as they were carried and worn by
individuals.29 Other forms of apotropaic amulets do survive, however, notably in
medieval jewelry collections. Certain precious stones were known to have both
spiritual and bodily significance – blue sapphires, for example, invoking the blue
of the Virgin’s robe but also supposed to have the virtue of healing diseases of the
eye and other complaints. Ancient cameos and astrological sigils were also much
prized for their supposed efficacy in warding off disease. Finger rings might be set
with such stones or cameos but they could also figure particular saints, or even act
as ring reliquaries.30
Quite often, such rings could feature both images and texts. Take for example,

28 The leaves are from New Haven, Yale University Cushing/Whitney Historical
Medical Library, MS 55. See also Jones, Medieval Medicine, fig. 14: Florence, Biblioteca
Medicea Laurenziana, MS plut. 23.6, fol. 128 recto; Praying to St Paul.
29 W. Brückner, “Christlicher Amulett-Gebrauch der frühen Neuzeit: Grundsätzliches
und Specifisches zur Popularisierung der Agnus Dei,” in Frömmigkeit: Formen,
Geschichte, Verhalten, Zeugnisse (Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck zum 70. Geburtstag), ed. Ingold
Bauer (Munich: Deutsches Kunstverlag, 1993), 108–17, distinguishes primary (paschal
candle), secondary (amulet), tertiary (coins, medals), uses of the agnus dei. See also
Liselotte Hansmann and Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck, Amulett und Talisman: Erscheinungsform
und Geschichte (Munich: Callwey, 1977).
30 Joan Evans, Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Particularly in
England (Oxford: Clarendon, 1922); R. W. Lightbown, Mediaeval European Jewellery:
With a Catalogue of the Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London: Victoria
and Albert Museum, 1992); Lea T. Olsan and Peter Murray Jones, “Middleham Jewel:
Ritual, Power and Devotion,” Viator 31 (2000): 249–90; John Cherry, “Healing through
Faith: the Continuation of Medieval Attitudes to Jewellery into the Renaissance,”
Renaissance Studies 15 (2001): 154–71.

the Coventry Ring, a fifteenth-century ring now in the British Museum (Fig. 1.7).
This is a massive broad band, engraved on the outer side with Christ standing in
the box-shaped tomb. The Cross and the Instruments of the Passion are behind
him, and the Five Wounds encircle the hoop at intervals. The Five Wounds of
Christ, pictured as oval mouths, are labeled each with their own title, “the well of
pitty, the well of merci, the well of confort, the well of gracy, the well of
ewerlastingh lyffe.” Inside the ring we find engraved “Vulnera quinque dei sunt
medicine mei pia/crux et passio Christi sunt medicina michi jaspar/melchior
baltasar ananyzapta tetragrammaton” (the five wounds of God are my medicines;
the holy cross and passion of Christ are my medicine; Jaspar, Melchior, Baltasar
Ananizapta Tetragrammaton). In this formula, the holy medicines of the Five
Wounds, the Cross and Passion of Christ are linked with the powerful names of
the Three Kings (who are most often found, though again not exclusively, in
epilepsy charms) and with the pair of words of power “Ananizapta” and
“Tetragrammaton.” The medicines are thus represented by images of the wounds
and Christ’s resurrection on the outer side of the ring, and by words alone inside
the ring.31
Most medieval jewelry is nowhere near as elaborate in terms of images and text
as the Coventry Ring, of course, but we can recognize the same apotropaic
elements used in the Coventry Ring in much humbler jewelry, pendants, rings, and
brooches.32 But perhaps the commonest medieval amulet of all was the pilgrim
badge, made of tin–lead alloy, or poor-quality pewter. These badges were
sacralized by being touched to a relic or shrine of the saint commemorated. It
could even be done by holding up a badge with a mirror attached so that the rays
of light thought to proceed from a holy relic or image as it was processed through
the streets would imbue the badge with immaterial powers. This moment of
sacralization, of so much importance to the individual pilgrim, turned each badge
into a repository of apotropaic power as well as a token that the individual wearing
it had completed a pilgrimage. But the virtues inherent in the badge were not
necessarily restricted to the pilgrim him- or herself. Once properly sacralized, a
pilgrim badge could be given to a relative or close friend, or even to a community,
and still retain its power to work for protection or relief from the ills of the world.33

31 Discovered in 1802, the ring has been associated with the late-fifteenth-century will
of Sir Edmund Shaw which specifies the making of 16 rings made of “fine gold” and
“graven with the well of petey, the well of mercy and the well of everlasting lyff,” which
were to be given to those close to him. See Marks and Williamson, eds, Gothic: Art for
England, no. 211; Olsan and Jones, “Middleham Jewel,” 280–1.
32 Geoff Egan and Frances Pritchard, Dress Accessories c. 1150–c. 1450, Medieval Finds
from Excavations in London 3 (London: HMSO, 1991), esp. nos 1336, 1337, 1360–3, 1618.
33 On pilgrim badges see Kurt Köster, “Mittelalterliche Pilgerzeichen,” in Wallfahrt
kennt keine Grenzen: Themen zu einer Ausstellung des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums und
des Adalbert Stifter Vereins, München, ed. Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck and Gerda Möhler
(Munich: Schnell and Steiner, 1984), 202–23; H. J. E. van Beuningen and A. M. Koldeweij,
eds, Heilig en profaan: 1000 laatmiddeleeuwse insignes uit de collectie H. J. E. van
Beuningen (Cothen: Stichting Middeleeuwse Religieuze en Profane Insignes, 1993); Denis

1.7 Coventry Ring. London, British Museum, MME AF 897. Late-fifteenth

century. Photo © Copyright The Trustees of the British Museum

Pilgrim badges might be obtained specifically to fulfill their role as amulets.

The French King Charles V, whose health was always delicate, obtained three
enseignes “for the disease of the kidneys,” as recorded in 1379–80.34 Sometimes
they were used not just on the individual’s body but to protect other people,
places, or animals. Pilgrim badges could be attached to the door of a house, hung
over the bed or on the wall, or incorporated in the bell of a church, once they were
brought home. Animals and crops were thought to benefit from the protection of
a badge in the right place in a stable or on a gate. The protective or apotropaic role
of the pilgrim badge is often simply implicit in the design itself, whether in the
inscription or the depiction of the saint, who is frequently shown in the act of
intercession. Inscriptions are normally limited to the name of the saint, or Ave

Bruna, Enseignes de pèlerinage et enseignes profanes (Paris: Réunion des musées

nationaux, 1996). On pilgrim numbers, see B. W. Spencer, “Medieval Pilgrim Badges,” in
Rotterdam Papers: A Contribution to Medieval Archaeology, ed. J. G. N. Renaud
(Rotterdam: Coördinatie Commissie van Advies Inzake Archeologisch Onderzoek Binnen
het Ressort Rotterdam, 1968), 139. The trade in pilgrim badges is analyzed in Estelle
Cohen, “‘In haec signa’: the Pilgrim Badge trade in Southern France,” Journal of Medieval
History 2 (1976): 193–214. The authoritative survey in English is Brian Spencer, Pilgrim
Souvenirs and Secular Badges, Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 7 (London:
Stationery Office, 1998).
34 J. R. A. Texier, Dictionnaire d’Orfevrerie in Encyclopédie Théologique, ed. J.-P.
Migne, 27 (1856), s.v. “Enseigne,” cited by Spencer, “Medieval Pilgrim Badges,” n. 51.

Maria, but one elaborate example reads, “All weakness and pain is removed; the
healed man eats and drinks, and evil and death pass away.”35 The head of St
Thomas of Canterbury is one of the most popular pilgrim badges of all, the head
being actually not a representation of the saint so much as of the head-reliquary at
the shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. One example of this badge is accompanied not
just by the saint’s name but by the inscription “optimus egrorum medicus sit thoma
bono(rum)” (Thomas is the best doctor of the worthy sick).36
These kinds of personal objects, worn or carried as amulets, do not belong to
the world of liturgy as performed in the medieval hospital and its chapel, but to
that of personal piety or superstition. They also have perhaps more to do with
protection, the warding off of disease and sudden death than with healing,
although pilgrim badges were sometimes obtained for those already sick by their
relatives or friends. The inscriptions on these objects were necessarily lapidary,
not discursive, texts, because of the small size of the rings or pendants, and they
employed primarily the potent names of saints and single words of power such as
“Tetragrammaton” and “Ananizapta.” The images were principally of saints, their
attributes or relics, and should be thought of primarily as repositories of protective
power as well as stimulants to devotion. By wearing such words and images close
to the body the wearer was at the same time declaring her or his allegiance to the
saint and intercessor, and assimilating the protective power to that body.37
What these healing images tell us is that the problems associated with the
concept of medical illustration arise out of too limited a view of the role of images
and words in medicine. What goes on in books is not restricted to the passing on
of concepts and information, but a great deal that relates more directly to the
interests of medical practice and to display. The practical bias of much medical
imagery is easy to establish, the uses of display less so. The social uses of medical
imagery include display of communal books to members of a company or guild
for ceremonial purposes, or impressing a patient with the owner’s medical
credentials (as with the case of the calendar almanac). We need to be on the
lookout for other kinds of activity, not discussed here, which might provide the
context for the use of images in manuscript. One of these contexts might be the
university classroom, for even if the primary business of the class was
examination of the text, it was allowed that medical knowledge might involve the

35 Victor Gay, Glossaire archéologique du moyen âge et de la renaissance, 2 vols

(Paris: Société Bibliographique, 1887), vol. 1, 31; Spencer, “Medieval pilgrim badges,”
n. 54.
36 Brian Spencer, “Pilgrim Souvenirs from the Medieval Waterfront: Excavations at
Trig Lane, London 1974–76,” Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological
Society 33 (1982): 304–23, no. 1.
37 A related instance of an image used for healing and protection is the display of the
veronica or sudarium (a copy of the image of Christ’s face imprinted on a cloth given to St
Veronica) as a parchment image on the wall of a house, accompanied by a prayer of
intercession. See Gabriele Finaldi, The Image of Christ (London: National Gallery, 2000),
no. 37, and section 3, “The True Likeness,” 74–103.

use of images. Anatomy might be taught from pictures in the absence of a

dissected corpse, or so the surgeons claimed.38 This is much closer to our modern
understanding of the role of medical illustration. Another far grander place than
the classroom where there was an occasion for medical picture making was in the
commissioning or giving as gifts of great illuminated manuscripts. Subjects
included bathing, as with copies of De balneis Puteolanis, and regimens of health,
as in the Theatrum sanitatis, or Li livres dou sante of Aldobrandino da Siena
composed at the request of Beatrix de Savoie, or the Secretum secretorum
presented to King Edward III. Another favored aristocratic genre was the
illustrated herbal, as with the magnificent plant portraits in the example made for
Francesco Carrara II of Padua, ca. 1400.39 The giving of advice on the preservation
and restoration of health to princes and great lords and ladies could be made the
occasion of splendid presentation and gift giving. Here the picture making was
elaborate and in many cases clearly took precedence over the text (which, perhaps
surprisingly, is often less carefully edited than in more mundane and unillustrated
manuscripts). The ownership of such lavishly illuminated books was in itself a
matter of prestige and the projection of authority.
What is more, images have a significant role to play in the business of healing
outside the world of the book, as we have seen. Healing images, sometimes
supported by words that identify significant people and sayings within the image,
were familiar sources of protection and objects of devotion to many who never
encountered images in medical books. Many of these healing images would now
be classified as religious art or folkloric, but this should not prevent us from
appreciating their role in the economy of healing for the Middle Ages. Pictures
with healing themes were commissioned by the patrons of hospitals and
almshouses to promote their dual purpose of restoring health and saving the souls
of the poor and infirm. They directed the viewer’s attention to the importance of
meditating and praying to the holy intercessors whose images (and often names)
were provided by the artist. The instructions for making amulets with images are

38 Henri de Mondeville used full-length pictures for lectures on anatomy in Paris in

1306; they appear first in Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.2.44. Guido de Vigevano,
writing in the 1340s, said “I demonstrate dissection … by figures accurately drawn, just as
the organs are … . The pictures show them better than in a human body, because when we
make an anatomy on a man it is necessary to hasten on account of the stench,” as quoted in
translation by Loren C. MacKinney, “The Beginnings of Western Scientific Anatomy: New
Evidence and a Revision in Interpretation of Mondeville’s role,” Medical History 6 (1962):
203–9, on which this note is based.
39 Jones, Medieval Medicine, fig. 62: London, British Library, Egerton MS 2020
(Carrara Herbal); fig. 64: Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense, MS 4182 (Theatrum sanitatis);
fig. 91: London, British Library, Additional MS 47680 (Secretum secretorum); figs 95, 98,
99: London, British Library, Sloane MS 2435 (Li livres dou sante): fig. 96: Rome,
Biblioteca Angelica, MS 1474 (De balneis Puteolanis). For further discussion of these
issues and some of these illuminated manuscripts see Cathleen Hoeniger’s article in this
volume: “The Illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis Manuscripts from Northern Italy ca.
1380–1400: Sources, Patrons, and the Creation of a New Pictorial Genre,” Chapter 3.

to be found in medical treatises written by university doctors as well as in humbler

remedy books.40 The objects themselves have survived in surprisingly large
numbers, at least in the case of pilgrim badges and jewelry. We need to develop a
broader concept of the rhetoric of healing and medicine in the Middle Ages, a
rhetoric that could be subsumed under that usefully ambiguous rubric “the Art of
Medicine,” and then we might be able to appreciate properly the variety of
possible manifestations of the relationship between word and image.

40 Lea T. Olsan, “Charms and Prayers in Medieval Medical Theory and Practice,”
Social History of Medicine 16 (2003): 343–66.
Chapter 2

Latin Crusaders, Byzantine Herbals

Alain Touwaide*

On 12 April 1204, the Western military forces of the Fourth Crusade seized and
sacked Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire, which they held for
more than half a century, until 1261.1 The Devastatio Constantinopolitana – as a
chronicle of that time called it – was dramatic.2 According to Charles Homer
Haskins’s classic study, the Fourth Crusade was simply “a ‘crime against
civilization’ by its wanton destruction of the material remains of Byzantine
culture.”3 In the words of Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden, “the
victorious Latins feasted on the bloated corpse of New Rome … Soldiers stripped
the homes of all wealth, took up quarters here, and, after forcing them to reveal
their buried treasures, expelled the owners … Imperial palaces were occupied by

* It is a pleasure to thank my two fellow co-editors, especially Jean Givens for initiating
the sessions from which the present volume derives and for the invitation to contribute an
article, as well as Karen Reeds for her masterful editing of what I thought to be the final
version of my text. A first draft of it was discussed with both and greatly improved thanks
to our repeated interdisciplinary exchanges. Nevertheless, neither of the two should take
responsibility for the lacunas of this first study, which, I hope, will be followed by a more
exhaustive analysis.
1 For recent editions of primary sources on the Fourth Crusade and the subsequent Latin
empire of Constantinople, see: Alfred J. Andrea, Contemporary Sources for the Fourth
Crusade (Leiden: Brill, 2000); The Capture of Constantinople: The “Hystoria
Constantinopolitana” of Gunther of Paris, ed. and trans. Alfred J. Andrea (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997); and Alfred J. Andrea, “The Devastatio
Constantinopolitana: A Special Perspective on the Fourth Crusade – An Analysis, New
Edition, and Translation,” Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques 19 (1993):
107–49. Recent analyses of the Fourth Crusade include: Donald E. Queller and Thomas F.
Madden, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople (Philadelphia: University
of Pennsylvania Press, 1997); Antonio Carile, Per una storia dell’impero latino di
Costantinopoli (1024–1261) (Bologna: Patròn, 1972); Anna Maria Nada Patrone, La
quarta crociata e l’Impero latino di Románia (1198–1261) (Turin: G. Giappichelli, 1972);
Robert Lee Wolff, Studies in the Latin Empire of Constantinople (London: Variorum,
1976); and Donald M. Nicol, The Last Centuries of Byzantium 1261–1453, 2nd edn
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 1–57.
2 The Latin text of Devastatio Constantinopolitana was first published in Carl Herman
Friedrich Johann Hopf, Chroniques gréco-romanes inédites ou peu connues, publiées avec
notes et tables généalogiques (Berlin: Weidmann, 1873), 86–92. Andrea, “The Devastatio
3 Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1933), 271–2.


the crusading leadership … In the holy sanctuaries the Latins stripped the altars of
all precious furnishings, smashed icons for the sake of their silver or gems …
Aside from stealing ecclesiastical treasures, the crusaders also destroyed many
priceless artifacts of antiquity.”4
In recent years an increasing number of studies has addressed the relationships
between East and West during the Crusades, with a special focus on the exchanges
between Christians and Muslims.5 Even so, little or no attention has been paid to
exchanges between the Latins and Byzantines, let alone to the possible circulation
of books and ideas between the two groups.6 In their history of the Fourth Crusade,
Queller and Madden briefly noted that “we know of no source that mentions lost
manuscripts, but it is true that Constantinople harbored a great many ancient texts
found nowhere else in the world … Presumably some of these would have been
lost either in the three fires or in the looting of palaces and monasteries. Nicetas
[i.e. the Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates, 1155/7–1217] does record that the
largely illiterate crusaders often mocked Byzantines by taking a quill and
pretending to write in books … This disdain for Greek learning and literacy
probably took more tangible forms on occasion.”7
A document that has escaped attention until now opens new perspectives on the
Latins’ possible interest in Byzantine books and scientific culture. An illustrated
herbal with text in French and Latin probably written in the late thirteenth or early
fourteenth century reproduces a large number of illustrations from Byzantine
manuscripts. This codex, with 256 colored illustrations of plants, is preserved
today in the Kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library) of Copenhagen as MS Thott 190
2°.8 The sources of more than two-thirds of its plant representations are identified
here for the first time as two Byzantine copies of Dioscorides’ De materia medica
that were in Constantinople during the period of the Fourth Crusade.
This essay proposes a tentative reconstruction of the sequence of events that
produced the unexpected combination of Byzantine plant images with western

4Queller and Madden, The Fourth Crusade, 193–5.

5See, for example, Isabelle Draelants, Anne Tihon, and Baudouin van den Abeele, eds,
Occident et Proche-Orient: contacts scientifiques au temps des Croisades. Actes du
colloque de Louvain-la-Neuve, 24 et 25 mars 1997 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000).
6 Piers D. Mitchell, Medicine in the Crusades: Warfare, Wounds and the Medieval
Surgeon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 206–12, examines the question
of a possible transfer of knowledge between Crusaders and local populations, stressing
exchanges between Arabic and western scientific literature. However, the focus is
principally on the translation of Arabic medical treatises into Latin in the Near East and
does not take Constantinople and the Byzantine world into consideration.
7 Queller and Madden, The Fourth Crusade, 291, n. 19.
8 For a recent mention of Thott 190, see Minta Collins, Medieval Herbals: The
Illustrative Traditions (London: British Library, 2000), 83, 112, n. 315, for a comparison of
it to a late-medieval herbal (auctioned in London, 19 June 1990, Sotheby’s lot 103) now
Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 419. For the Schoenberg
herbal, see the essay by Karen Reeds in this volume: “Leonardo da Vinci and Botanical
Illustration: Nature Prints, Drawings, and Woodcuts ca. 1500,” Chapter 8.

European texts displayed in Thott 190. I argue that during the thirteenth-
century Latin occupation of Constantinople, copies of some plant pictures from
two large Byzantine Dioscorides manuscripts – both still extant – were made
(or commissioned). At least 114 illustrations were then arranged alphabetically
into an album, which I call the Thott Album. To the Thott Album, at least
another 142 additional illustrations were added (probably not all at once and
perhaps in more than one stage); some were copied from the same two
Dioscorides codices, others from sources not yet identified, and some perhaps,
from direct observation of nature. This further accumulation of images I call
the Thott Addition. The resulting two-part manuscript of at least 256 plant
illustrations (Album with Addition) was the Thott Archetype. The Archetype
initiated the line of copies of which Thott 190 is a member. The immediate
progenitor for Thott 190, the Thott Model, might have been the Archetype
itself, but there could well have been some intervening copies before the Thott
Model was produced. At some point along the line, a descendant of the
Archetype of these plant illustrations was brought from Constantinople to the
Latin West.
The implications of this proposed reconstruction are particularly interesting:
the codex, I would argue, reflects an intellectual interchange between the Latins
and Byzantines during the crusader occupation of Constantinople. This chapter
offers a first approach to the evidence; a more detailed and nuanced discussion
must be left to future studies.

A Description of Thott 190

Before I attempt any historical analysis of Thott 190, the structure of the
manuscript itself requires scrutiny. Its complex layout and its variety of hands,
texts, and illustrations all offer hints about the genesis of the volume.
Thott 190 was described as early as 1844 in N. C. L. Abrahams’s catalogue of
the French manuscripts in the Copenhagen Royal Library. Abrahams supposed the
work to be the treatise on simple medicines by Manfredus de Monte Imperiale, a
fourteenth-century physician active in southern Italy (Salerno or Naples).9 Later,
in the 1926 Copenhagen catalogue of Latin manuscripts, its text was regarded as
an anonymous treatise on plants and animals used in medicines (De viribus
herbarum and De animalibus atque eorum virtutibus), written in French with
Latin additions, but not otherwise identified.10 The 1926 catalogue dated the
manuscript as fourteenth/fifteenth century.11 In 1952, however, an exhibition

9 N. C. L. Abrahams, Description des manuscrits français du moyen âge de la

Bibliothèque royale de Copenhague (Copenhagen: Imprimerie de Thiele, 1844), 34–8.
10 Ellen Jørgensen, Catalogus codicum latinorum Medii Aevii Bibliothecae Regiae
Hafniensis (Hafniae [Copenhagen]: in Aedibus Gyldendalianis, 1926), 441–2.
11 Jørgensen, Catalogus codicum latinorum 441.

catalogue put the date ca. 1300 and stated that Thott 190 had been copied in
southern Italy or Spain.12
As this uncertainty suggests, the history of the manuscript is almost entirely
unknown, although from the mid-sixteenth century on the codex was in French
hands. In 1559 Anthoine Urban inscribed his name on fol. 9 recto; he also owned
Thott 191 where he defined himself as an appothécaire. In 1622 Johannes
Anthonius Meynererius wrote his name on fol. 1 recto and referred to himself as
a pharmacopoeus in Apt – a southern French town now in the department of
Vaucluse (north of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence; east of Avignon).13
In its current state, Thott 190 contains 130 mid-size folios (283 x 192 mm) of
heavy parchment. The manuscript originally consisted of a set of large illustrations
of plants on fols 12 verso–130 recto (except fol. 102 verso, which is blank); the first
11 leaves were added later. These colored representations of plants, normally one
per page, fill most of the central area of each folio.14 From the way the captions,
texts, and other drawings respect the contours of the plant images, it is clear that
the plants were drawn first; see, for example, fol. 20 recto (Fig. 2.3).
The wide outer margins (from fol. 12 verso to fol. 92 verso) provide room for
small illustrations of zodiacal signs or animals and accompanying text. A detailed
paleographical and codicological examination remains to be done to determine
when these and other elements of the manuscript were incorporated.
The original ruling of the folios apparently consisted of just two vertical lines.
One defined the inner margin of the pages. The other divided the width of each
page into two unequal parts: a large central area for the pictures of plants, and a
wide outer column for smaller pictures of the zodiac and animal-based remedies
(fol. 15 verso, Fig. 2.1).
Later on, perhaps in several stages, horizontal ruling was added for the captions
and texts. The number of horizontal lines varies from folio to folio (apparently
according to the length of text). The pictures and the horizontal rules create three
spaces for the texts: four or so lines above the plant representations sometimes
stretching across the entire width of the folios; lines above and below the small
figures in the outer columns; and approximately 9 to 15 lines underneath the plant
representations, again sometimes taking up the full width of the sheet.
Most of the plant images have captions written below them in red ink; these are
regularly present up to fol. 77 verso and occasionally from fol. 78 recto on.
Following or surrounding these red captions, there are usually two to nine lines of
French and Latin text written in black ink.

12 Kåre Olsen and Carl Nordenfalk, Gyllene Böcker: Illuminerade Medeltida

Handskrifter i Dansk och Svensk Ägo, Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Maj–September 1952
(Stockholm: National Museum, 1952), 51, no. 80.
13 Abrahams, Description des manuscrits français, 38, reproduces the ex-libris
inscriptions of the two pharmacists. See also Jørgensen, Catalogus codicum latinorum, 442.
14 There are two illustrations on fols 31 recto, 36 recto, 42 recto, 48 verso, 49 recto, 50
recto, 56 verso, 59 recto, 60 recto, 61 verso, 63 verso, 64 recto, 65 recto, 65 verso, 66 verso,
67 recto, 67 verso, and 127 recto; and three on fol. 60 verso.

These black-ink texts are written in two main hands. The passages written by
Hand 1, in French, are similar to Italian Gothic hands, and they include
ornamented initials. The passages I attribute to Hand 2 are written in Latin (from
fol. 14 verso onward), and they have a more cursive and modern ductus. The Latin
texts always appear below those by Hand 1 on the page – a clear indication that
they were written later (Fig. 2.1). The French texts by Hand 1 may also have been
added at some point after the original production of the plant drawings, since
Hand 1 does not seem to be the one who wrote the red captions beneath the plant
illustrations. However, Hand 1 is probably responsible for the texts underneath the
small zodiacal and animal figures in the outer columns. Still other hands have
added supplementary texts in all parts of the folios.
The texts, whether in French (Hand 1) or in Latin (Hand 2), accompanying the
plant figures generally provide two types of information: first, the therapeutic
properties of the plants according to the system of four qualities (warm and cold;
dry and wet) established by Galen.15 Following the authority of Galen, the relative
intensities of these medicinal properties – from the first to the fourth degree – also
are provided.16 Second are medical recipes in which the plants represented on the
pages serve as an ingredient.17

15 On Galen (AD 129–after 216 [?]), see the recent synthesis and bibliography by Vivian
Nutton, “Galen of Pergamum,” in Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World,
ed. Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider (Leiden: Brill, 2004), vol. 5, cols 654–61.
Galen’s De simplicium medicamentorum temperamentis et facultatibus (On the Mixtures
and Properties of Simple Medicines) was edited by Karl Gottlob Kühn in Claudii Galeni
Opera omnia (Leipzig: Knobloch, 1826), vol. 11, 379–892 and vol. 12, 1–377. No English
translation is currently available.
16 See, for example, fol. 13 recto on asphodel: “Affrodille est chaut et sec on le secont
[de]gre … .” For the text related to iris, see Abrahams, Description des manuscrits français,
36. On the four qualities in the ancient medical system, see Erich Schöner, Das
Viererschema in der antiken Humoralpathologie, Sudhoffs Archiv, Beiheft 4 (Wiesbaden:
Franz Steiner Verlag, 1964). For the equivalent system in Aristotle’s biology, see Jochen
Althoff, Warm, kalt, flüssig und fest bei Aristoteles: Die Elementarqualitäten in den
zoologischen Schriften, Hermes, Einzelschriften 57 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1992).
On the broader medieval cultural significance of the four elements and their qualities, see
Gernot Böhme and Harmut Böhme, Feuer, Wasser, Erde, Luft: Eine Kulturgeschichte der
Elemente (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1996); Danielle Buschinger and André Crepin, eds, Les
quatre éléments dans la culture médiévale. Actes du Colloque des 25, 26 et 27 mars 1982,
Université de Picardie. Centre d’études médiévales; Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik,
386 (Göppingen: Kümmerle Verlag, 1983). For Galen’s theory of pharmacological degrees,
see: Georg Harig, Bestimmung der Intensität im medizinischen System Galens: ein Beitrag
zur theoretischen Pharmakologie, Nosologie und Therapie in der galenischen Medizin
(Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1974); and Alain Touwaide, “La thérapeutique médicamenteuse
de Dioscoride à Galien. Du pharmaco-centrisme au médico-centrisme,” in Galen on
Pharmacology: Philosophy, History and Medicine. Proceedings of the Vth International
Galen Colloquium, Lille, 16–18 March 1995, ed. Armelle Debru, Studies in Ancient
Medicine, 16 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 255–82.
17 See, for example, fol. 12 verso: the first formula, which begins “Succus agrimonie e
de la rute for cuit ou miel bien escume,” and the second formula, which begins “Recepta
agrimonia, salvia, bretonica, viola.”

On the first few folios (12 verso–15 recto) of the main body of the manuscript,
the outer columns contain a text on the influence of the moon on human health.18
Each column is headed by the zodiacal sign related to the text, with crude pen
drawings on fols 12 verso–13 recto.
Beginning on fol. 15 verso and continuing through 92 verso, the text in the
outer columns provides formulas for medicines that either use parts of animals as
ingredients or counteract venomous bites and stings by snakes and scorpions.19
Again, the texts in these wide margins begin with pictures of animals, snakes, and
scorpions. The animal drawings are colored from fol. 15 verso on, and framed
from fol. 39 verso on. Although there is normally one such illustration in the outer
margin of the folios, some folios have as many as three.20
The first 11 folios of Thott 190 were inserted to serve, in effect, as front-matter
for the plant illustrations. Their page numbering – along with a Latin alphabetical
index, topical list, and other material in this section – helps establish the sequence
of the manuscript’s construction. The manuscript’s current numbering begins with
this front-matter; hence the first folio of the plant illustrations and their
accompanying text is numbered [fol.] 12. However, the two-column index on fols
6 recto–8 recto refers to the numbers of pages of the manuscript in its original
state, that is, beginning with the first plant drawing rather than with the front-
matter. A comparison of the two systems of page numbering indicates that two of
Thott 190’s original leaves have been lost: the folios numbered 6 and 30 by the
index (respectively, a folio between current fols 16 and 17, and a folio between
current fols 39 and 40).
The alphabetical index in the front-matter must have been made after the plant
illustrations were completed; it is based on the red-ink captions and it leaves blank
spaces for the illustrations that do not have a caption.21 Fol. 8 recto, column 2,
contains a 28-line list in Provençal of some of the “topics dealt with in this herbal”
and locates them by the original folio numbers.22 The front-matter also
incorporates a leaf – the current fol. 5 – that was taken from another manuscript
and has been variously dated by modern scholars.23 Each face of fol. 5 displays
four gynecological figures in the style of those in the Brussels manuscript of the
Pseudo-Moschion (i.e. Muscio in the Latin manuscripts).24 The front-matter also

18 See fol. 12 verso, illustration: Aries; text: “Quant la lune est est (sic) en ariete il e[st]
bon … .”
19 See fol. 15 verso, illustration: a horse; text: “dolour de dent […]chevau.”
20 See, for example, fols 12 verso, 13 recto, 13 verso, 42 recto, 52 recto, and 55 recto.
21 See, for example, fol. 6 verso, col. 1, lines 9 and 23, corresponding to fols 44 recto
and 50 recto respectively.
22 Incipit: “Segon si la taulas de las causas adioustadas en aquest present herbolari
… .” On this list, see Abrahams, Description des manuscrits français, 35.
23 This folio is dated to the twelfth to thirteenth century in the 1926 catalogue
(Jørgensen, Catalogus codicum latinorum, 441), and to 1200–1250 in the catalogue of the
1952 exhibition (Olsen and Nordenfalk, Gyllene Böcker, 51).
24 Brussels, Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier, MS 3714. On this manuscript, see Roger
Calcoen, Inventaire des manuscrits scientifiques de la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, 2

includes notes by the two sixteenth- and seventeenth-century owners (fols 1 recto,
3 recto and 9 recto/verso). Fols 1 verso, 2 recto/verso, 4 verso, and 8 verso–12
recto are blank (as is the final page of the whole manuscript, 130 verso).
Several points suggest that, initially, Thott 190 was a sort of botanical album,
containing only plant representations, and that the smaller illustrations (the signs
of the zodiac and animals) in the side columns were added later as a form of
secondary discourse. Points in support of this interpretation include: the
disposition of the plant images on the pages, the irregular presence of captions
from fol. 78 recto onward, the way that the horizontal ruling takes the illustrations
into account and, finally, the absence of any text from fol. 112 verso on. Equally
important, as we will see, the texts now accompanying the plant representations
are distinctly different from the texts in the Byzantine models that formed the
basis of the illustrations.

Sources of the Plant Illustrations: Three Examples

A page-by-page comparison of the plant figures in Thott 190 and other medieval
illustrated herbals in Greek, Latin, and Arabic reveals that many pictures in Thott
190 correspond closely to illustrations in two Greek – that is, Byzantine – copies
of Dioscorides’ De materia medica. Indeed, the proportion is very high: 187 out
of 256 plant figures in Thott 190, that is, 73 percent, show marked similarities to
the Byzantine figures. Before describing these two manuscripts – Vienna,
Österreichische National Bibliothek, MS med. gr. 1, and New York, Pierpont
Morgan Library, MS M 652 – it will be helpful to consider briefly three images
from Thott 190 and their equivalents in the Greek codices.
Our first example is Adiantos vel politricum (maidenhair) as represented in
Thott 190, fol. 15 verso, and MS med. gr. 1 Vienna, fol. 42 verso (Figs 2.1 and
2.2).25 Elements of the two images are very similar and include: the hairy bulb-like

vols (Brussels: Bibliothèque royale, 1965–75), vol. 1, 73–5; see esp. 74, n. 32, and 75, n.
11. Its illustrations have been frequently reproduced. See, for example, Robert Herrlinger,
Geschichte der medizinischen Abbildung von der Antike bis um 1600 (Munich: Heinz Moos
Verlag, 1967), 21, published in English as History of Medical Illustration from Antiquity to
A.D. 1600, trans. G. Fulton-Smith (London: Pitman Medical, 1970); and, more recently,
Alfred Stückelberger, Bild und Wort: Das illustrierte Fachbuch in der antiken
Naturwissenschaft, Medizin um Technik, Kulturgeschichte der antiken Welt, 62 (Mainz:
Philipp von Zabern, 1994), 93–4. On Muscio, see the handlist of medieval gynecological
texts and references in the Appendix to Monica H. Green, Women’s Healthcare in the
Medieval West: Texts and Contexts, Variorum Collected Studies (Aldershot:
Ashgate/Variorum, 2000), 21.
25 Adiantum capillus-veneris L., maidenhair. For convenience, plant names are quoted
here in the form they have in Thott 190 (usually Latin, but also medieval French). Scientific
and English common names are given in the notes. Identifications are tentative – proposed
on the basis of current literature, principally post-Linnaean discussions of Dioscorides, De
materia medica. For an inventory of such works, see Alain Touwaide, “Bibliographie

2.1 Adiantos vel politricum (maidenhair). Illustrated herbal written in French

and Latin. Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 190 2º, fol. 15
verso. Late thirteenth/early fourteenth century. Photo courtesy of the Royal
Library, Copenhagen

2.2 Adiantos vel politricum (maidenhair). Dioscorides, De materia medica.

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS med. gr. 1, fol. 42 verso.
Ca. 513. Photo courtesy of the Bildarchiv d. ÖNB, Wien

rhizome; the straight, leafless shoots; the disposition of the fern’s fronds; and the
shape and number of the leaflets.
There are differences, however – principally the left/right reversal and the
simplification of the Vienna codex’s drawing. This might be partly explained as
an adaptation to the available space. The page in Thott 190 provides a vertically
oriented rectangle, while the format of the Vienna codex is closer to a square. As
a consequence, the right-hand elements of the plant in Thott 190 are aligned with
the inner margin of the folio, while those on the left have room to expand toward
the outer edge of the page. In addition, the seven fronds in the Greek codex have

historique de la botanique: les identifications de plantes médicinales citées dans les traités
anciens, après l’adoption du système de classification botanique de Linné (1707–1778),”
Lettre d’information–Centre Jean-Palerne 30 (1997–8): 2–22, and 31 (1998): 2–65.
Identifications proposed in previously published works have been recorded in a
computerized database and are currently being analyzed on the basis of available textual
and iconic material by a trans-disciplinary research group in the Botany Department of the
National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC).

been reduced to six in Thott 190 and modified further. Thus, on the right side of
the Thott 190 page (corresponding to the left in the Greek source), the lowest
compound leaf has been drastically shortened, the second has been folded down –
reproducing, however, the movement that the first has in the source – while the
third has kept almost the same shape and proportions. On the left in Thott 190
(that is, the right in the source), the lowest and uppermost leaves are similar in
both shape and size; but the two fronds between them in the Greek source have
been replaced by leafless shoots. Where the Byzantine manuscript had a single
leafless stalk rising from the top of the stem, Thott 190 has three.
Cauda vulpina (horsetail) – as represented in Thott 190, fol. 20 recto, and
Vienna, MS med. gr. 1, fol. 144 verso – provides a second example (Figs 2.3 and
2.4).26 Both the general structure and the elements of the plant are quite similar in
these two images, even though the execution is less refined in Thott 190. Although
Thott 190 omits one element (that is, the first branch on the left in the Greek
source), the resemblance is stronger here than in the case of adiantos. The drawing
has not been reversed, and the structure of the plant is identical, with the
intertwining of the two main central branches and the parallel droop of the two
branches on the left and the right. The plant’s verticality has been reduced in Thott
190, however, transforming the tall, rectangular shape of the horsetail in the Greek
manuscript into a roughly square figure in Thott 190. The image in Thott 190
compensates for the imbalance created by this transformation by omitting the
lowest branch on the left, by introducing a stronger symmetry between the
remaining lower side branches, and by slightly moving the third left branch of the
Greek codex toward the center in Thott 190, so as to create a vertical axis. This
also permits a symmetrical arrangement of the French text.
For a third example, consider the illustration for feves (beans) in Thott 190, fol.
40 recto, with its counterpart in New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M 652,
fol. 75 verso (Figs 2.5 and 2.6).27 The Thott 190 picture of feves is one of a number
of illustrations that show a strong resemblance to those in the Pierpont Morgan
codex. In this instance, the number of elements has been reduced in Thott 190.
Globally, however, the shape of the plant and its leaves; the number, position, and
shape of the pods; the number, position, structure, and color of the flowers; and
the cut branch on the left above the root are similar, if not identical, in the two
manuscripts. It is particularly noteworthy that the Greek manuscript’s play of
virtuosity in rendering the slightly curled leaves has been reproduced in Thott 190.
A systematic comparison of Thott 190 and the two Greek manuscripts confirms
the relationship demonstrated by these three sets of examples. It must be noted
that, for many plants, the two Byzantine manuscripts have very similar images,
making it difficult to determine which one of the two was the source. In some
cases, however, Thott 190’s illustrations are clearly more similar to one or the

26 Equisetum arvense L., horsetail.

27 Vicia faba L., bean.

other of the two (or have an equivalent in only one of the two). Overall, the
pictures bear a stronger similarity to the Vienna codex; 135 illustrations have
equivalents, compared to 52 in the New York manuscript.
Further evidence of a stronger relationship between Thott 190 and the Vienna
manuscript comes from the framed representations of birds in the outer columns
of Thott 190 (fols 40 recto–67 recto; see Fig. 2.5). These strongly resemble the
birds shown framed in a table illustrating the anonymous paraphrase of Dionysios’
book on birds, Ornithiaka, in the Vienna codex (fol. 483 verso).28 The New York
codex has no illustrations of birds at all.

Two Byzantine Copies of Dioscorides

The history and content of the two Greek manuscripts throw some light on the
genesis of the source for Thott 190 and the manuscript Thott 190 itself. The two
codices are copies of the pharmacological treatise by Dioscorides (first century
- -
AD), which was entitled Peri ule s iatrike s in the Greek original and is better
known by the Latin translation of that title, De materia medica.29 To understand
the composition of Thott 190, it is important to review the textual tradition of De
materia medica and the illustrations that came to accompany it.
In its original form, De materia medica was a comprehensive encyclopedia in
five books of the substances from all three kingdoms of nature (plants, minerals,
animals) used in Dioscorides’ time – and known to him – to prepare medicines.
Each chapter is devoted to a single substance and usually includes its description,
ways to prepare it for medical use, and its therapeutic properties and uses.
Although De materia medica aims at completeness, its range is essentially limited
to substances from the eastern Mediterranean biota.
Over time, the work underwent several modifications to enhance its usefulness
in medical practice. One version extracted the most useful chapters dealing with
plant substances and arranged those selected chapters according to the alphabetical
order of the plant names. That abridged alphabetical text is what is traditionally
called Dioscorides’ herbal. The most famous manuscript of Dioscorides’ herbal is

28 See Christoph Selzer’s recent article on this Dionysius (whose dates are unknown) in
Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World (Leiden: Brill, 2004), vol. 4, col.
487. For the Greek text of the work, see Antonio Garzya, Dionysii Ixeuticon seu de aucupio
libri tres, Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana (Leipzig:
Teubner, 1963).
29 On Dioscorides, see, for example, John Marion Riddle, Dioscorides on Pharmacy
and Medicine, History of science series 3 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985); and
Alain Touwaide, “La botanique entre science et culture au Ier siècle de notre ère,” in
Geschichte der Mathematik und der Naturwissenschaften in der Antike, ed. Georg Wöhrle,
Band 1: Biologie (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1999), 219–52. For the standard edition
of the work, see Max Wellmann, ed., Pedanii Dioscuridis Anazarbei, De materia medica
libri quinque, 3 vols (Berlin: Weidmann, 1906–14).

2.3 Cauda vulpina (horsetail). Illustrated herbal written in French and Latin.
Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 190 2º, fol. 20 recto. Late
thirteenth/early fourteenth century. Photo courtesy of the Royal Library,

2.4 Cauda vulpina (horsetail). Dioscorides, De materia medica. Vienna,

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS med. gr. 1, fol. 144 verso. Ca.
513. Photo courtesy of the Bildarchiv d. ÖNB, Wien

2.5 Feves (beans). Illustrated herbal written in French and Latin. Copenhagen,
Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 190 2º, fol. 40 recto. Late thirteenth/early
fourteenth century. Photo courtesy of the Royal Library, Copenhagen

2.6 Feves (beans). Dioscorides, De materia medica. New York, Pierpont

Morgan Library, MS M 652, fol. 75 verso. Tenth century. Photo courtesy of
the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York MS M. 652, f. 75

the earlier of the two Greek sources for Thott 190 (and the source of the greater
number of its pictures): that is, the manuscript medicus graecus 1, now among the
treasures of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (National Library of Austria) in
Vienna and often called the Dioscorides Vindobonensis or the Vienna Dioscorides.
The Vienna Dioscorides dates to ca. 513. This deluxe copy (360–370 x 300 mm)
was produced in Constantinople as a gift to the princess Anicia Juliana and it was
probably originally kept at the imperial palace. It is believed to have been taken out
of the palace by the Crusaders and recovered by the Byzantines when they
reconquered their capital in 1261. It then belonged to the monastery of St John
Prodromos in the so-called Petra neighborhood in Constantinople. Large, colored
paintings of plants depicted in a realistic style fill the pages of this manuscript.30
The second Greek Dioscorides manuscript, New York, Pierpont Morgan MS M
652, was produced in the tenth century, most likely in Constantinople. The large,
oblong codex (390 x 300 mm) is very close – in both text and iconography – to
Vienna med. gr. 1 even though it was compiled four centuries later and used a
different recension of the text. The New York manuscript’s plant illustrations,
while very similar to those in the Vienna codex, are usually more elongated and
not always so realistic. The Pierpont Morgan manuscript also contains images that
are not present in the Dioscorides Vindobonensis.31 Like the Vienna codex, it
appeared on the shelves of the Constantinopolitan monastery of St John
Prodromos in the fourteenth century, but its earlier history is unknown.32

30 The bibliography on the Vienna Dioscorides is extensive. Major works include:

Herbert Hunger and Otto Kresten, Katalog der griechischen Handschriften der
Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Teil 2: Codices Juridici, Codices Medici, Museion,
Veröffentlichungen der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, Neue Folge, Vierter Reihe,
Erster Band, Teil 2 (Vienna: Georg Prachner, 1969), 37–41; Otto Mazal, Pflanzen, Wurzeln,
Säfte, Samen: Antike Heilkunst in Miniaturen des Wiener Dioskurides (Graz: Akademische
Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1981). Hans Gerstinger has edited the full facsimile of the
manuscript: Dioscorides Pedanius of Anazarbos, Codex Vindobonensis med. gr. 1 der
Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, 2 vols, Codices Selecti Phototypice Impressi, 12
(Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1965–70). For a reduced-size facsimile, see:
Der Wiener Dioskurides: Codex medicus graecus 1 der Österreichischen
Nationalbibliothek, comm. Otto Mazal, 2 vols, Glanzlichter der Buchkunst, 8/1 and 2
(Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1998–9).
31 No published study of this manuscript is currently available. The most complete and
recent analysis (with bibliography) so far is Alain Touwaide, “Les deux traités de toxicologie
attribués à Dioscoride. La tradition manuscrite grecque, édition critique du texte grec et
traduction,” 5 vols (Ph.D. thesis, Louvain, 1981), 1:57–68. See also Alessia Adriana Aletta,
“Studi e ricerche sul Dioscoride della Pierpont Morgan Library M. 652” (B.A. thesis,
University of Rome “La Sapienza,” 1997–8). A facsimile edition appeared in 1935: Pedanii
Dioscuridis Anazarbei, De Materia Medica Libri VII. Accedunt Nicandri et Eutecnii,
Opuscula Medica. Codex Constantinopolitanus saeculo X exaratus et picturis illustratus,
olim Manuelis Eugenici, Caroli Rinuccini Florentini, Thomae Philipps Angli, nunc inter
Thesauros Pierpont Morgan Bibliothecae asservatus, 2 vols (Paris: n. pub., 1935).
32 On the history of the two manuscripts, see, in addition to the bibliography related to
each one above, Alain Touwaide, “Un recueil de pharmacologie du Xe siècle illustré au
XIVe siècle: le Vaticanus graecus 284,” Scriptorium 39 (1985): 13–56.

Although these two manuscripts contain different recensions of De materia

medica, they are closely related, for they both present an alphabetical
rearrangement of the original text. In the Vienna codex, the rearrangement is the
so-called alphabetical herbal of Dioscorides.33 In the New York manuscript, that
alphabetical herbal corresponds to Book 1 of Dioscorides. It is followed by four
other books in which the chapters of the De materia medica that had been
excluded from the herbal are regrouped according to the nature of the substances
they deal with (trees, animals, oils and wines, minerals); each group has then been
reorganized according to the alphabetical order of the substance names.34 The
important point is that the text and plant illustrations in the Vienna manuscript and
the first book of the New York codex are fundamentally identical. However,
despite these strong similarities – and contrary to what is often asserted – the New
York manuscript does not necessarily depend directly on the Vienna Dioscorides.35

A Two-Part Album of Plant Pictures

A close analysis suggests that the illustrations of Thott 190 constitute two sets of
plant pictures: fols 12 verso–62 verso comprise an alphabetical herbal with 114
illustrations, while fols 63 recto–130 verso contain a series of 142 plant drawings
added to the alphabetical herbal without any recognizable criterion of selection or
organizing principle.
The alphabetical nature of the first set of illustrations in Thott 190 is not
immediately perceptible because the sequence of the plants does not always
follow the order of the Latin alphabet precisely. To cite just a few examples,
agrimonia de jardin (fol. 18 verso)36 is followed by ceterac (fol. 19 recto);37 cauda
marina (fol. 25 recto)38 by gallitcum (fol. 25 verso)39 and embellaria (fol. 26
recto);40 and scolopendria (fol. 61 verso)41 by the sequence virga pastoris (fol. 61
verso),42 brancha lupina (fol. 62 recto),43 and violette (fol. 62 verso).44

33 On this recension of Dioscorides’ text, see Wellmann, Pedanii Dioscuridis

Anazarbei, vol. 1, V–VI and XVI–XVIII.
34 For this new recension, see Wellmann, Pedanii Dioscuridis Anazarbei, vol. 1,
XVIII–XIX, and, more completely, Alain Touwaide, “Les deux traités de toxicologie
attribués à Dioscoride. Tradition manuscrite, établissement du texte et critique
d’authenticité,” in Tradizione e ecdotica dei testi medici tardoantichi e bizantini. Atti del
Convegno Internazionale, Anacrapri, 29–31 ottobre 1990, ed. Antonio Garzya,
Collectanea, 5 (Naples: M. D’Auria, 1992), 291–335.
35 See, for example, Wellmann, Pedanii Dioscuridis Anazarbei, vol. 2, XIX and XXIV.
36 = ? Anemone hortensis L., garden anemone.
37 Adiantum capillus-veneris L., maidenhair.
38 A species of Ornithopus (bird’s foot) or Astragalus (astragalus).
39 Unidentified.
40 Cotyledon umbilicus L., navelwort.
41 Asplenium scolopendrium L., hart’s-tongue fern.
42 Capsella bursa-pastoris Medik., shepherd’s purse.
43 Stachys officinalis (L.) Trev., betony.
44 Viola odorata L., violet.

These and other inconsistencies can be explained in large part if the Greek
names of the plants are substituted for their Latin or French counterparts. For
example, the sequence gallitcum (fol. 25 verso),45 cimbalaria (fol. 26 recto),46 and
comin (fol. 26 verso)47 seems random in Thott 190. However, it corresponds to the
Greek alphabetical sequence: kallitrichon, kotule-do-n, and kuminon. Each of these
Greek names was adapted in a different way. Thus, kallitrichon was roughly
transliterated as gallit[ri]cum. Kotule-do-n might have been correctly translated
into Latin as umbilicum Veneris,48 then further altered: first, as the index shows,
into embellicum Veneris,49 and then, more drastically, into cimbalaria on the basis
of cymbalium in Latin.50 Kuminon was adapted into Latin as cuminum and into
medieval French as comin.
The original Greek alphabetical nature of the sequence of plants is further
obscured by other linguistic phenomena. The letters “b-” and “v-,” for example,
were often interchanged. The clearest case is brancha lupina (fol. 62 recto),51
which appears between virga pastoris (fol. 61 verso)52 and violette (fol. 62
verso).53 Another case: vesche de machomet (fol. 31 verso)54 shows up between
berbena femelle (fol. 31 recto)55 and bleton (fol. 32 recto).56
Other peculiarities result from the orthography of plant names in medieval
Latin: iris was written yreos (fol. 47 verso),57 and listed accordingly among the
plants whose names start with “y-.” Some further anomalies in the alphabetical
order might be accounted for by the interference of other languages. The presence
of pomes granades (fol. 42 verso)58 between milium (fol. 42 recto)59 and mente
(fol. 43 recto)60 could reflect the Italian form melograno appearing in the earlier
alphabetical sequence milium, melograno, mente. Even though the Italian name
was later translated into French (pomes granades), the plant picture was not
moved to respect the alphabetical sequence.
Aside from such linguistic phenomena, another factor might have interrupted

Cotyledon umbilicus L., navelwort.
Cuminum cyminum L., cumin.
Jacques André, Les noms de plantes dans la Rome antique, Collection d’études
anciennes (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1985), 77, entry for cotyledon.
49 See fol. 6 recto, col. 1, line 31: Bellicum veneris.
50 André, Les noms de plantes, 83, entry for cymbalaris; Iohannes Stirling, Lexicon
nominum herbarum, arborum, fructuumque linguae latinae ex fontibus Latinitatis ante
saeculum XVII scriptis (Budapest: Encyclopedia, 1997), vol. 2, 180, entry for cymbalion.
51 Stachys officinalis (L.) Trev., betony.
52 Capsella bursa-pastoris Medik., shepherd’s purse.
53 Viola odorata L., violet.
54 Narcissus poeticus L., pheasant’s eye.
55 Verbena officinalis L., vervain.
56 Amaranthus blitum L., blite.
57 Iris germanica L., iris.
58 Punica granatum L., pomegranate.
59 Panicum miliaceum L., millet.
60 Mentha spp., mint.

the alphabetical organization of the herbal: the displacement of folios or entire

quires in the manuscript between the immediate copy of the two Byzantine
codices and Thott 190 (or in a more remote ancestor). The group of plant names
starting with “b-” (fols 27 recto–32 verso) falls between comin (fol. 26 verso)61
and serpentaria mayor (fol. 33 recto).62 As a consequence, agrimonia de jardin
(fol. 18 verso),63 the last plant name starting with “a-,” is directly followed by
ceterac (fol. 19 recto),64 the first plant name starting with “c-.” This could have
resulted from the movement of an entire quire, or at least of several folios, that is,
those containing all the plants starting with “b-.” This is all the more plausible
because the group of plants whose names begin with “b-” covers exactly six folios
(fols 27–32), that is, three bifolia. A similar alteration could explain the apparently
aberrant sequence of chapters in the groups of fols 40–55.65 The correct
alphabetical sequence in Greek would require the following order of folios: 40 /
49 / 47 / 48 / 53 / 54 / 50 / 41–46 / 51–52 / 55.66 However, the two groups of folios
– fols 41–46 and 47–52 – amount to six folios each, that is, three bifolia, just like
the group of fols 27–32. This number of folios and bifolia corresponds to the usual
western structure of quires and method of assembling manuscripts.
The alphabetical herbal underlying the first section of Thott 190 – that is, the
Thott Album – contained 114 different kinds of plants (according to the names in
the manuscript and not to modern scientific taxonomy). These were selected out
of the 383 plants represented in the Vienna Dioscorides and 498 in the New York
codex. These 114 species are common Mediterranean plants, vegetables, and
flowers such as asphodel (fol. 13 recto), wormwood (fol. 13 verso), centaury (fols
29 verso and 21 recto), betony (fol. 27 recto), briony (fol. 27 verso and 28 recto),
verbena (fol. 31 recto), ivy (fol. 35 verso), hellebore (fol. 36 recto), beans (fol. 40
recto), mint (fol. 43 recto), mandrake (fols 44 verso and 45 recto), oregano (fol.
47 recto), iris (fol. 47 verso), hyssop (fol. 48 recto), lily (fol. 49 recto), nymphaea
(fol. 51 recto and verso), peony (fols 52 verso and 55 recto), St John’s wort (fol.
53 recto), henbane (fol. 53 verso), leek (fol. 56 verso), rose (fol. 57 verso), poppy
(fol. 58 recto and verso), and violet (fol. 62 verso). These plants would usually be
found in orchards, woods, gardens, and fields, that is, in ordinary human
environments. Such a selection of slightly more than one hundred useful, easily

61 Cuminum cyminum L., cumin.

62 Dracunculus vulgaris L., dragon arum.
63 = ? Anemone hortensis L., garden anemone.
64 Adiantum capillus-veneris L., maidenhair.
65 Fols 41–6 contain the plant representations of malve to malum terre; fols 47–50
yriganum (wrongly for yringe, itself wrong for iringe) to lansolata (fol. 50 recto) and an
unidentified plant (fol. 50 verso); fols 51–2 nenofar maior to peonia.
66 As a result, the sequence would be as follows: (fol. 40) fomes and ferle; (fol. 49) flor
de lis and flor de lis de mer; (fols 47–8) yriganum (for iringe) to ypoqustidos (wrongly for
ipo- in a phonetic transliteration of the Greek plant name upokustidos); (fols 53–4) ypericon
(though correct, it has been listed as if it were ipericon) to crysta[…] (?) (listed as if it
started with “k-”); (fol. 50) lansolata and an unidentified plant; (fols 41–6) malve to malum
terre; (fols 51–2) nenofar maior to peonia; (fol. 55) pionia and pentefullon.

found plants contrasts sharply with the thousand-plus substances and plants listed
in the complete text of Dioscorides’ De materia medica.
The Thott Album was a coherent, alphabetically arranged set of plant
illustrations. However, this Album was further expanded by gradual accretion to
produce a much more confused set of illustrations I call the Thott Addition. These
later additions did not result from a clear procedure for selecting the material, but
proceeded in an uncoordinated way, without taking into consideration the contents
of the Thott Album or other illustrations already included in the Addition.
In the second part of Thott 190 (fols 63 recto–130 verso), the plant names
reflect the same mechanisms of error and alteration seen in the first section,
especially confusion of letters and the persistence of Latin names. But unlike the
Thott Album in the first section of Thott 190, the second section reveals no clear
process of selection and arrangement of plants, and hence makes it hard to detect
the loss or rearrangement of folios during its transmission.
The Thott Addition section of Thott 190 in fact duplicates some plants shown
in the opening Thott Album section: semprevivum (fol. 65 verso)67 was already
present on fol. 56 verso as sempre viva; lingua bovina shows up both on fol. 83
recto in the second part and fol. 30 recto in the first;68 ebrionia (fol. 87 recto)
corresponds to brionia nigra and brionia blanca of the first part (fol. 27 verso and
28 recto respectively);69 and both the white and black papaver appear in the two
parts (fol. 101 recto/verso in the second part, fol. 58 recto/verso in the first).70
Some plants are even repeated within the Thott Addition: for example, camomille,
which appears first on fol. 65 verso, is repeated twice in the second part of the
manuscript, on fols 105 recto and 115 verso.71 Similarly, orticha appears on fols
78 verso and 88 recto;72 and ronce appears on fols 88 verso and 110 recto.73
It is important to note that, even though the second part of Thott 190 includes
much material that appears to have been based upon the Vienna and the New York
codices, it might also draw on other sources. The compiler(s) of Thott 190 might
have even produced original material: from fol. 100 recto to the end, the Thott 190
illustrations have notably fewer equivalents in the two Byzantine codices.
In both parts, representing plants seems to have been the primary object of the
collection. The evidence of both codicology and content suggests that texts were
not present in the original project, that is, the Thott Archetype. The Thott 190
folios were not prepared at the outset with a ruling system designed to
accommodate the texts. Moreover, as we will see, these texts do not come from
the same sources as the illustrations, and they lack important data that traditionally

Sempervivum tectorum L., houseleek.
Borago officinalis L., borage.
Tamus communis L., black bryony, and Bryonia dioica Jacq., white bryony.
While the first is most probably Papaver somniferum L., poppy, the second might be
the same or P. rhoeas L., red poppy.
71 Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All., chamomile.
72 Urtica spp., nettle.
73 Rubus spp., bramble.

accompanied plant pictures in medieval herbals, that is, the description of the

The Archetype for Thott 190 and its History

It is very unlikely that Thott 190 was the manuscript in which these two series of
plant illustrations were first created. Judging from Hand 1, Thott 190 may have
been produced in southern Europe (France or Spain) sometime around the
beginning of the fourteenth century. At that time, however, the Greek manuscripts
that were the sources for its archetype were in Constantinople – and the Latins no
longer occupied the city (although they could have visited there). Therefore, Thott
190 must have been preceded by at least one manuscript – the Thott Archetype.
The displacement of some groups of plant representations in Thott 190
suggests that a manuscript pre-dating Thott 190 underwent a major accident that
shuffled bifolia within quires and moved an entire quire out of its original
alphabetical sequence. Fols 30–42 correspond to six folios; so does the block, fols
41–6, within the disturbed series of fols 40–55 – that is, a standard western quire
of three bifolia. While granting that such an accident could have happened to
Thott 190 itself, the fact that the aberrant sequence of entries is reflected in the
index in the front-matter makes it much more likely that the accident happened
earlier – in the Thott Archetype or in some other manuscript in the lineage leading
up to Thott 190. At some moment of its history, that ancestor of Thott 190 was
unbound (totally or partially, we do not know) and incorrectly rebound later.
Although the archetype has either been lost or not yet identified, its appearance,
the circumstances of its creation, and its history can be partially reconstructed.
The Thott Archetype was probably a manuscript of a smaller dimensions than
its Byzantine models. Thott 190 measures 283 x 192 mm, the Vindobonensis
360–370 x 300 mm, and the New York codex 390 x 300 mm. The modifications
in the plant images suggest that drawings were adapted to a reduced page size,
more rectangular than square. Though smaller, this manuscript looked more like
the Vienna manuscript than the New York codex: in the Vienna codex, plant
pictures covered most of the folios’ surface while, in the New York model, the
plant drawings were inserted between blocks of text (Fig. 2.6).
It is highly probable that the Thott Archetype was made during the period of the
Latin empire of Constantinople (that is, between 1204 and 1261) by or on behalf
of someone in the city who did not speak Greek. In the course of the destruction
by the Latin soldiers when Constantinople fell, the two lavishly illustrated copies
of De materia medica were taken away from the collections they had belonged to
earlier, one of which was almost certainly the library of the imperial palace.
Probably thanks to their deluxe appearance, these manuscripts were not destroyed
or harmed, but kept in relatively good condition, and seemingly used as
pharmaceutical reference books.

It could not have been an easy task for a non-Greek-speaker to use these
Dioscorides manuscripts. The Greek language presented one obstacle; others
stemmed from the encyclopedic character of De materia medica, its bulk, and its
accounts of eastern Mediterranean natural substances that westerners would not
necessarily know. To make the work convenient to consult, it had to be reshaped
into a handy manual; the number of substances needed to be dramatically reduced,
and the items preserved in this new work had to be known to the user(s) of the
volume. The result was the Thott Album, which bears witness not only to an
interest in Byzantine books and medicine, but also to the willingness to save the
classical material, to adapt it to make it easier to use, and perhaps also to integrate
it into the everyday practice of medicine. The Thott Addition – the less
coordinated expansion of that first nucleus of plant pictures and names – could
have been the result of a need for more substances to use as medicines or of
gradual progress in the study of plants as users of the Thott Album assimilated and
built upon the limited material in the Thott Album. Together, the Thott Album and
Addition provided the Archetype for Thott 190.
Even though we know the two models for most of the illustrations in this
ancestor to Thott 190 were kept in the monastery of St John Prodromos after the
Byzantine restoration of 1261, we do not know where they were during the Latin
empire and, thus, where the archetype for Thott 190 was produced. Whatever its
origin, this manuscript, or a copy of it, was taken to western Europe at a moment
that cannot be determined.
There is a temptation to reconstruct the transfer of Thott 190 from
Constantinople to the West on the basis of plant names in the manuscript. The
names are heterogeneous, showing as they do traces of the original Greek
alphabetical order in Greek, Latin names, indirect evidence for an Italian plant
name (melograno), phonetic confusions (particularly initial “b” and “v”) typical of
Spanish, and much use of French. However, this diversity should not be taken as
proof that a predecessor to Thott 190 passed through the hands of Italians and
Spaniards as it moved west before fetching up in the collection of a French
apothecary. The troops of the Latin Crusaders and the Westerners in
Constantinople were not homogeneous either linguistically or ethnically. Instead,
they formed amalgams of different origins and idioms. The linguistic variety
evident in the Thott 190 plant lexicon may simply reflect the diversity of the
occupation forces and the people of Constantinople.
Two points invite the speculation that the Galenic material in the texts in Thott
190 reflects some kind of continuing influence of Byzantine medicine on Thott
190’s early readers/annotators, Hands 1 and 2, after the Latin occupation of
Constantinople ended. First, there seems to have been a rebirth of interest among
fourteenth-century Byzantine scholars in adding Galenic texts to Dioscorides’
text and illustrations. Second, although the Westerners no longer controlled
Constantinople, they continued to visit and trade in the city and to bring home
new knowledge from Byzantine sources. It is particularly noteworthy that the

Italian physician Pietro d’Abano (d. ca. 1315) travelled to Constantinople,

probably saw the Vienna Dioscorides (that is, one of the sources for the
illustrations in the Thott Archetype) there, and commented on Dioscorides’ text
after he returned to Padua.74
The Galenic texts about the plants’ properties and degrees added to Thott 190
by Hands 1 and 2 imply a deliberate process of collating the illustrations that
comprised the original form of Thott 190 with some form of the Galenic treatise.
At this point, it is not possible to tell whether that book was a Greek manuscript
of Galen’s De simplicium medicamentorum temperamentis et facultatibus (On the
Mixtures and Properties of Simple Medicines), a Latin translation of that work, or
another treatise that included passages of this kind.
A similar collating endeavor is attested in some mid- and late-Byzantine
manuscripts of Dioscorides. One is the tenth-century Vaticanus graecus 284
(Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS gr. 284).75 Its plant pictures,
reproducing those of the New York Dioscorides, were added in the mid-
fourteenth century.76 In another, illustrated De materia medica manuscript in
Greek, the Parisinus graecus 2183 (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France,
MS gr. 2183) dating to the second quarter of the fourteenth century, passages
from Galen’s treatise have been added in the margins next to Dioscorides’
The integration of Dioscorides and Galen seen in the Vaticanus and the
Parisinus manuscripts was not an entirely new idea. It was already present in the
early-Byzantine encyclopedias of Oribasius (fourth century AD),78 Aetius of Amida

74 See Loris Premuda, “Abano, Pietro d’-,” in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed.
Gillespie, vol. 1, 4–5. Pietro d’Abano’s translation was printed in 1478 in Colle, by
Johannes de Medemblick.
75 On this manuscript, see the catalogue by Giovanni Mercati and Pio Franchi de’
Cavalieri, Codices Vaticani Greci (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1926), vol. 1, 393–5.
76 For the illustrations, see Touwaide, “Un recueil de pharmacologie du Xe siècle,”
13–56. The topic has been further discussed by Marco D’Agostino in Vedere i classici.
L’illustrazione libraria dei testi antichi dall’età romana al tardo medioevo, ed. Marco
Buonocore (Rome: Fratelli Palombi Editori, 1996) 199–200, and Collins, Medieval
Herbals, 70–71.
77 On this manuscript, see the brief notice by Henri Omont, Inventaire sommaire des
manuscrits grecs de la Bibliothèque nationale et des autres bibliothèques de Paris et des
départements (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1888), 2: 211. A full codicological analysis can
be found in Touwaide, “Les deux traités de toxicologie,” (1981), 75–8. Its illustrations have
been recently discussed by Alain Touwaide, “The Salamanca Dioscorides (Salamanca,
University Library, 2659),” Erytheia 24 (2003): 125–58. On these Galenic additions, see
John Marion Riddle, “Byzantine commentaries on Dioscorides,” in Symposium on
Byzantine medicine, ed. John Scarborough, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 38, 1984
(Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1985), 95–102.
78 On Oribasius, see Alain Touwaide, “Oreibasios,” in Der neue Pauly, ed. Hubert
Cancik and Helmuth Schneider (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999), vol. 9, cols 15–16. For the Greek
text of his medical encyclopedia, see: Johannes Raeder, Oribasii collectionum medicarum
reliquiae, 5 vols, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, 6.1–2 (Leipzig and Berlin: Teubner,

(sixth century)79 and Paul of Aegina (seventh century).80 A similar association can
be found in the medical encyclopedias of Arabic scientists who knew of the Greek
scientific and medical literature thanks to translations made from Syriac or Greek
into Arabic from the ninth century AD onward.81
The Byzantines’ own fourteenth-century revival of the earlier Byzantine
melding of pharmacological data from Dioscorides and Galen most probably took
place in the school or the library adjacent to the monastery of St John Prodromos,
that is, in the center where the sources used to create most of the plant
representations of Thott 190 were preserved.82 In working with the illustrations in
the Vienna and New York sources, the original compiler(s) of the Thott Album and
Addition might well have consulted the library that after 1261 belonged to
complex of St John Prodromos and learned about the way Galen and Dioscorides
had been combined by earlier Byzantine encyclopedias. Knowledge of that
approach to pharmacological texts might have been part of the background
information passed along with Thott 190’s forerunners and – coupled with sources
from Arabic medical traditions – encouraged Hand 1 and Hand 2 to add their own
collation to the plant illustrations in Thott 190.83

79 On Aetius, see Vivian Nutton, “Aetius [3] of Amida,” in Brill’s New Pauly.
Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World, ed. Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider (Leiden:
Brill, 2002), vol. 1, col. 276. For a critical edition of books I–VIII in Greek, see Alexander
Olivieri, Aetii Amideni libri medicinales I–IV, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, 8.1
(Leipzig: Teubner, 1935), and Olivieri, Aetii Amideni libri medicinales V–VIII, Corpus
Medicorum Graecorum, 8.2 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1950). For books IX–XVI, a critical
edition is currently under preparation for Corpus Medicorum Graecorum by a team of
scholars at Federico II University, Naples, under the direction of Antonio Garzya. See
Antonio Garzya. “Problèmes relatifs à l’édition des livres IX–XVI du Tétrabiblon d’Aétios
d’Amida,” Revue des Etudes Anciennes 86 (1984): 245–57. No English translation is
currently available.
80 On Paul of Aegina, see Alain Touwaide, “Paul von Aigina,” in Der neue Pauly, ed.
Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999), vol. 9, cols 431–2. For
the Greek text of his work, see Johannes Heiberg, Paulus Aegineta, 2 vols, Corpus
Medicorum Graecorum, 9.1–2 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1921 and 1924). English translation by
Francis Adams, The Medical Works of Paulus Aegineta, the Greek Physician, Translated
into English with a Copious Commentary Containing a Comprehensive View of the
Knowledge Possessed by the Greeks, Romans, and Arabians on All Subjects Connected
with Medicine and Surgery (London: J. Welsh, Treuttel, Würtz, and Co., 1834).
81 For the translation of Greek science into Arabic, see Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought,
Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early
cAbbâsid Society (2nd–4th/8th–10th centuries) (London: Routledge, 1998).
82 On this center, see Alice-Mary Talbot, “Petra monastery,” in The Oxford Dictionary
of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan, Alice-Mary Talbot, Anthony Cutler, Timothy E.
Gregory, and Nancy P. Ševčenko, 3 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), vol. 2,
83 The western interest in the Byzantine juxtaposition of Galen and Dioscorides could
also have been encouraged by their acquaintance with the model of Arabic medical
literature, which was known and diffused in the West thanks to the translations into Latin
made from the eleventh century onward in Southern Italy. The translating endeavor is most
closely associated with Constantine called the African (d. after AD 1085), although – despite

Latin Occupiers of Constantinople, Byzantine Books, and Greek Medicine

The illustrated album at the heart of Thott 190 suggests that at least some Western
occupiers of Constantinople had both access to and interest in Byzantine
manuscripts, including one (the Vienna codex) that was part of the imperial
collection before 1204. Contrary to the opinion widespread in contemporary
historiography, they did not necessarily destroy such books, but collected them
and, in the present case, even brought together two copies of the same work,
Dioscorides’ De materia medica. Moreover, they actively consulted these two
books, collated their text and illustrations, and picked out a limited set of plants
that would normally be easily available.
The illustrated herbal they first created, the Thott Album, was not limited to the
mere reproduction of illustrations, but implied the translation of Greek plant
names into Latin and eventually a partial effort to organize and index the selected
material according to the Latin alphabet. Later that Album was further augmented
(though not so carefully or selectively) from the same sources as well as others
and perhaps also by direct and personal observations of nature.
The illustrations of plants were complemented by texts ultimately derived from
Galen’s pharmacological treatise. That required not only access to one or more
Galenic manuscripts or texts derived from them, but also linguistic and botanical
expertise. The compiler had to compare the Galenic material to the De materia
medica text, extract the passages that matched the names and illustrations from the
Dioscorides manuscripts, and correctly associate these text and illustrations. Such
a task may have been done with the model of Byzantine medical practice in mind;
it resembles the collating done by Byzantine physicians after the reconquest of
Constantinople toward the mid-fourteenth century – in the same place where the
two manuscripts used to constitute Thott Archetype were kept at the time.
A manuscript antedating Thott 190 arrived in the West, probably sometime
before the turn of the thirteenth/fourteenth century. From a model based on that
forerunner (and possibly other intermediaries and sources), the manuscript of
Thott 190 was then copied at a time and place still unknown. It later acquired its
front-matter. By the mid-sixteenth century, Thott 190 was in France and it was
owned in 1559 at the latest by the apothecary Anthoine Urban.
However new and stimulating these conclusions might be, they also raise a host
of new questions. For example: who created the Thott Archetype and Thott Model,
when and where exactly, under what circumstances, and with whose help?
Although such questions are of crucial importance, they should not overshadow

what is often claimed in the literature – not initiated by him. See the synthesis by Danielle
Jacquart, “The Influence of Arabic Medicine in the Medieval West,” in the Encyclopedia of
the History of Arabic Science, ed. Roshed Rashed and Régis Morelon (London: Routledge,
1996), vol. 2, 963–84. See Michael McVaugh, “Constantine the African,” in Dictionary of
Scientific Biography, ed. Charles Coulston Gillespie, 18 vols (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1971), vol. 3, 393–5.

the key results of this enquiry. In a remarkable, unexpected inversion of the usual
course of manuscript transmission studies, the Franco-Latin herbal of Thott 190
helps illuminate the history of its Constantinopolitan sources in ways that neither
Byzantine documentation nor the analysis of the manuscripts themselves do.
Although scholars have known that during the Fourth Crusade, both the Vienna
and the New York Dioscorides probably were removed from their pre-1204
homes, and that, following the Byzantine reconquest of their capital, they
appeared on the shelves of the library in the monastery of St John Prodromos, we
had no idea until now that they had been in Latin hands and had been used to
create a new herbal during the period of the Latin empire of Constantinople.84

84 An essay that deals with Thott 190 appeared while this volume was in press, see:
Iolanda Ventura, “The Curae ex animalibus in the Medical Literature of the Middle Ages:
The Example of the Illustrated Herbals,” in Bestiares médiévaux. Nouvelles perspectives
sur les manuscrits et les traditions textuelles, Baudouin Van den Abeele, ed. (Louvain-la-
Neuve: Institut d’études médiévales, 2005), 213–48.
Chapter 3

The Illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis

Manuscripts from Northern Italy
ca. 1380–1400: Sources, Patrons, and
the Creation of a New Pictorial Genre
Cathleen Hoeniger

The Latin translation of an Arabic treatise on curing disease and achieving health
through diet, regimen, and lifestyle was the inspiration for a sequence of lavishly
illuminated manuscripts produced initially for the Visconti court in Pavia in the
last decades of the fourteenth century. The manuscripts are known by the Latin
title of the treatise, Tacuinum sanitatis, meaning “table of health.” There are four
copiously illustrated Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts extant from northern Italy,
now housed in libraries in Paris, Vienna, Rome, and Liège.1 Most likely, these are
all that remain of a larger number, commissioned by wealthy bibliophiles
following the lead of the Visconti.2
In these versions of the Tacuinum sanitatis treatise, paintings dominate the text,
embedding health-related subjects within an iconographic framework that the
Lombard audience would have found tasteful and somewhat familiar (Fig. 3.1).
Vegetables and herbs are shown growing in the market gardens of a perfectly run
estate, and people in stylish fashions engage in healthy exercises such as
horseback riding and dancing. These illustrations help to present health
information for the elite, by localizing each topic within an idealized version of
court society, by toning down the medical content, and by spicing up, here and
there, the secular flavor of the text. How did such unique works of art and science

1 A fifth illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis (Rouen, Bibliothèque municipale, MS Leber

1088 and formerly, Liechtenstein), will not be considered here since it is a later version
related to the Vienna and Rome manuscripts and produced in the Veneto in the 1450s. Alixe
Bovey, Tacuinum Sanitatis: An Early Renaissance Guide to Health (London: Paul
Holberton, 2005).
2 An excellent essay on the Tacuinum manuscripts by Vera Segre Rutz is included in
Historia Plantarum. Erbe, oro e medicina nei codici medievali. Volume di commento, ed.
V. Segre Rutz (Modena: Franco Cosimo Panini, 2002). Segre Rutz (128) believes numerous
Tacuinum manuscripts originally existed – a tradition “molto vasta e largamente corrotta.”
See also Emma Pirani and Adalberto Pazzini, Herbarium: Natural Remedies from a
Medieval Manuscript (New York: Rizzoli, 1980), 3rd page.


arise, and why did their first owners desire them? An investigation of the textual
and pictorial traditions brought together in the manuscripts will provide a sense of
what motivated the Visconti to lavish so much expense on these projects.3

The Original Treatise

In its original eleventh-century Arabic version and as initially received in the West
in the thirteenth century and translated into Latin, the Tacuinum sanitatis was a
guidebook for healthy living that presented information in the form of tables. This
“table of health” summarized the medicinal qualities and uses of foods of all
kinds, including culinary herbs. The Tacuinum also encompassed other elements
of hygiene, such as human emotions and activities, as well as the seasons, the four
ages of life, geographical locations, and the weather. Even though the treatise
included information on botanical medicine in the sections about herbs, fruit, and
vegetables, it was not a herbal. The Tacuinum describes a wider range of materia
medica than herbals, and its primary emphasis is healthy living in a broader sense.
This treatise, known as the Taqwı-m as-S.ih. h. a in Arabic, was compiled by the
physician Ibn (Abu- al-H. asan al-Mukhta- r Ibn al-H. asan Ibn ‘Abdun Ibn
Sa‘du-n Ibn, a Christian who lived in Baghdad in the mid-eleventh century
(doc’t 1049, d. 1068).4 Its approach to health and hygiene was ultimately based on
the Hippocratic belief that health is a balance, or harmony, of the body, achieved
through a lifestyle of careful eating and exercise. The Taqwı-m – in common with
medicine in the medieval Arabic world generally – follows Hippocratic theory in the
interpretation given by Galen by specifying how four humors or bodily fluids could
be kept in balance for good health.
In the introductory treatise, Techne- iatrike-, which was translated in the West as
Ars medica, Galen had enumerated six external factors that could affect the
equilibrium of the humors, known as the non-natural causes, or simply as the
“non-naturals.”5 The tables of Ibn concentrate especially on the action of
these external causes of health, which comprise: the air and the environment, food
and drink, exercise and rest, sleep and wakefulness, excretion and secretion, and
the movements of the soul.6 The treatise begins with edible plants and foods made

3 The most recent and enlightening study of these manuscripts is Agnes A. Bertiz,
“Picturing Health: The Garden and Courtiers at Play in the Late Fourteenth-Century
Illuminated Tacuinum Sanitatis” (Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 2003).
Bertiz focuses particularly on the ideology propagated by the elite patrons through the
Tacuinum pictures; see esp. 2, 204, 231–49 and 250–4.
4 On Ibn Butla - - -
. n, see Le Taqwı m al-S.ih. h. a (Tacuini Sanitatis) d’Ibn But.lan: un traité
médical du XIe siècle, trans. and ed. Hosam Elkhadem (Louvain: Peeters, 1990), 9–13.
5 C. G. Kühn, Claudii Galeni Opera omnia, 20 vols (1821–33; reprint, Hildesheim:
Georg Olm, 1965).
6 Bertiz, “Picturing Health,” ch. 2. Also: José M. López Piñero, “Medicine as a Principle
of Human Life in Galenism and the ‘Tables of Health’ by Ibn,” in Theatrum sanitatis.

from plants (including cereals and breads), followed by edible animals, animal
products, sweets and perfumes, and wines. It then discusses the remaining non-
naturals: music and emotional states, secretions and excretions including
vomiting, aspects of climate including the winds and the seasons, and other
subjects that include: human activities, water and bathing, oils and massage,
clothing, syrups and drinks, and places and their orientation. Each non-natural
cause is listed in tabulated form together with abbreviated references to its
medicinal qualities and uses. Each substance is classified according to its
elemental quality or “complexion” – namely, whether the food or drink is hot or
cold, wet or dry in effect, and to what degree. Lettuce, for example, is described
as cold and humid in the third degree, but anger is said to consist of the boiling of
the blood in the heart.
It is important to understand the original purpose of the Taqwı-m before
investigating how the words and their presentation on the page were transformed
in the manuscripts produced for the Visconti in a very different time and place. Ibn explained at the outset that his aim was to enable “all men” to understand
and to try to maintain the balance required to preserve health, by providing the
essential medical information in an easy-to-use format.7 As another Christian
physician from Baghdad, Budahyliha Byngezla (d. about 1100), explained in his
general definition of the Taqwı-m genre:

The Tacuinum is the art of presenting knowledge in a concise and ready form, drawn
from experience and related to purposeful ends. It was invented to suit men of our age,
especially the rich and noble who ask only for the results of knowledge and are little
interested in the probability and theory of a cure. This book is therefore of use to Kings
and Magnates in whose rooms it should never fail to find a place.8

According to this interpretation, the Taqwı-m was intended especially for wealthy
aristocrats and leaders who desired knowledge to be given in a succinct form with
an emphasis on practice rather than theory.
In his preface, Ibn states that he presented the information in tabular
form, and the 16 surviving manuscript copies in Arabic of the Taqwı-m as-S.ih. h. a
all present the information in columns.9 Two hundred and eighty subjects are listed
in a column (on the far right edge of the manuscript opening, of course). Other
columns detail the “nature” or elemental complexion, the “optimum” kinds, the
“usefulness,” the “dangers” and how these could be “neutralized,” the medicinal
effect and “temperament” of each subject along with information concerning who

Codice 4182 della R. Biblioteca Casanatense, ed. J. M. López Piñero and F. Jerez Moliner,
2 vols (Barcelona: Moleiro, 1999), commentary vol., 233–54; and Oswei Temkin,
Galenism: The Rise and Fall of a Medical Philosophy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1973), 101–3.
7 Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m, 146–8.
8 Pirani and Pazzini, Herbarium, 1st page. Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m, 19–20, however,
stresses Ibn’s concern to reach “all men.”
9 Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m; Bertiz, “Picturing Health,” 320–21.

should eat the substance or perform the exercise, and when and where it should be
grown and harvested. On the facing (left-hand) page, a substantial paragraph
further elaborates on the medical aspects of the substance. Several of the surviving
Arabic manuscripts were enhanced with geometric patterns; none have pictorial
Judging by an inscription in a fifteenth-century Latin copy – Venice, Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. Z. 315 (coll. 1645) – the treatise seems to have been
in the West by the mid-thirteenth century. That inscription notes that the
translation was commissioned originally by Manfred, King of Sicily in Palermo
(1232–66).10 Even though this inscription is not in the same hand as the text
proper, the connection of an early translation of the Taqwı-m as-S.ih. h. a with the
Hohenstaufen court is plausible since many Arabic scientific treatises were
studied and translated there. Under the Hohenstaufen, diet was considered an
essential part of medical care following both Greco-Roman and Arabic tradition.
Master Theodore, the personal physician to Manfred’s father, Frederick II of
Sicily, composed a treatise on hygiene and diet sheets for his patron,
recommending the combination of foodstuffs with their “complexions” best suited
to the physical and psychological nature of the King.11 In the context of the
Sicilian court, the tabulated information in the Tacuinum sanitatis was likely
intended to lightly educate members of the royal family who took an interest in
the regimes stipulated by their physicians. The manuscript in Venice that mentions
King Manfred adopts the tabulated form of the Arabic treatises and does not
include pictures.

The Appearance of the Tacuinum in Sicily and Northern Italy

With one exception, all the early Latin versions of the Tacuinum sanitatis take the
form of simple tables, unaccompanied by pictures. That exception is an early-
fourteenth-century manuscript now in Florence (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea
Laurenziana, MS plut. 18.7), which has illuminated borders and a frontispiece that
depicts figures engaged in learned discussion.12 Such conventional decoration
hardly prepares us, however, for the appearance of the group of lavishly illustrated
manuscripts of the Tacuinum sanitatis produced in northern Italy and probably
commissioned by Giangaleazzo Visconti (1351–1402), Count of Milan, or by
nobility closely associated with his court in the decades 1380–1400.

10 Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 125; Luisa Cogliati Arano, The Medieval Health
Handbook: Tacuinum Sanitatis (New York: George Braziller, 1976), 111.
11 A. G. Dickens, “Monarchy and Cultural Revival: Courts in the Middle Ages,” in The
Courts of Europe: Politics, Patronage and Royalty 1400–1800 (New York: McGraw-Hill,
1977), 14–15.
12 Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 126–7. Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana,
MS plut. 18.7.

Apparently the Latin version of the treatise, which, as the Florence copy
testifies, had been available in northern Italy since the early fourteenth century,
caught the Count’s interest.13 A copy is documented in the oldest surviving
inventory of the Visconti Library in Pavia, dating from 1426.14 In both appearance
and text, however, the lavishly illuminated copies produced for the Count and his
circle differed markedly from the original Arabic and early Latin versions.
In these manuscripts, the text for each item was drastically reduced.
Information from the categories tabulated in the earlier versions was selectively
extracted and presented as a short paragraph. Above the text, a large picture was
designed to accompany the subject. For the short texts, information was selected
from only about half of the categories tabulated in the Arabic and early Latin
editions.15 For example, the text for “Asparagus” in the Lombard Tacuinum now
in Paris describes the “nature” or complexion of asparagus according to the
writings of an author identified as “Johannes” (perhaps “Johannitius,” author of
the Isagoge), but it omits the citations to Galen and Rufus of Ephesus in the Arabic
original (Fig. 3.1).16 The text incorporates information from Ibn’s first six
columns, but it ignores the final five columns. The Paris manuscript also leaves
out Ibn’s additional paragraph elaborating on asparagus as a medical and
dietary substance.17
In the northern Italian versions, the number of items found in the earlier Arabic
and Latin texts is reduced. Where Ibn’s Taqwı-m discussed 280 health-
related substances and activities, in the Lombard manuscripts the number ranges
from 169(+) for the Liège Tacuinum to 208 for the manuscript in Vienna.18
Moreover, familiar foods have replaced many Near Eastern foodstuffs,
presumably to make the work more engaging and potentially useful for a northern
Italian audience. These Italian foods include cherries, sage, ricotta cheese, white
wine, and meats obtained from hunting.
Pictures that fill more than half of the page have been added – one for each
topic. The reduction of text and the extraordinary size of the pictures have led both

13 The explicit of a Latin Tacuinum sanitatis dated 1309 – Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale
Marciana, MS lat. Z. 316 (coll. 1646) – records the patron as a citizen of Angleria in
Mediolani in Northern Italy. Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 125–6.
14 Elizabeth Pellegrin, La Bibliothèque des Visconti et des Sforza ducs de Milan au XVe
siècle (Paris: CNRS, 1955), Inventory 1426, no. 482, p.180. This copy was not, as some
have suggested, the Latin version translated by Ferragut in Naples and now in Paris,
Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 6977A (which came from the Colbert collection).
15 Some scholars, including Cogliato Arano (Medieval Health Handbook, 10), have
described these short paragraphs as summaries of the information presented by Ibn,
but they are, instead, a sequence of extracts.
16 Johannitius was the supposed author of the Isagoge, an Arabic introduction to
Galenic medicine.
17 Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m, 170–71, for asparagus. Il Tacuinum Sanitatis della Biblioteca
Nazionale di Parigi, ed. Elena Berti Toesca (Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche,
1937), 34.
18 The Liège Tacuinum is missing one gathering.

3.1 Sparagus (asparagus). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de

France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 26 recto. Ca. 1380–90. Photo
courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

historians of medicine and art historians to regard the words as of marginal

importance for Giangaleazzo’s luxury manuscripts.19 It is clear that the Visconti
and their contemporaries did not commission these manuscripts in order to be
educated in medical science; for that, they would have turned to the numerous
writings by classical, Islamic, and medieval physicians housed in the Visconti
Library.20 Instead, the newly illustrated Tacuinum manuscripts seem to have been
intended for display as works of art for the delectation of readers who paged
through them slowly, admiring each illustration.

Patronage, Attribution, and Dating of the Northern Italian Manuscripts

Three of the four northern Italian Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts – the

manuscripts now in Paris, Vienna, and Rome – can be associated with the
patronage of Giangaleazzo Visconti and his circle. These copies were illuminated
in the workshop of Giovannino dei Grassi, the Count’s most treasured artist and
architect, and they seem to have belonged to family members or close
acquaintances. The Liège Tacuinum, however, has been separated on linguistic
grounds from the other three. Whereas those three are definitely of Lombard
origin, the variant spelling of several words in the Liège manuscript indicates an
origin in the western part of the Veneto.21 In addition, Vera Segre Rutz has shown
that the line drawings in the Liège Tacuinum, formerly attributed to Giovannino
himself, more closely resemble the style of artists active in the Veneto or the
Trentino, particularly Guariento and Altichiero, than they do the work of Lombard
illuminators.22 As a consequence, this study focuses primarily on the three
Lombard manuscripts that can be associated with the Visconti court, and it largely
ignores the Liège copy.
Giangaleazzo Visconti was an avid collector of scientific treatises and under his

19 See, for instance, Brucia Witthoft, “The Tacuinum Sanitatis: A Lombard Panorama,”
Gesta 17 (1978): 49–60.
20 The 1426 inventory of the Visconti Library (Pellegrin, La Bibliothèque des Visconti,
75–289), includes medical treatises by Galen (no. 425, p. 169; no. 435, p. 170; no. 488, p.
181); Rhazes (no. 185, p. 114; nos 427 and 429, p. 169; no. 490, pp. 181-2; no. 763, p. 241;
no. 826, p. 256); Averroes (no. 436, pp. 170–71; no. 484, p. 180); Albucasis (nos 450 and
451, p. 173); Mesue of Bagdad (no. 452, p. 173); Avicenna’s Canon (no. 481, p. 180; nos
487 and 489, p. 181; no. 491, p. 182; nos 801–2, p. 251); Serapion (no. 483, p. 180; no.
793, p. 250); Constantine the African and Johannitius (nos 431 and 434, p. 170; no. 438, p.
171; no. 443, p. 172; no. 486, p. 181); Arnold of Villanova (no. 430, p. 169); Aldobrandino
of Siena (no. 306, p. 140); the Circa instans (no. 458, p. 175; no. 768, p. 242); and the
herbals of Dioscorides (no. 780, p. 246) and Macer (ps. Macer Floridus, no. 445, p. 172).
21 Among the variants characteristic of the western part of the Veneto in the Liège
manuscript, the linguist Angelo Stella noted the form cisergia (fol. 25 verso) for cicerchia
(chickpea); Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 128.
22 Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 128–30.

patronage the Visconti Library experienced substantial growth. The 1426

inventory of the library records many scientific and medical manuscripts, and a
substantial proportion of these were probably acquired under Giangaleazzo.23 As
is well known, the Count also was fond of richly illuminated manuscripts.24 The
talented and famous illuminator, Giovannino dei Grassi, worked under
Giangaleazzo’s patronage as master of a large workshop in Pavia from as early as
1370 until his death in 1398. Giovannino’s son, Salomone, worked with him, and
he seems to have led the workshop following his father’s death.25
Because of their combined focus on fashionable, courtly figures and
naturalistic portrayals of animals, Giovannino’s paintings traditionally have been
seen as a high point of the “international gothic” or “court” style, a late-gothic
manner favored by the French, Bohemian, and northern Italian courts between
approximately 1365 and 1415.26 The exact circumstances under which the three
luxury manuscripts of the Tacuinum sanitatis issued from the workshop of
Giovannino dei Grassi, however, can only be partially pieced together. Precisely
when and in what sequence the manuscripts were created is not fully understood.
Nevertheless, similarities among the three pictorial cycles have enabled scholars
to locate the manuscripts in relation to one another, and some evidence about the
original patrons has survived.
The Tacuinum sanitatis in Paris (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS
nouv. acq. lat. 1673) is held to be the earliest of the three, commissioned in the
period ca. 1380–90 from Giovannino dei Grassi and his workshop.27 In the Paris

23 When Giangaleazzo conquered Verona in 1387 and Padua in 1388, he helped himself
to numerous manuscripts previously owned, respectively, by the Veronese court and by
Francesco Carrara of Padua; Pellegrin, La Bibliothèque des Visconti, 109; and Segre Rutz,
Historia Plantarum, 135–6. A luxury copy of Pliny’s Natural History (Milan, Biblioteca
Ambrosiana, MS E. 24. inf.) was illuminated in Pavia for Giangaleazzo’s chancellor,
Pasquino dei Capelli, by the artist Pietro da Pavia in 1389. See Edith W. Kirsch, Five
Illuminated Manuscripts of Giangaleazzo Visconti (University Park: Penn State University
Press, 1991), 55.
24 Giangaleazzo Visconti commissioned lavish and sometimes carefully personalized
works of art, most notably illuminated manuscripts; see Kirsch, Five Illuminated
Manuscripts; and Kay Sutton, “Giangaleazzo Visconti as Patron: a Prayerbook Illuminated
by Pietro da Pavia,” Apollo 137 (1993): 89–96.
25 On Giovannino dei Grassi, see most recently: Vera Segre Rutz, “L’Historia plantarum
e la bottega di Giovannino e Salomone de Grassi,” in Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum,
69–122, with full bibliographic references. By the time his hand appeared in a manuscript
painted for the Count – Giangaleazzo Visconti’s personal prayerbook, the famous Visconti
Hours (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, MS BR [Banco Rari] 397 and MS LF [Landau-
Finaly] 22; probably begun in about 1388) – Giovannino was already a mature artist in
control of a major commission and working with lesser assistants. See Kirsch, Five
Illuminated Manuscripts, 45; and Cogliato Arano, Medieval Health Handbook, 16–19. On
Salomone dei Grassi, see Milvia Bollati, “Giovannino e Salomone de Grassi,” Arte
Cristiana, 721 (1987): 221–4.
26 Piero Toesca, La pittura e la miniatura nella Lombardia dai più antichi monumenti
alla metà del Quattrocento (Milan: Hoepli, 1912), 294–337.
27 The Paris manuscript includes 103 folios, measuring 325 x 245 mm. The 206 pictures

Tacuinum, the presence of Giovannino dei Grassi can be seen in the naturalistic
depiction of animals and the detailed rendition of landscape environments.
Fantastic, castellated settings, such as the turreted building on fol. 59 recto for
“Ricotta,” are characteristic of Giovannino and Salomone dei Grassi’s work.28
An inscription in German on the flyleaf of the Paris Tacuinum reveals that this
manuscript’s first documented owner was Giangaleazzo’s cousin and sister-in-
law, Verde Visconti. The wife of Leopold of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria and
Count of the Tyrol, Verde was the older sister of Caterina di Bernabò, who became
Giangaleazzo’s second wife in 1380. In this instance, the family relationship was
a troubled one. The Habsburg and Visconti courts had been on hostile terms since
1386 when Verde and Caterina’s father was murdered at the behest of
Giangaleazzo (to eliminate a rival to his exclusive power over Milan). Even so,
the manuscript may have been presented as a gift from Giangaleazzo and Caterina
to Verde on the occasion of a fence-mending visit by Verde’s sons, Ernesto and
Federico of Habsburg, to the Milan court in May 1400.29
Stylistic analysis suggests that the Paris manuscript is the earliest of the group.
All of the large and copiously illustrated manuscripts of the Tacuinum must have
been produced under the supervision of a master with the participation of many
assistants, but even so, the Paris Tacuinum is strikingly less cohesive than the
manuscripts in Vienna and Rome. Art historians have distinguished as many as ten
hands in the Paris cycle.30 The lack of cohesiveness may indicate that the master
was not strongly present to ensure conformity of style among his assistants. The
absence of homogeneity also might be due to the experimental nature of the cycle.
As we will see, the pictures in all of the Lombard Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts
draw upon a wide variety of prototypes. The Paris manuscript, moreover,
incorporates a sequence of costumed figure studies into the imagery associated
with each foodstuff (presumably to appeal to a female reader), and this addition
might have further complicated the process of production (Figs 3.1 and 3.2).

measure 250 x 190 mm. A black-and-white facsimile edition was published but it is rare:
Berti Toesca, Il Tacuinum Sanitatis. Cogliati Arano (Medieval Health Handbook, 27), and
Segre Rutz (Historia Plantarum, 135) date the Paris manuscript earlier than those in Vienna
and Rome.
28 Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 132–4.
29 Another possibility is that the manuscript belonged to her parents, Bernabò Visconti
and Beatrice Regina della Scala of Verona. That said, most likely Verde was the first owner
in light of the fact that her mother was dead by 1384 and her father’s murder occurred in
1386. As for Verde’s status as a potential patron, she married Leopold of Habsburg,
Archduke of Austria and Count of the Tyrol in 1365, and left soon afterwards for Vienna.
François Avril, Dix siècles d’enluminure italienne (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1984),
100–101; D. M. Bueno de Mesquita, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1941), 262–3; F. Moly Mariotti, “Contribution à la
connaissance des ‘Tacuina sanitatis’ Lombards,” Arte Lombarda 104 (1993): 32–9; Segre
Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 131–2; Vera Segre, “Il Tacuinum sanitatis di Verde Visconti e la
miniatura Milanese di fine Trecento,” Arte Cristiana 88 (2000): 375–90.
30 Berti Toesca, Il Tacuinum Sanitatis, 23–8.

3.2 Roxe (rose). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France,

MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 83 recto. Ca. 1380–90. Photo courtesy of the
Bibliothèque nationale de France

Because the manuscripts in Vienna and Rome have pictorial cycles that are more
homogeneous in style, these versions may represent a slightly later stage in the
development of the genre. By the time the Vienna and Rome manuscripts were
being produced, around 1390–1400, a nucleus of pictorial models had been
established, and less innovation and experimentation were required. Strong
stylistic affinities continue to connect the illustrations to Giovannino dei Grassi’s
Two early owners of the Tacuinum sanitatis manuscript in Vienna (Vienna,
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS series nova 2644) left their mark in the
form of coats of arms.31 One of the crests was identified by von Schlosser in 1895
as belonging to the Cerruti family of Verona, but more recently, Barbieri has
corrected this identification and connected the crest with a Paduan family – the
Speroni. Alvarotto Speroni was a public figure in Padua under Francesco Carrara.
After the Visconti occupation of Verona in 1387, he was part of an embassy sent
to Giangaleazzo, and Speroni is documented on this occasion as having received
gifts.32 His son, Pietro Speroni, was a lecturer at the University of Padua and is
recorded as having been invited to Giangaleazzo’s court on several occasions.
Perhaps the manuscript was given to Alvarotto or Pietro Speroni as a gift from
Giangaleazzo. No matter who first received the Vienna Tacuinum, the manuscript
became the property of George of Liechtenstein, Bishop Prince of Trent from
1390 to 1419, whose coat of arms on fol. 1 verso was identified by Kurth in 1911.33
George of Liechtenstein was from a wealthy German aristocratic family with large
territorial holdings. Arriving in Trent from Vienna in 1390, the bishop made
efforts to establish his court as a cultural center with international connections.34
The third member of this group, the Rome manuscript (Rome, Biblioteca
Casanatense, MS 4182), known as the Theatrum sanitatis, is characterized by its
very close relation to the Vienna Tacuinum, as Fogolari noted already in 1905.35

31 The Vienna manuscript contains 108 folios measuring 240 x 250 mm. The leaf
between nos 101 and 102, which included “Coitus,” is lost. The 208 pictures measure 200
x 180 mm. This manuscript is published in facsimile as Tacuinum sanitatis in medicina:
Codex Vindobonensis s.n. 2644 des Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, with commentary
by Franz Unterkircher, preface by Josef Stummvoll, and introduction by Gino Barbieri, 2
vols (Rome: Salerno editrice, 1986).
32 Julius von Schlosser, “Ein veronesisches Bilderbuch und die höfische Kunst des XIV.
Jahrhunderts,” Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerh. Kaiserhauses 16
(1895): 144–230; G. Barbieri, Tacuinum sanitatis in medicina, vol. 2, 14–15.
33 Betty Kurth, “Ein Freskenzyklus im Adlerturm zu Trient,” Jahrbuch des
Kunsthistorischen Institutes der k. k. Zentralkommission für Denkmalpflege, 5 (1911):
9–104. The Bishop of Trent is generally thought to have acquired the Vienna Tacuinum by
1407 at the latest, the date of completion of the “Torre dell’Aquila” murals. The manuscript
is listed in the 1410 inventory of his goods. Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 138.
34 Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 138–9.
35 The Rome manuscript contains 108 folios measuring 328 x 220 mm, with 208
pictures measuring 190 x 173 mm. For a facsimile edition see: Theatrum sanitatis. Codice
4182 della R. Biblioteca Casanatense, ed. J. M. López Piñero and F. Jerez Moliner, 2 vols
(Barcelona: Moleiro, 1999). Gino Fogolari, “Il ciclo dei mesi nella Torre dell’Aquila a

The sequence of chapters in the two manuscripts is almost identical, and many of
the paintings in the Rome Theatrum sanitatis seem to be simplified versions of
those in the Vienna manuscript. Typically, in the Rome version, the number of
figures is reduced and more attention is given to the depiction of a garden or field
of plants. Thus, for example, for “Wheat” (fol. 42 verso), the field of grain is the
subject. In the Rome manuscript, the close relationship is revealed also by the
presence in several illuminations of preliminary silver-point outline drawings for
figures found fully finished in the Vienna scenes but ultimately left uncolored in
the Rome version.36
Yet because the manuscript in Rome is the most homogeneous and carefully
composed of the three, with illuminations that are less complex but more fully
finished than the other two, it is unlikely to be a simplified copy of the Vienna
manuscript. Instead, the similarities and divergences between the Vienna and
Rome manuscripts suggest that they probably derive from a common model, now
lost. Although nothing is known of the commissioning or early ownership of the
Rome Theatrum sanitatis, the artistic style of many of the illuminations closely
corresponds to the Paris Tacuinum and to another botanical manuscript attributed
to Giovannino dei Grassi’s workshop – the Historia plantarum (Rome, Biblioteca
Casanatense, MS 459). Based on this internal evidence, the Rome Theatrum
sanitatis is thought to have been produced by this same shop in the late 1390s, a
little later than the Vienna Tacuinum manuscript.37
Given the ties to Visconti ownership, Visconti court circles, and the artists
employed by Giangaleazzo, these three, deluxe editions of the Tacuinum sanitatis
may well register the patronage of the Count and perhaps also that of his second
wife, Caterina. A hypothetical reconstruction of the relationships among these
manuscripts would run like this: Giangaleazzo had a lavish Tacuinum sanitatis
created in the first place for his own personal enjoyment and that of his wife, but
this version has not survived. Soon afterwards, he commissioned the Paris and
Vienna manuscripts as beautiful gifts to be bestowed on family and friends on
highly politicized occasions. As the manuscripts came to be admired at courts in
northern Italy and in Vienna where Verde Visconti resided, other rich nobles
desired their own copies. Finally, the manuscript now in Liège that was apparently
produced in the Veneto ca. 1400 testifies to the enduring appeal of the Tacuinum
to this sort of elite audience. Although its earliest owners are unknown, Carmélia
Opsomer was able to trace its ownership through generations of European
monarchs, as far back as Bianca Maria Sforza (1472–1510), sister of
Giangaleazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan from 1476 to 1494.38

Trento e la pittura di costume veronese del principio del quattrocento,” Tridentum 8 (1905):
173–86, at 177.
36 See fols 36 verso and 82 verso. Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 143, n. 76.
37 See Toesca, “La pittura,” 339ff., on links with the Historia plantarum, and Cogliato
Arano, Medieval Health Handbook, 37–43. Most recently, Segre Rutz has carried out a
detailed study of the Historia plantarum in connection with the new facsimile edition.
38 The Liège manuscript contains 86 folios measuring 245 x 180 mm; one gathering is

In addition to influencing illuminators well beyond the confines of the dei

Grassi workshop, the imagery developed for the Tacuinum sanitatis influenced
other pictorial media. The Museo del Castelvecchio in Verona houses three,
detached fresco fragments from the Palazzo del Tribunale dated to around 1400
that appear to be copies of pages from no longer extant illustrated Tacuinum
manuscripts. These fragments feature “Dill,” “Starch,” and “Aged Wine.”39
Because the exact combination of text and image on each fragment cannot be
found in any of the surviving Tacuinum manuscripts, the frescoes strongly suggest
that more manuscript versions originally existed. For instance, the fragment
entitled “Dill” includes the medical advice found in the Paris manuscript, but
instead of depicting figures in a herb garden, a completely different image is
featured that shows a couple intent upon hurting one another.40
The impact of the Tacuinum sanitatis imagery also can be admired on a much
grander scale in the frescoed “Cycle of the Months” that was executed for Bishop
George of Liechtenstein in his “Torre dell’ Aquila” in Trent around 1400–1407.41
The cycle unfolds continuously around the four walls of the great hall to display
an idyllic landscape that changes from season to season. The style of the frescoes
is Bohemian, and indeed, George of Liechtenstein brought a Bohemian painter
named “Wenceslas” with him when he came to establish his court in Trent.
Because of their grand scale, the frescoes allowed for particularly detailed
landscapes, depicted as if they were vistas outside the castle at the edge of the
Because the bishop owned the Vienna Tacuinum, it is easy to suppose that this
manuscript’s rich font of imagery, including many pictures of laborers working the
fields and of ladies tending to their gardens, furnished material for the frescoes
(Fig. 3.3). However, several vignettes in the Trent frescoes that feature aristocratic
subjects seem to derive instead from the Paris manuscript. One example is the
scene in the month of January of noble men and women throwing snowballs. The

lost. The pictures measure 178 x 138 mm. Carmélia Opsomer, L’art de vivre en santé.
Images et recettes du moyen âge. Le Tacuinum sanitatis (manuscrit 1041) de la
Bibliothèque de l’Université de Liège (Liège: Editions du Perron, 1991). Also, see:
Opsomer, “Le scribe, l’enlumineur et le commanditaire: à propos des Tacuina sanitatis
illustrés,” in La Collaboration dans la production de l’écrit médiéval, ed. Herrad Spilling
(Paris: Ecole des Chartes, 2003), 184–92. Also Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 163, n. 21.
Bianca’s mother was Bona of Savoy, and a connection to the House of Savoy includes the
ship bearing the Savoy family insignia on fol. 76 verso, “Sea Water.”
39 These frescoes were first discussed and also connected to the Tacuinum pages by
Fogolari, “Torre dell’Aquila,” 173–86, at 177–8. See: Donata Samadelli, in Gli Scaligeri
1277–1387, ed. G. M. Varanni (Verona: Mondadori, 1988), 388–90.
40 Anetum (Dill) – Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol.
40 verso.
41 Fogolari, “Torre dell’ Aquila,” esp. 175–81; E. Castelnuovo, I mesi di Trento. Gli
affreschi di Torre Aquila e il gotico internazionale (Trent: Temi, 1986); G. Sebesta, Il
lavoro dell’uomo nel ciclo dei mesi di Torre Aquila (Trent: Edizioni P.A.T., Castello del
Buonconsiglio, 1996).

3.3 Autumpnus (autumn). Tacuinum sanitatis. Vienna, Österreichische

Nationalbibliothek, MS series nova 2644, fol. 54 verso. Ca. 1390–1400.
Photo courtesy of the Bildarchiv d. ÖNB, Wien

only surviving Tacuinum picture that corresponds appears for “Snow and Ice” (fol.
96 verso) in the Paris version where an elegant lady tosses snowballs at a
gentleman. The courtly activities featured for the months of May and June in the
frescoes also recall pictures in the Paris manuscript.42 One explanation is that
George of Liechtenstein had access to Verde Visconti’s Tacuinum sanitatis (the
Paris manuscript) at some point when he associated with the Archduchess of
Austria and Countess of the Tyrol. Another possibility is that both the later
Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts and the fresco cycles were based on a model book
or a portfolio of drawings that circulated among artists independently of the
deluxe manuscripts.43

Pictorial Precedents and the Creation of a New Genre

Producing a fully illustrated Tacuinum sanitatis would have provided Giovannino

dei Grassi with a very real challenge since the treatise apparently had never been
illustrated before. Late-medieval painters typically worked from pre-existing
repertoires of imagery rather than inventing anew in response to the specific
content of a written text. Paintings accompanied the textual content and enhanced
the experience of leafing through the manuscript, but direct and literal illustration
of the words was rarely expected in what constituted a luxurious art-book.
However, for the Tacuinum sanitatis commission, Giovannino dei Grassi probably
worked together with a learned advisor who drew his attention to the subject of
each chapter, and perhaps also explained details in the text. Faced with the task of
creating a sequence of about 200 images, the artists drew upon pre-existing
models from a range of sources. The Tacuinum paintings were then created by
adapting the models to suit the needs of the treatise and the taste of the patron.
When appropriate precedents were lacking, new scenes were drawn. Ideally the
long cycles generated for each Tacuinum would be held together aesthetically by
ensuring a consistency of style for fundamental compositional elements.44
The result was the creation of a new pictorial genre which became popular
among the wealthy of northern Italy and the Tyrol, and also influenced the painted

42 Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 141.

43 On modelbooks, see J. von Schlosser, “Zur Kenntniss der künstlerischen
Überlieferung im Späten Mittelalter,” Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des
Alterhöchsten Kaiserhauses 23 (1902): 279–86, 318–26; F. Ames-Lewis, “Modelbook
Drawings and the Florentine Quattrocento Artist,” Art History 10 (1987): 1–11. For
Giovannino dei Grassi’s sketchbook in facsimile see: Taccuino di disegni: Codice della
Biblioteca Civica di Bergamo (Bergamo: Banco Piccolo Credito Bergamasco, 1961).
44 Annette Dixon interprets the Lombard sketchbook in the Pierpont Morgan Library,
New York (MS Acc. No. II, 2–25), as a workbook in the development of the Tacuinum
pictorial cycles. She sees the Morgan drawings as part of the process of collecting imagery
for the Visconti treatises: “The Morgan Model Drawings and the Genesis of the ‘Tacuinum
Sanitatis’ Illustrations,” Arte Lombarda 92–3 (1990): 9–20.

decoration of secular palaces. If one looks at the manuscripts from a late-medieval

perspective of reading words and pictures both separately and together, the
illuminations form pictorial narratives of people working or enjoying leisure in
gardens, fields, and other spaces associated with the feudal estate. It is important
to examine the sources of the imagery that generated these narratives, for they
bear not only on the artists’ working methods but also on the needs served by such
expensive commissions.
This investigation will be pursued from two angles. Initially, with a view to
workshop practices, the emphasis will be on the different genres of imagery that
were adapted to create the illuminated Tacuinum as well as on the subjects that had
to be drawn afresh because precedents were lacking. The discussion then will
move to the question of the audience and the choice of subjects and images; as we
will see, these choices reveal some of the more subtle, underlying reasons these
manuscripts appealed to wealthy Italian nobles.

The Herbal as a Source of Prototypes

When Giovannino dei Grassi was searching for models, it would have been
natural for him to gravitate towards painted books of a similar genre. Although the
Tacuinum sanitatis was not an herbal per se, its coverage of fruit, vegetables,
culinary herbs, flowers, and grains would have led an artist to consider the rich
tradition of the illustrated herbal. He could have found animal images there
as well, since some herbals described the full range of natural substances (animal,
vegetable, and mineral) that the ancient authority Dioscorides had called materia
medica. Even so, Giovannino’s use of the herbal tradition was not a matter of
straightforward copying of plants and animals into the Tacuinum.
One major herbal from the mid-fourteenth century was very likely available to
Giovannino from the Count’s library; a second must have served as the basis for
an enormous herbal produced in his workshop ca. 1390. The 1426 inventory of the
Visconti library recorded “a large manuscript … compiled by Manfredus,” which
has been identified as the Manfredus Herbal (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de
France, MS lat. 6823).45 This important example of the type of herbal known as
the Tractatus de herbis probably was written and richly illustrated in Naples
around 1330–40 by one Manfredus de Monte Imperiale – a medical scholar in the
tradition of the School of Salerno.46 Given the inventory date, the odds are good
that the Visconti owned this herbal during Giovannino’s lifetime.

45 Pellegrin, La Bibliothèque des Visconti, Inventory 1426, no. 929, 278: “Liber unus in
papiro magne forme et magni voluminis de naturis auri argenti et herbarum historiatus et
compilatus per Manfredum de Monte Imperiali in actis [sic] spiciarie doctrine … .”
46 Minta Collins, Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Traditions (London: British
Library, 2000), 268–73; Felix Andreas Baumann, Das Erbario Carrarese und die
Bildtradition des Tractatus de Herbis (Berne: Berteli Verlag, 1974), 99–125.

As important, Giovannino dei Grassi’s workshop was responsible for

producing the work known as the Historia plantarum in the same years in which
the shop was putting together the Vienna and Rome Tacuinum manuscripts. This
compendious volume is decorated with about 650 illustrations of plants and
animals.47 In the mid-1390s, Giangaleazzo presented the manuscript as a
ceremonial gift to the German Emperor and King of Bohemia, Wenceslas IV. A
frontispiece showing the Emperor on a throne (painted by a separate Milanese
illuminator) was added to mark the occasion, and the volume was bound in green
velvet and enclosed in a wooden box embossed with the eagle of the German
emperors. Once again, a luxury manuscript played a role in Giangaleazzo’s
political maneuvers; in this instance, Giangaleazzo expected to receive from
Wenceslas the promotion from Count to Duke of Milan, a title he had purchased
for 10,000 florins.48
The plants illustrated in the Tacuinum have the same general appearance as
those in the Manfredus Herbal and the Historia plantarum. The similarity
between the Historia plantarum and the Paris and Rome Tacuinum manuscripts is
particularly clear for images of the cherry and pine trees, squash, melons,
marjoram, and turnips. In all three manuscripts, the plant is shown as a flattened
silhouette.49 Little attention is paid to the correct proportional and spatial
relationships among the parts, and leaves are not precisely shaped or
naturalistically colored. For instance, in the illustration for “Pine Cones” in the
Paris manuscript (fol. 14 recto), larger-than-life pine needles and cones are grafted
onto a diminutive tree. It is interesting to note that the contemporary Carrara
Herbal (London, British Library, Egerton MS 2020, fol. 46 recto), produced in the
Veneto around 1390–1404, also employs this same formula for showing the
overall shape of the tree and its most significant parts even though this is a work
in which the illustrations routinely are rendered with an extraordinary degree of
naturalism quite unlike any other herbal of the period.50
Giovannino dei Grassi’s decision to show plants in the midst of landscapes in
the Tacuinum paintings, however, meant that he had to depart from the herbal
tradition in significant ways. The configuration of the botanical subjects on the
pages of the Historia plantarum also produced by Giovannino’s workshop was
dependent on the ancient convention of the illustrated herbal: each plant was

47 Toesca was the first to recognize that animal studies in Giovannino’s Bergamo
Sketchbook served as prototypes for the Historia plantarum, situating the production of the
herbal in the dei Grassi workshop. Toesca, La pittura, 294–337.
48 The Historia plantarum contains 295 folios, each measuring 435 x 295 mm. Segre
Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 49–58.
49 Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 43, 48, 158, suggests that a herbal similar in
derivation to Masson 116 (Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Beaux Arts, MS Masson 116)
provided the dei Grassi workshop with the models for the plants in the Historia plantarum
and the Tacuinum versions.
50 The so-called Carrara Herbal was made for Francesco Carrara the Younger, the last
Lord of Padua, in the years 1390 to 1404. Baumann, Erbario Carrarese, 11–14.

represented by a single archetypal specimen, extracted from the earth, either with
a cut stem or with roots included. In the Tacuinum paintings, by contrast, the
individual herbal “portrait” was repeated many times; the massed plants grow out
of the soil to create a garden or field, and gardeners pluck leaves or fruit and fill
baskets to overflowing. In the Paris and Vienna manuscripts, and on some pages of
the Rome Theatrum sanitatis, human figures compete with the plants for attention.
Although it would have been easy to repeat the illustrated herbal format for the
botanical chapters of the Tacuinum, the Lombard manuscripts instead feature a
distinctive repertoire of gardening and agricultural imagery. The inspiration to
locate plants in landscapes and to incorporate human figures, thereby creating
genre scenes, could have come from several sources. First of all, the emphasis in
Ibn’s text on the best ways and times to cultivate and harvest the plants
may have occasioned the imagery of vegetables and herbs growing or being
picked. Second, the existence of genre scenes alongside isolated plant portraits in
the Tractatis de herbis manuscripts perhaps influenced the Tacuinum imagery.
One of the earliest illustrated herbals of the Tractatis de herbis type was
produced in Salerno or Naples around 1280–1315 (London, British Library,
Egerton MS 747), and this manuscript includes a few simply drawn scenes with
human figures.51 The previously mentioned Manfredus Herbal, most likely owned
by the Visconti in the late fourteenth century, followed in the tradition of Egerton
747, but in this case the pictures are more naturalistic. Distantly related to these
two earlier herbals, the Historia plantarum likewise featured a few genre scenes
that show humans engaged in rustic work within landscape settings in a manner
strikingly similar to those being created simultaneously for Ibn’s treatise.
Thus the idea of illustrating the Tacuinum largely with figural scenes of work and
play on the feudal estate may have resulted in part from a process of cross-
fertilization involving the Tractatis de herbis manuscripts.

The “Labors of the Months” and the Courtly Love Tradition

As a third possibility, one must also consider the impact of other genre scenes that
acted as models for the Tacuinum cycle, particularly the “labors of the months”
and pictures from courtly love stories. It may be that the inclusion of powerful and
familiar prototypes spurred on the belief that the cycle as a whole should feature
human figures engaged in activities associated with each subject.

51 Otto Pächt drew attention to the genre scenes in his important article, “Early Italian
Nature Studies and the Early Calendar Landscape,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld
Institutes 13 (1950): 13–47, at 28. See the recently published facsimile A Medieval Herbal:
A Facsimile of British Library Egerton MS 747, intro. Minta Collins, list of plants by
Sandra Raphael (London: British Library, 2003); Collins, Medieval Herbals, 239–83; and
the article by Jean A. Givens in this volume: “Reading and Writing the Illustrated Tractatus
de herbis, 1280–1526,” Chapter 5.

Among the non-naturals of Galen discussed by Ibn were aspects of

climate and weather, signified by the four seasons. Giovannino dei Grassi found
models for chapters devoted to spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the
traditional imagery of the “labors of the months.” The regular cycles of the months
and seasons that made up the calendar year were specially marked in many ways
during the Middle Ages, including the representation of human activities
particular to each time of year. The iconography of these “labors” was familiar,
appearing in relief carvings on churches, as on the twelfth-century porch of San
Zeno in Verona, and decorating the calendar pages of illuminated Books of
Apparently, Giovannino dei Grassi and his patron found these scenes of rustic
life so sympathetic to the spirit of the treatise that the “labors” were used for
subjects other than the seasons. For “Acorns” in the Vienna Tacuinum (fol. 15
recto), the labor for October – fattening wild boars on acorns – supplied the basic
imagery. Wine-making, the traditional labor for September, furnished the Vienna
scenes for “Autumn” (fol. 54 verso), and for “Grapes” (fol. 5 recto), where a
woman picks purple grapes (even though the text recommends white ones) (Fig.
3.3). Whereas the contemporary Carrara Herbal of around 1390–1404 features a
double-page portrait of a grape plant, the vines in the Tacuinum pictures for
“Autumn” and “Grapes” are shown in a generalized manner, and the emphasis is
placed instead on the human activity of the grape harvest (Fig. 3.4).
Similarly, for the season of “Winter” in the Vienna manuscript (fol. 55 recto),
the scene is drawn from the labors associated with January and February (Fig.
3.5). An elderly man, shown very heavily dressed, shelters by a warm fire in a
palace interior. Where the “Snow and Ice” painting in the Rome Theatrum
sanitatis (fol. 90 verso) depicts the impact of severe cold on a northern landscape
without human figures, “Winter” in both the Rome and the Vienna manuscripts
(both fol. 55 recto)–under the influence of models from the “labors of the
months”–focuses instead on the human response to cold weather. An analogous
approach can be found in the famous calendar scenes of the Très Riches Heures
(today in the Musée de Condé at Chantilly), a manuscript made around 1415 for
a similarly wealthy bibliophile, Jean de Berry. In “January” of the Très Riches
Heures, the patron is shown feasting at a banquet, seated close to a fire for
warmth, and on the calendar page for “February,” laborers find the best shelter
available to them in a simple hut by a fire.53 In the Vienna Tacuinum, however, the
text for “Winter” seems to have provided further direction by emphasizing the
danger of cold winter weather particularly for those suffering from phlegm, and

52 The classic study is James Carson Webster, The Labors of the Months in Antique and
Medieval Art (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1938), 59.
53 “January,” fol. 2 recto; “February,” fol. 2 verso. For a facsimile edition see: The Très
Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry (Musée Condé, Chantilly), ed. and intro. Jean
Longnon and Raymond Cazelles, preface by Millard Meiss (New York: George Braziller,
1969), no page numbers.

3.4 La vigna (grape vine). Carrara Herbal. London, British Library, Egerton
MS 2020, fol. 28 recto. Ca. 1390–1404. Photo by permission of the British

3.5 Hyemps (winter). Tacuinum sanitatis. Vienna, Österreichische

Nationalbibliothek, MS series nova 2644, fol. 55 recto. Ca. 1390–1400.
Photo courtesy of the Bildarchiv d. ÖNB, Wien

recommending a “fire and heavy clothing” as the antidote.54 In Galenic medicine,

phlegm was believed to predominate in winter, and the elderly were considered
especially at risk.55 In addition, the season of winter had been associated since
antiquity with old age or the winter time of life.56 The artist’s response is an image
for “Winter” that focuses on the warmly dressed old man and the fire.
Courtly love literature provided another highly appealing source of imagery
featuring noble men and women at work and play, often with erotic, and
sometimes comic, overtones. Indeed, the adoption of iconography from knightly
romances in the Tacuinum manuscripts provides evidence of the enthusiasm for
French chivalric culture at the Visconti court.57 In the most widely read romantic
poem of the late Middle Ages, the Roman de la Rose, the garden of love is
described as full of fruit and nut trees and perfumed with the scent of spices.58 In
all three Tacuinum manuscripts, the season of “Spring” is accompanied by a
picture of a “garden of love” full of rose bushes. In the Vienna Tacuinum
illustration for spring (fol. 55 verso), courtly ladies and gentlemen pick roses in
the garden, and bird song fills the air. The painting for “Rose” in the Paris
manuscript (fol. 83 recto) provides more comic, sexual imagery inspired by
popular romance literature (Fig. 3.2). In this instance, a fashionable lady offers
roses from her lap to a gentleman. This is an invitation since the rose was
symbolic of marriage but also of sexual availability. Evidently, the man has been
ensnared: he has a leather halter around his neck of the kind used to rein in oxen.
The Arabic text frequently addresses human sexuality, and in illustrating these
sections the artists also sometimes drew on the imagery of courtly love. For
instance, asparagus is described in the Tacuinum as “hot and moist in the first
degree,” and it is said to have “the power of stimulating and improving amorous
union” (as well as the capacity to alleviate constipation).59 An eastern root,

54 “Winter [Hyemps]: Cold in the third degree, humid in the second; … It is harmful to
phlegmatic diseases and increases phlegm; … Neutralization of the dangers – With fire and
heavy clothing. It is good for warm and dry temperaments, for the young, in Southern
regions and in those close to the sea” (fol. 55 recto).
55 The humor phlegm was regarded as cold and damp, and thus an excess could be
countered by a warm and dry room.
56 See Elizabeth Sears, The Ages of Man: Medieval Interpretations of the Life Cycle
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), ch. 1: “The Seasons of Life,” 9–37 for
classical and medieval traditions of associating the human life cycle with four-fold systems
that include the seasons.
57 The strong French influence seen in many Visconti manuscripts was certainly
encouraged by Giangaleazzo’s first wife, Isabelle (daughter of King John of France) and by
her entourage at court. Their daughter, Valentina, married Louis d’Orleans and thus helped
to continue strong cultural links between Milan and the French courts. See also Segre Rutz,
Historia Plantarum, 146–8; and Kay Sutton, “Milanese Luxury Books: the patronage of
Bernabò Visconti,” Apollo, 134 (1991): 322–6.
58 Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose, trans. H. W.
Robbins, ed. and intro. C. W. Dunn (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1962), 26–9 (lines
59 “Increases sexual performance and alleviates constipation,” Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m, 170.

galenga, similarly “enhances sexual desire.”60 The Visconti artists evidently strove
to match the earthy spirit of the health advice with amorous imagery from the
Western romantic tradition. The subject of “Coitus” gave rise in the Paris and
Rome manuscripts to unforgettable word-picture ensembles (Fig. 3.6).61 In the
Paris version, fol. 100 verso, the text unromantically explains that “coitus … is the
union of two for the purpose of introducing the sperm”; and that the “optimum: …
[is] that which lasts until the sperm has been completely emitted.”62 Above these
words, the Italian artist, drawing on models from knightly romances, painted a
nude couple embracing in a canopied bed.63 The love bed seems to expand
magically to encompass an entire room and even a miniature castle, perhaps the
“castle of love” featured in allegorical literature.64 By evoking the poetic tradition
of imagining a love union as a whole world, the practical medical subject of coitus
is effectively transformed within the Western realm of poetic and pictorial thought.

Images of a Feudal Estate, Real and Ideal

Several of the Tacuinum pictures singled out here illustrate how models had to be
adapted to the text and the patron’s wishes. Prototypes were reworked to accord
with the cycle as a whole. Sometimes they were rendered more specific to fit
closely with details in the text, and often the pleasure of the patron was the most
important motivation. To generate the very lengthy painted cycles in the Tacuinum
manuscripts, models may have been drawn from many other sources. Illustrated
Bibles and biblical commentaries may have supplied some of the prototypes for
images of peasants working the fields, the butchering of animals, cooking foods
and tailoring.65 Medieval treatises on the hunt include depictions of game.66 In

60 “Usefulness: … for sciatica and for sexual potency,” Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m, 166.
61 Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense, MS 4182, fol. 101 verso. The page for this subject
has been torn out of the Vienna manuscript.
62 Interestingly, in the Arabic text (as translated by Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m, 214–15),
though not the later Paris version, mention is made of the ideal partner involved: “Nature:
the union of a couple to inject sperm; Optimum: when the receiving partner is the one of
63 Similar examples from chivalric literature that show a nude couple in a canopied bed
include images from: Le Roman de la rose (London, British Library, Egerton MS 881, fol.
126 recto), a French manuscript dated to the fourteenth century; and “Lancelot and
Guinevere” in Le Chevalier de la charrette (London, British Library, Additional MS 10293,
fol. 312 verso), also French and dated to ca. 1320. For illustrations see: Pamela Porter,
Courtly Love in Medieval Manuscripts (London: British Library, 2003), 32, 55.
64 See, for example, the ivories picturing the Castle of Love discussed in Images in
Ivory, ed. Peter Barnet (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 72–4, and cat. 57.
65 Nicolas de Lyra’s biblical commentary was copiously illustrated during the Trecento,
and one edition was produced for Giangaleazzo (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France,
MS lat. 364). Régine Pernoud and J. Vigne, La plume et le parchemin (Paris: Denoël,
1983); Avril, Dix siècles, 106–7; Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 148.
66 French hunting treatises may have been consulted for the illustrated Tacuinum

3.6 Coytus (coitus). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de

France, MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 100 verso. Ca. 1380–90. Photo
courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

other instances, the artists may have drawn on a measure of firsthand knowledge,
for example, the chapter of the Tacuinum concerning perfumes, sugar, and other
dry goods. The accompanying pictures feature the specialized shops where these
ingredients could be purchased and vendors wearing exotic costumes – the sort of
details known to inhabitants of trade centers such as Milan.
Vegetables and fruits that were either new arrivals to northern Italian gardens
or for which no models existed in the herbal repertoire also may have been drawn
from firsthand knowledge. The images of melon and cucumbers, for example,
have a botanical realism that reflects careful scrutiny.67 And although it had been
thought that eggplant was not grown in Italy until after the discovery of America,
melanzane is precisely rendered before that date in the Rome Tacuinum (fol. 24
recto) and also in the so-called Roccabonella Herbal produced in the Veneto
around 1420 (Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI.59, coll. 2548,
fol. 386 recto).68 Ibn discussed eggplant in the Taqwı-m, and the vegetable
seems to have been imported to Italy from the Middle East by way of Andalusian
Spain.69 The artists of the Tacuinum, lacking models from the herbal tradition for
plants outside the Western materia medica, consequently were inspired to draw
the remarkable structural features of these kitchen vegetables.
Thus a cycle of pictures was developed for the Tacuinum that placed emphasis
on the cultivation and harvesting of foodstuffs and other aspects of the work and
leisure connected to the feudal estate and its surroundings. The preoccupation in
the pictures with the relationship between human subjects and the foods they need
for nourishment may be accounted for in part by the Tacuinum text, with its stress
on the impact of the Galenic non-naturals on the human body and psyche. In
addition, the decision to strongly feature the “labors of the months” seems to have
led to the adoption of a “genre scene” format for most of the paintings. The
Tacuinum scenes of these rustic labors are an early example of a subject that was

manuscripts. See Le Livre du Roy Modus, Henri de Ferrières, 1354–74 (for example Paris,
Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 12399, dated 1379). Segre Rutz, Historia
Plantarum, 149; G. Tilander, Les Livres du Roy Modus et de la Royne Ratio, 2 vols (Paris:
Société des anciens textes français, 1932).
67 For instance, cucumeres (cucumbers), Paris, fol. 38 verso; melones dulces (sweet
melons), Vienna, fol. 21 recto; and cucurbite (squash), Vienna, fol. 22 verso. Physician
Peter of Abano said that Padua was noted for its fine melons. Nancy G. Siraisi, Arts and
Sciences at Padua: The Studium of Padua before 1350 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of
Mediaeval Studies, 1973), 129.
68 On the exquisitely painted manuscript known as the Roccabonella Herbal or,
formerly, as the Rinio Herbal, see F. Paganelli and E. M. Cappelletti, “Il codice erbario
Roccabonella (sec. XV) e suo contributo alla storia della Farmacia,” Atti e memorie,
Accademia italiana di storia della farmacia 13 (1996): 111–16. On eggplant and the other
botanical images in the Roccabonella Herbal, see Ettore De Toni, “Il Libro dei semplici di
Benedetto Rinio,” Memorie della Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze Nuovi Lincei, Rome
1919–25, vol. 5: 171–278; vol. 7: 275–398; vol. 8: 123–264, at vol. 8, 127. In the Paris
Tacuinum (fol. 25 verso), however, eggplants are shown as if they were fruit growing on
69 De Toni, “Il Libro,” vol. 8, 127.

popular among the elite, as deluxe Books of Hours, particularly the Très Riches
Heures, demonstrate. Late-medieval patrons and landowners took pleasure and
perhaps comfort from these painted visions of a utopian rural world in which men
and women of each class were happily busy at activities appropriate to their

The Pleasures of the Tacuinum Manuscripts

The different genres that were recontextualized for the illustrated Tacuinum give
clues to the pleasures these manuscripts provided their readers. It is clear that the
stories told by the pictures do not mesh in a straightforward way with the purpose
of Ibn’s original treatise: achieving health through diet and regimen.
Instead, the use of evocative prototypes and their transformation into genre scenes
suggest quite a different emphasis in the Visconti manuscripts. The subjects and
themes that surface there include: the pleasures of courtly love, costumes and
fashion, mild eroticism and comedy, the hunt, gardening and agriculture,
managing the estate, shopping for food and cooking, new foods and exotic
ingredients from the East, and everyday life in a familiar but idealized
Each of the Tacuinum manuscripts emphasized some subjects particularly
strongly, a valuable indication that each was individually tailored for a specific
audience. Verde Visconti’s Tacuinum in Paris features courtly love themes and
fashionable dress (Figs 3.1, 3.2 and 3.6). Many of the models used in this
manuscript were taken from chivalric romances. Some of the artists who worked
on the illuminations in the Paris Tacuinum also seem to have been responsible for
two famous, chivalric books produced for the Visconti – Guiron le Courtois
(Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. fr. 5243) and Lancelot du
Lac (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 343).70 In contrast, the Vienna
manuscript, perhaps presented to one of the Speroni family in a political gesture
by Giangaleazzo, places more emphasis on the operations of a rural estate in a way
a wealthy male reader may have found enjoyable (Fig. 3.3). Finally, the Rome
Theatrum sanitatis provides less complex representations of plants growing in
gardens and fields, often without human activities to detract from them. The
identity of the original patron remains a mystery, but he seems to have been a
scholarly gentleman more concerned with words than the picture-book appearance
of the treatise might otherwise suggest.
In the Rome manuscript, additions and corrections have been made to the text
by an early reader, perhaps the original patron. For example, on fol. 14 recto for
the nut “Jujube,” two lines of additional notes in Latin refer to Avicenna’s

70 Berti Toesca, Il Tacuinum Sanitatis, 21; Avril, Dix siècles, 98; Sutton, “Milanese
Luxury Books,” 325; and Segre Rutz, Historia Plantarum, 146–8.

comments on jujube in his encyclopedic Canon medicinae. These annotations go

beyond both the Tacuinum, and Ibn’s original tables, which do not cite
Avicenna.71 The illuminations in the Rome manuscript also manifest more effort
to communicate the botanical and medical import of the text.72 For instance, the
representations of “Fennel” (fol. 41 verso) and “Anise” (fol. 41 recto) illustrate the
chief visible difference between these two species of the Umbelliferae family: the
shape of their leaves. Whereas the leaves of fennel are dissected into numerous,
linear filiform leaflets, anise has coarsely toothed leaflets. Furthermore, the
gentleman in the “Anise” picture draws attention to the fact that the seeds are the
part of the plant with which the text is concerned.
Although each of the three Lombard manuscripts registers separate concerns,
taken together, they reflect the interests of the original patron, Giangaleazzo
Visconti. Of these, the emphasis on agriculture and the management of the feudal
estate, the idealization of the landscape and its inhabitants and the interest in erotic
themes are particularly telling.73
The pronounced preoccupation with agriculture in the Tacuinum manuscripts
ultimately stems from Ibn’s large section on grains and foods made from
them. From the fourteenth century on, innovations in agriculture and gardening
reached the West from the Middle East and Andalusian Spain, one facet of the
dissemination of Arabic science and technology.74 However, the Latin text used for
the Visconti Tacuinum manuscripts does not follow Ibn’s list of grains and
related foodstuffs; instead, it features an impressive list of grains of importance in
Italy: barley, millet, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, spelt, and wheat. Giovannino’s
workshop responded by adapting images from the “labors” for the summer
months and pictures from biblical commentaries to create a number of genre
scenes showing male and female workers, dressed in very simple and often scanty
clothes, threshing and bundling up grain.
These images, which record farming practices in northern Italy at the time,
provide important documentation of innovations in agriculture. For example, the
earliest reliable accounts of the cultivation of rice in the region date from the mid
to the late fifteenth century. Rice is an Asian plant and its cultivation was diffused

71 Elkhadem, Le Taqwı-m, 156–7.

72 Pirani, Herbarium, 4th page.
73 Another theme that should be investigated is the incorporation of subjects involving
hunting and game that were not included in the earlier Latin Tacuinum treatises. Several of
the illuminations, likewise, feature scenes of courtly men and women hunting, or the
butchering of wild game, and some include knightly men with falcons perched on their
wrists. This new emphasis can be directly related to Giangaleazzo’s passion for hunting.
See Carlo Magenta, I Visconti e gli Sforza nel Castello di Pavia, e loro attinenze con la
Certosa e la storia cittadina, 2 vols (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1883), vol. 1, part 1, 119 ff.
74 Plants introduced from Asia and the Middle East into Europe via Andalusia include
rice, roses, eggplant, dates, and sugar beet. See Luigi Messedaglia, “Le piante alimentari
del Tacuinum sanitatis, manoscritto miniato della Bib. Naz. di Parigi. Contributo alla storia
dell’agricoltura e dell’alimentazione,” Atti del Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed
Arti (Venice: Arlo Ferrari, 1937), vol. 96, no. 2 (1936–7), 571–681.

by the Arabs into Egypt, and into East and West Africa during the Middle Ages.
By the 1320s rice was imported by Italian pharmacists who used it as a medicinal
ingredient, and both the Rome and Vienna manuscripts show the purchase of rice
in a shop (both fols 46 recto). Significantly, however, the Paris Tacuinum depicts
a rice field with some accuracy (fol. 48 recto) suggesting that rice was being
grown near Milan and Verona as early as 1390 (Fig. 3.7).75
The effort taken to create scenes of labourers in fields with specific grains
surely reflects the economic importance to the Visconti duchy of its agricultural
lands. The value of agricultural land was a concern Giangaleazzo, of course,
shared with other landowning aristocrats of the day. It is, however, interesting to
see that preoccupation with land reflected in illuminated manuscripts
commissioned for royalty and other wealthy noblemen of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. For instance, a distant comparison can be drawn between the
Tacuinum manuscripts and the Luttrell Psalter (London, British Library,
Additional MS 42130), a work that was illuminated in England in the mid-
fourteenth century. The Psalter’s decorated margins feature detailed scenes of
farm work which have been connected to the patron, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, and to
his interest in his large manorial estate.76
Giangaleazzo Visconti’s preoccupations as political and military ruler of the
lands of Lombardy and beyond are reflected not only in the emphasis on
agriculture in the Tacuinum cycles, but also in the idealized way the feudal domain
is depicted in the illuminations more generally. Once again, this marked tendency
towards idealization of the landscape and its inhabitants finds parallels in other
late-medieval works of art. Half a century before the Visconti Tacuinum,
Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s allegorical wall paintings, Good Government in the City
and the Country (Siena, Palazzo Pubblico, ca. 1338–9), projected a similarly
strong sense of well-being in scenes of a justly governed town and the neighboring
countryside.77 Later on, the Très Riches Heures made for Jean de Berry in the early
fifteenth century also includes depictions of the harmonious world of a well-
managed feudal estate where men and women of all ages do the tasks appropriate
to their stations of life, following the predictable rhythm of the seasons. The
patrons and viewers of these works would have understood the basic underlying
theme. When everyone, from ruler and estate manager to plowman, did their work
well, the fruits of their labor would insure their well-being and good health.78

Messedaglia, “Le piante alimentari,” 643–56.
Janet Backhouse, Medieval Rural Life in the Luttrell Psalter (London: British
Library, 2000).
77 Nicolai Rubinstein, “Political Ideas in Sienese Art: The Frescoes by Ambrogio
Lorenzetti and Taddeo di Bartolo in the Palazzo Pubblico,” Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes 21 (1958): 179–207.
78 Jonathan Alexander offers an ideological reading of the imagery of rural peasant
labor in the Très Riches Heures in “Labeur and Paresse: Ideological Representations of
Medieval Peasant Labor,” Art Bulletin 72 (1990): 443–52. Also: Michael Camille,
“Labouring for the Lord: The Ploughman and the Social Order in the Luttrell Psalter,” Art

3.7 Rizon (rice). Tacuinum sanitatis. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France,

MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673, fol. 48 recto. Ca. 1380–90. Photo courtesy of the
Bibliothèque nationale de France

Under the patronage of Giangaleazzo Visconti or a member of his close circle,

the cycles of utopian scenes considered in this essay were generated apparently in
response to the list of foods valued for their medicinal properties in the original
Tacuinum. However, the most powerful impetus behind the painted scenes seems
to have been the desire to flatter and please the Visconti. In assembling the
prototypes for the Tacuinum illuminations, Giovannino dei Grassi strove to
capture a world of fertile fields, orchards, and gardens on a perfectly run feudal
estate intended to echo the Visconti’s own. Just as the famous prayerbook, the
Visconti Hours, initiated by Giovannino dei Grassi’s workshop, showed the Count
as devout, chivalric, and a worthy successor to the Roman emperors, so, too, the
Tacuinum illustrations portrayed the peaceful, orderly, bountiful world such a ruler
would enjoy.79


The reality was, however, something quite different. The period 1340 to 1400 was
one of famine, disease, and warfare in northern Italy. Excessive rainfall resulted in
ruined crops and famine. In turn, famine led to disease. The most devastating
epidemic was the Black Death of 1348, in which as many as two-thirds of the
population of many centers died. The plague returned, though less violently, in
1362–3, 1371, 1373–4, and 1382–3, leaving the population decimated and afraid.80
In addition, much of northern Italy was ravaged by warfare. Giangaleazzo Visconti
was the most successful of the military dictators, or signori, who came to power in
the second half of the fourteenth century. From 1385 to 1402, Giangaleazzo
aggressively expanded Visconti territory to include all of Lombardy and Emilia and
parts of Tuscany and Umbria.81 Yet as the Count and his captains waged war,
Milanese subjects from the lower and middle classes who worked on the Lombard
plain or depended on its harvests were experiencing acute shortages of food.

History 10 (1987): 423–54; and Vito Fumagalli, Uomini contro la storia (Turin: CLUEB,
1995). Bertiz instead focuses on the elite courtier and the depiction of recreation as a
marker of class. Bertiz, “Picturing Health,” 59, 231–49, 251.
79 Giangaleazzo is shown in a votive portrait, gazing at the facing image of the
Annunciation in the Visconti Hours, Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale MS BR 397, fol. 105
recto (Psalm 109); and on fol. 115 recto of MS BR 397 (Psalm 118:81), Giangaleazzo is
represented in profile – an image type that inevitably alludes to the ancient tradition of
rulers’ portraits on coins. On fol. 115 recto, the presence of hunting dogs and stags refers
to the Count’s knightly leisure pursuits. For a facsimile edition see: The Visconti Hours
(National Library, Florence), intro. and ed. Millard Meiss and Edith W. Kirsch (New York:
George Braziller, 1972), no page numbers.
80 John Larner, Italy in the Age of Dante and Petrarch 1216–1380 (London: Longman,
1983), 256–66.
81 Larner, Italy in the Age of Dante and Petrarch, 128–50; E. R. Chamberlin, The Count
of Virtue: Giangaleazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1965),

At a time when so many were starving, the wealthy and powerful class gained
the popular title “il popolo grasso,” the fat people. Knowing this context, it is hard
to take the utopian landscapes of the Tacuinum paintings, with their bountiful
harvests and cheerful laborers, at face value. Ultimately, the celebration of an
abundance of food in the Tacuinum sanitatis manuscripts must be interpreted in
part as an assertion of power and class by the Visconti rulers.82 Eating well and
healthily was their privilege.

82 Larner, Italy in the Age of Dante and Petrarch, 211–13, includes the eighteen-course
menu from a Visconti wedding feast of June 1368, held at a time when most of the
population was suffering from an acute shortage of food. As Larner explains: “The very
prominence of food makes of this state occasion a sort of secular communion feast.
Gluttony as a work of art was a demonstration of the power of the governing class and a
symbol too of the supreme importance of food in the thought of governments” (213).
Chapter 4

Erudition on Display: The “Scientific”

Illustrations in Pico della Mirandola’s
Manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s
Natural History
Sarah Blake McHam*

For medieval and Renaissance readers, the Natural History, the immense
encyclopedia compiled by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD, was an
invaluable source of information about the universe, the earth, man, plants,
animals, minerals, medicine, and art.1 Fourteen centuries after Pliny’s death, a rich

* I would like to thank several organizations for their generous support of my research
on the influence of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History on Italian Renaissance art. The Gladys
Krieble Delmas Foundation underwrote my research in Venice at the Biblioteca Marciana,
the American Philosophical Society my research in Paris at the Bibliothèque nationale, and
in London at the British Library and Victoria and Albert Museum. The Institute for
Advanced Study, Princeton, provided me with a residential fellowship. Glyn Davis of the
Victoria and Albert Museum kindly provided a photograph of the Piccolomini manuscript.
I am also very grateful to Lilian Armstrong for reading this essay and for her expert counsel
on all my questions about manuscript and incunable illumination. Her generosity extended
even to loans and gifts of books and photographs. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the
perceptive comments and editing suggestions made by the editors, especially Karen Reeds.
1 The Collection des Universités de France, Association Guillaume Budé, Les Belles
Lettres, has almost completed a highly regarded edition of the Natural History (Books
Four, Five–part 2; Six–part 1; and 25 have not yet appeared). Each book is published in a
separate volume with an extensive commentary and notes compiled by specialists. Another
recent scholarly edition, in German, in the Tusculum-Bücherei series edited by Gerhard
Winkler and Roderich König, began publication in 1973, and is complete. Published in
Munich by Heimeran-Verlag until 1980, and after 1981 by Artemis-Verlag, it is useful for
its lengthy commentaries. They complement those appearing in the French edition in that
they focus on historical and geographical issues, whereas the notes in the former are more
philological. I quote the standard edition in English: Pliny, Natural History, ed. and trans.
H. Rackham, D. E. Eichholz, and W. H. S. Jones, Loeb Classical Library, 10 vols
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938–63; reprinted 1989–99).
The standard analysis of Pliny’s life (AD 23/4–79) and writing is by Konrat Ziegler et al.
in Paulys Real-Enzyklopädie der Klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, rev. edn, Georg
Wissowa et al., 21, part 1 (Stuttgart: Alfred Druckenmüller, 1951), 271–439. Little new
information is provided in the entry by Klaus Sallman in Der Neue Pauly. Enzyklopädie der
Antike, ed. Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider, vol. 9 (Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B.


student, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–94), prized the work so highly that
he commissioned a deluxe manuscript copy – Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale
Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976). This manuscript’s unique set of images
departs from the repertory first established by the fourteenth- and fifteenth-
century illuminators who borrowed their ideas from medical and scientific texts
such as the Tacuina sanitatis. Instead, illuminations in Pico’s manuscript often
depict the anecdotes about the natural world and Greek and Roman historical
figures with which Pliny animated his long litany of facts.
This deliberate selection reveals that the manuscript’s designer had read the
text carefully: Pliny had scattered these non-scientific asides throughout the
encyclopedia and omitted them from his lengthy index. It also indicates that the
designer valued Pliny’s comments about ancient beliefs and practices. The
decisions are unlikely to have been made independently by the Pico Master, the
anonymous artist whose sobriquet is derived from this manuscript, as these
innovative images are not repeated in any other copy of Pliny’s Natural History
he illuminated. Rather, it seems that Pico della Mirandola, who even at age 18 was
renowned for his classical learning, personally supervised the choice of
illustrations in this manuscript. The possibility that a learned patron played a role
in the actual design of the book is unusual and interesting in its own right.2 Equally
important, the manuscript demonstrates the ways the traditions of illustration in

Metzler, 2000), 1135–44. Its bibliography is the most up to date, but less complete than the
comprehensive, annotated bibliographies on Pliny the Elder’s career compiled earlier:
Klaus Sallman, “Plinius der Ältere 1938–70,” Lustrum, 18 (1975): 1–355; Franz Römer,
“Plinius der Ältere, III. Bericht,” Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft 31 (1978):
129–206; and Guy Serbat, “Pline l’Ancien. Etat présent des études sur sa vie, son oeuvre et
son influence,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Geschichte und Kultur Roms
im Spiegel der neueren Forschung, II, vol. 32, part 4, ed. H. Temporini: Principät. Sprache
und Literatur. Literatur der Julisch–Claudischen und der Flavischen Zeit (Forts.) (Berlin:
De Gruyter, 1986), 2069–200.
2 Manuscripts and incunables often were personalized by the addition of the patron’s
coat of arms or stemmata in the border decorations of the title-page. Occasionally portraits
further personalized the opening page, for example, Filippo Strozzi’s copy of the vernacular
edition of Pliny’s encyclopedia printed by Jenson in 1476. Strozzi had underwritten
Cristoforo Landino’s translation and the printing costs. The border of the dedication page
to King Ferdinand of Naples (fol. 1 recto) includes a portrait of Landino; and portraits of
Strozzi, his eldest son, and the King appear in the border surrounding Pliny’s prefatory
letter to Titus (fol. 5 recto) (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Arch G. b. 6; previously MS
Douce 310). I thank Joyce Kubiski for this information.
More rarely, patrons and illuminators devised illustrations of the actual text that
reflected the personal interests of the patrons. In an example coeval with Pico’s manuscript,
in 1458 the Venetian nobleman Leonardo Sanudo copied in his own hand Virgil’s Eclogues,
Georgics, and Aeneid, as the manuscript’s colophon records (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale
de France, MS lat. 7939A). The paintings dealing with the Aeneid picture castles in the Po
Valley and transplant Aeneas and his companions to northern Italy. See Jonathan J. G.
Alexander, ed., The Painted Page. Italian Renaissance Book Illumination, 1450–1550
(London: Prestel, 1994), 108, cat. 42. I thank my former student Emma Guest, whose
dissertation involved the illustration tradition of Virgil’s bucolic poetry, for this reference.

earlier scientific manuscripts were adapted, or deliberately rejected, in Pico’s

sumptuous version of Pliny’s vast encyclopedia.

Pliny’s Natural History in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Pico’s decision to have the Natural History copied and elaborately illustrated in
the 1480s reflects the high status of Pliny’s text. During the Middle Ages and
Renaissance the Natural History was known in some complete and many partial
manuscript copies and indirectly through derivative texts.3 The huge, multifarious
text was cumbersome to use, so collections of extracts proliferated; and it became
a major source for writers of specialized encyclopedias, starting with Solinus’s
Collectanea rerum memorabilium, ca. AD 200.4 Other writers excerpted the books
on the medicinal uses of plants and animals.5 Pliny’s works were known
throughout the Middle Ages thanks to these collections.6 The epitome compiled by
Solinus may have included pictures, as a thirteenth-century version of the text
accompanied by miniatures survives.7 Even so, there is no evidence that any copy
of the complete Natural History was illustrated in antiquity or during most of the
Middle Ages.
The first references to an illustrated Pliny come in a famous episode in early-
fifteenth-century book collecting when a thirteenth-century copy of the Natural

3 For Pliny’s influence during the medieval period see Marjorie Chibnall, “Pliny’s
Natural History and the Middle Ages,” Empire and Aftermath. Silver Latin II, ed. T. A.
Dorey (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), 57–78, and Charles G. Nauert, Jr,
“Caius Plinius Secundus,” Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum. Mediaeval and
Renaissance Latin Translations and Commentaries (Washington, DC: Catholic University
of America Press, 1980), 302–4. For the reception of the Natural History by Christian
figures such as Jerome, Augustine, Cassiodorus, and Albertus Magnus, see Arno Borst, Das
Buch der Naturgeschichte. Plinius und seine Leser im Zeitalter des Pergaments
(Heidelberg: Winter, 1994), 57–299. For additional bibliography, see Serbat, “Pline
l’Ancien,” 2174–81.
4 Solinus’ encyclopedia, an epitome of the Natural History’s books on geography,
derives its information from Pliny and Pliny’s own sources, but adds a fascination with the
marvelous. C. Julius Solinus, The Excellent and Pleasant Worke, Collectanea rerum
memorabilium of Caius Julius Solinus, trans. Arthur Golding (1587; reprint, Gainesville,
FL: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1955); Chibnall, “Pliny’s Natural History,” 58–9;
and Rudolf Wittkower, “Marvels of the East. A Study in the History of Monsters,” Journal
of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 5 (1942): 159–97. For bibliography on Pliny’s and
Solinus’ texts, see Serbat, “Pline l’Ancien,” 2174.
5 A late-third- or early-fourth-century compendium of plant remedies known as the
Medicina Plinii also spread Pliny’s reputation. In the next centuries, several other versions
of Pliny’s information about herbal cures circulated and contributed to his growing fame as
a specialist on botany and its medical applications. Serbat, “Pline l’Ancien,” 2172–3.
6 Borst, Das Buch, 44–6.
7 Wittkower, “Marvels,” 171, used the example of the surviving illustrated Solinus
epitome to make the case that there must have been a pre-existing tradition of miniatures
accompanying copies of Solinus’ text.

History was lent by the Dominicans of Lubeck to Cosimo de’ Medici. The wily
Florentines never returned it, and it remains in the Biblioteca Medicea
Laurenziana in Florence where it is MS plut. 82.1.8 Cosimo’s purloined Pliny,
apparently the earliest illustrated manuscript of the Natural History to survive,
contains a single full-page illumination of Pliny presenting the Natural History to
the Emperor Titus, non-figurative decorations in the initials beginning many of the
individual books of the encyclopedia, and several unrelated Christian subjects in
the incipit initials of others.9 Most other manuscripts of the Natural History had
decorative rubrications but otherwise lacked illustrations; others sometimes
include elaborately embellished title-pages.
The rare narrative frontispieces invariably represented Pliny in the act of
writing, or Pliny offering his book to the Emperor Titus – the patron Pliny
addressed in the Natural History’s prefatory letter. Such author portraits are
common in Renaissance manuscripts of ancient and contemporary writers.10 The
Christian scenes in Cosimo’s manuscript probably reflect the absence of
illustrated copies of the Natural History. Lacking a relevant tradition of narrative
images, substitutes were appropriated from the Christian tradition. Thus, in Book
16 discussion of fruit-trees opens with the word Pomiferae, and its opening letter
“P” pictures the Nativity, the formula for illustrating the words, “Puer natus est.”11
In the few instances when manuscripts of the Natural History contained images
specifically correlated to the text, they follow a distinct pattern of an emblematic
narrative in and around the initial that begins each book. These incipit illustrations
are especially important for the history of medicine and science, and this essay
focuses on examples in Pico’s manuscript as well as others that underscore both
the unusual and typical features of this work.12 One copy is particularly useful for
our purposes: London, Victoria and Albert Museum, MS L. 1504–1896 was

8 Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordon, Two Renaissance Book Hunters, 2nd edn (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 284.
9 The full-page presentation miniature on fol. 2 verso is reproduced in color in Giovanni
Morello, ed., Kostbarkeiten der Buchkunst. Illuminationen klassischer Werke von
Archimedes bis Vergil (Stuttgart: Belser, 1996), 91, and in Marco Buonocore, ed., Vedere i
classici. L’Illustrazione libraria dei testi antichi dall’età romana al tardo medievo (Rome:
Fratelli Palombi Editori, 1996), 230, fig. 146.
10 Joyce M. Kubiski, “Uomini Illustri: The Revival of the Author Portrait in
Renaissance Florence” (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1993), traces the medieval
and Renaissance history of Christian and pagan author portraits, and of the varying
positions of these author portraits in the manuscripts of their writings, and provides a
catalog of author portraits in Italian manuscripts and incunables of the fifteenth century.
Most of these portraits are small in scale and placed in the border of the title-page or in the
opening initial of the book’s text.
11 Book 15, which begins with Oleam and a discussion of the olive-tree, has its opening
initial “O” decorated with an image of the seated blessing Christ. See the catalog entry by
Giovanna Lazzi concerning the manuscript (and others with transplanted Christian
subjects) in Vedere i classici, ed. Buonocore, 229–32, cat. 32.
12 Susy Marcon describes all the initials in her catalog entry on the manuscript in Vedere
i classici, ed. Buonocore, 422–5, cat. 115.

commissioned by Gregorio Lolli Piccolomini, the cousin and secretary of Pope

Pius II, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini.13 Like Pico’s manuscript, the Piccolomini
copy is large and it contains miniatures; it is usually attributed to the Florentine
Giuliano Amadei and dated in the 1460s.14
Lilian Armstrong’s publication of three previously unknown manuscripts of the
Natural History, all with illustrations related to the text, is the point of departure
for all discussion on Renaissance illustrations of Pliny.15 The earliest of this type
was illuminated in Bologna ca. 1300 and is now in the Escorial.16 Unlike
Cosimo’s manuscript with its Christian subjects and presentation portrait, the
manuscript was decorated with an incomplete cycle of painted initials with
schematic renditions of animals, plants, physicians, and herbalists. Armstrong’s
stemma of these Pliny manuscripts with narrative paintings specific to the text
establishes that for this group the illustrations were always situated in the initials
beginning the separate books; that the imagery derived from precedents in herbals,
bestiaries, health handbooks, and other types of scientific texts; and that a
standardized visual repertory for the Natural History quickly developed. She
argues that this repertory of images was greatly enriched later in two early-
fifteenth-century manuscript copies of Pliny’s text illuminated for the Visconti
court in Milan, and for Jean de Berry, a relative by marriage of the Visconti

13 Borst, Das Buch, 320–21, for another manuscript of Pliny’s Natural History owned
by Pius II Piccolomini.
14 The Victoria and Albert manuscript measures ca. 406 x 292 mm. and contains more
than 500 vellum pages. See Joyce Irene Whalley, Pliny the Elder Historia Naturalis
(London: Oregon Press for the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982), 8–9, for more
information about the manuscript and for color facsimiles of all its illustrations.
15 Lilian Armstrong, “The Illustration of Pliny’s Historia Naturalis: Manuscripts before
1430,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 46 (1983): 19–39; reprinted in
Lilian Armstrong, Studies of Renaissance Miniaturists in Venice, 2 vols (London: Pindar,
2003), vol. 1, 89–140.
16 El Escorial, Biblioteca del Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial, MS R. I. 5
is on parchment and measures 405 x 280 mm. It contains 218 folios of double-columned
text. P. Guillermo Antolín, Catálogo de los Códices Latinos de la Real Biblioteca del
Escorial, 5 vols (Madrid: Imprenta Helénica, 1910–23), vol. 3, 451–2, and vol. 4, 584.
17 The manuscript of the Natural History illuminated for Pasquino Capelli at the
Visconti court in Milan in 1389 is now Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS E. 24 inf. On
parchment, it measures 392 x 280 mm with 361 folios of double-columned text. At the
beginning of Book 35 (fol. 332 recto), Pietro da Pavia portrayed himself as the painter
identifying himself in the inscription in the surrounding initial: “Frater Petrus de Papa me
fecit 1389.” The manuscript, first studied by Pietro Toesca, “Di alcuni miniatori lombardi
della fine del Trecento,” L’Arte 10 (1907): 185–90, is carefully re-examined by Marco
Rossi, “Pietro da Pavia e il Plinio dell’Ambrosiano: Miniatura tardogotica e cultura
scientifica del mondo classico,” Rivista di storia della miniatura 1–2 (1996–7): 231–8.
Pietro da Pavia’s portrait on fol. 332 recto is reproduced in fig. 1. The manuscript
illuminated for Jean de Berry in about 1410 is now Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale
Universitaria, MSS I. I. 24–I. I. 25. Damaged in the fire at the library in 1904, it has been
rebound. MS I. I. 24 measures 360 x 225 mm and is composed of 219 folios. MS I. I. 25 is
composed of 216 folios and measures 360 x 240 mm. Armstrong, “Pliny Manuscripts,”
29–35, attributes the illuminations to an artist in the circle of the Boucicaut Master.

family.17 Although the latter manuscript survives today only in fragmentary form,
enough remains to show that both manuscripts added depictions of landscapes,
agricultural activities, and artisans at work, derived principally from the
fourteenth-century health handbooks known as Tacuina sanitatis.18 By the 1420s
these two traditions conjoined to form a definitive series of miniatures for all the
beginning initials of the Natural History’s books, as proved by Armstrong’s
discovery of an intact manuscript (today in Parma) that had been illuminated in
that decade by the Venetian, Cristoforo Cortese.19 Armstrong contends that this
canon of narrative initial images was repeated for a century in hand-written and
incunable copies of Pliny. In general, these illuminations in the incipit initials
illustrate the books’ scientific content only in the most limited sense.
Recognizable emblems of plants, trees, and animals visually supplement the titles
and rubrication as indications of the book’s subject matter.

Pico della Mirandola and his Pliny Manuscript

The manuscript commissioned about sixty years after the Cortese manuscript by
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola should fall squarely into this tradition, but it is
anomalous. It replicates aspects of the earlier visual repertory but it also reveals a
much more sophisticated relation between text and images. The colophon records
Pico’s commissioning of the scribe Niccolò Mascarino of Ferrara to copy Pliny’s
text in 1481.20 Following customary practice, the scribe left spaces blank for the
illuminated initials and border decorations to be added later. The anonymous
illuminator is called the Pico Master after this manuscript.21 Its 458 parchment

18 Luisa Cogliati Arano, The Medieval Health Handbook. Tacuinum Sanitatis (London:
Barrie and Jenkins, 1976); Florence Moly Mariotti, “Contribution à la connaissance des
Tacuina sanitatis lombards,” Arte lombarda 104 (1993): 32–9 (with bibliography); and the
essay by Cathleen Hoeniger in this volume, “The Illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis
Manuscripts from Northern Italy ca. 1380–1400: Sources, Patrons, and the Creation of a
New Pictorial Genre,” Chapter 3. For the relation of the miniatures in the manuscripts of
the Natural History to the Tacuinum tradition, see Armstrong, “Pliny Manuscripts,” 21–35.
Rossi, “Pietro da Pavia,” 232–7, adduces further parallels between the manuscript in the
Ambrosiana and the Tacuinum tradition.
19 The manuscript is Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, MS 1278. See Armstrong, “Pliny
Manuscripts,” 19, n. 4 and 35–9. On Cortese’s career, see Giordana Mariani Canova,
“Miniatura e pittura in età tardogotica (1400–1440),” in La Pittura nel Veneto. Il
Quattrocento, ed. Mauro Lucco, 2 vols (Milan: Electa, 1989), vol. 1, 193–222.
20 The colophon on fol. 458 recto reads: “Hoc opus scripsit Nicolaus de Mascharinis de
Ferrara, ad instantiam magnifici comitis Ioannis de la Mirandula, anno incarnationis dom
nostri Iesu Christi MCCCCLXXXI die 17 augusti.”
21 Lilian Armstrong, “The Illustration of Pliny’s Historia Naturalis in Venetian
Manuscripts and Early Printed Books,” Manuscripts in the Fifty Years after the Invention
of Printing, ed. J. Trapp (London: Warburg Institute, 1983), 97–105; reprinted in
Armstrong, Studies, vol. 1, 141–55. See her “Il Maestro di Pico: un miniature veneziano del
tardo quattrocento,” Saggi e memorie di storia dell’arte 17 (1990): 7–39; trans. and

pages (415 x 280 mm) include a small author portrait above the biography of Pliny
on the opening page, a full-page frontispiece to the combined prefatory letter and
Book One, and an illuminated initial at the beginning of each subsequent book –
38 historiated illuminations in all. The size of the manuscript, its materials,
beautiful script, and lavish painting make clear that Pico’s manuscript was a
luxurious and prestigious possession.
Pico, a member of the noble family of the counts of Mirandola, is known as one
of the most eminent philosophers and scholars in the Renaissance and the author
of the treatise called On the Dignity of Man. A child prodigy intended by his
mother for a career in the church, he was named an apostolic protonotary at age
ten; at 14, he began studying canon law at the University of Bologna. After his
mother’s death in 1478, Pico redirected his career, thereafter devoting himself and
his fortune to learning. In Ferrara, he studied for a year with Guarino da Verona
and launched his investigations into philosophy. Pico moved on to the Studium at
Padua, where between 1480 and 1482 he continued his pursuit of the humanities,
and entered into correspondence with Ermolao Barbaro, Poliziano, and Ficino, the
period’s other great intellectuals.22 Proficient in Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew,
Pico avidly collected books in these languages. When he died at the age of 31 in
1494, his library included more than 1,000 books.23
By 1481, when he commissioned this luxury manuscript of the Natural
History, Pico had already begun collecting manuscripts and printed books. His
coat of arms appears in two incunables attributed to the Pico Master that can be
tentatively dated before 1481. An extensively decorated copy of Macrobius, In
somnium Scipionis, printed by Nicholas Jenson in 1472, was probably given to, or
collected by, Pico after he was named a protonotary at age ten in 1473: the
frontispiece displays the appropriate black ecclesiastical hat atop his coat of arms.
A copy of Plutarch, Vitae virorum illustrium, printed by Jenson in 1478, shows the
same hat above the coat of arms, but painted over in red.24 Presumably the hat
indicates the books were illuminated before Pico abandoned his ecclesiastical
Pico probably hired the Pico Master to provide the miniatures for the Pliny

reprinted in Armstrong, Studies, vol. 1, 233–338, for the definitive account of this master’s
career in manuscript and incunable decoration. Armstrong’s Renaissance Miniature
Painters and Classical Imagery. The Master of the Putti and his Venetian Workshop
(London: H. Miller, 1981) traces the use of antiquarian motifs in manuscripts and
incunables by a workshop close to the Pico Master.
22 Eugenio Garin, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Vita e dottrina (Florence: F. Le
Monnier, 1937), 1–15.
23 Pearl Kibre, The Library of Pico della Mirandola (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1936), provides an annotated inventory of Pico’s collection. Pico’s manuscript of
Pliny is not listed in the inventory and cannot be traced before Apostolo Zeno purchased it
in the eighteenth century. The manuscript subsequently passed from Zeno’s collection into
the library of the Gesuati, and from there into the Marciana (Marcon, in Vedere i classici,
ed. Buonocore, 425).
24 Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 205–6, cat. 102 by Lilian Armstrong.

manuscript because he liked the painter’s earlier work in the Jenson imprints. It
was an exceptional commission for the young bibliophile; no other elaborately
decorated manuscript seems to have survived that can be connected to his
patronage. Pico likely ordered the luxury manuscript for his own delectation, as
he probably already owned a more utilitarian, printed edition of Pliny’s Natural
History, perhaps that issued by Nicolas Jenson in 1472.25 The Pico Master had
already illuminated many copies of the edition of Pliny printed by Jenson in 1472,
but none has illuminations like those in the manuscript he painted for Pico.26
Pico’s manuscript begins with a page that transcribes Suetonius’ fragmentary
biography of Pliny the Elder from his De viris illustribus. The few lines that
survive of Suetonius’s account were often inserted at the beginning of manuscripts
and early printed editions (starting with the first, Johannes de Spira, Venice, 1469)
because it is one of only two surviving contemporary sources about Pliny the
Elder. However, I believe the small illumination above the biography is unique to
this manuscript (Fig. 4.1). A seated male figure actively writes in a book on the
table before him.27 Another book rests on a nearby stand. A large window allows
a wide view of a landscape outside the study and suggests the cosmic scope of the
Natural History. The typology of the writing figure and its position on the
manuscript’s first page would usually clinch its identity as an author portrait of
Pliny the Elder. A clever interrelation between the text and miniature seems to
corroborate that assumption: a large, gilded initial “P” intercepts our view of the
In this exceptional case, however, the writing figure most likely represents
Pliny the Elder’s nephew and adopted son.28 The youthful figure of Pliny the
Younger, rather than his uncle, is placed above the quotation from Suetonius
because Renaissance intellectuals such as Pico owed him almost all their
knowledge about his uncle’s literary production. Pliny the Younger’s letters,

25 Kibre, Library, 52 and 242 reconstructs Pico’s library from inventories including the
list made in 1498, four years after Pico’s death, when Cardinal Domenico Grimani
purchased the books. In 1523 the Cardinal bequeathed his library to the Brothers of San
Antonio di Castello in Venice, where most of the books burned in a fire in 1687 (20). The
inventory of 1498 rarely permits identification of specific manuscripts or incunables. It
does not provide the dates when items entered Pico’s collection.
Kibre speculates that Pico owned the edition of Pliny’s encyclopedia printed by Jenson
in Venice in 1472 (242). If it was in his possession by 1481, this may have been the edition
that he asked Niccolò Mascarino to copy. For textual problems in the early editions of
Pliny, see Martin Davies, “Making Sense of Pliny in the Quattrocento,” Renaissance
Studies 9 (1995): 240–57. I have not compared the manuscript commissioned by Pico to
each of them to determine which version Pico asked Niccolò Mascarino to copy.
26 Armstrong, “Il Maestro,” 31–6. The Pico Master decorated a copy of Johannes de
Spira’s 1469 edition of Pliny, nine copies of the Jenson edition of 1472, and two copies of
the translation of Pliny into Italian by Cristoforo Landino printed by Jenson in 1476. One
of the latter has an architectural frontispiece similar in format to the one he provided for
Pico’s manuscript (33).
27 The author portrait is on fol. 1 recto.
28 Marcon, in Vedere i classici, ed. Buonocore, 424.

4.1 Attributed to the Pico Master. Portrait of Pliny the Younger? Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice,
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 1 recto.
Ca. 1480s. Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

which he published sometime after AD 100 (about two decades after his uncle’s
death), were the most important surviving source about Pliny the Elder’s life.29
Furthermore, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius were close friends and colleagues.
Suetonius is mentioned or addressed in a number of the letters, and Pliny the
Younger played a crucial role in furthering Suetonius’ public career.30 No doubt he
was a major source for Suetonius’ biography. Through several versions of Pliny
the Younger’s letters in manuscript, Pico and his contemporaries were well aware
of the connections with Suetonius.31 Several fifteenth-century editions of the
Natural History began with the Suetonius fragment and the younger Pliny’s two
letters describing his uncle – still another justification for juxtaposing the portrait
of Pliny the Younger and the text from Suetonius.32
The Suetonius fragment does include information not found in Pliny the
Younger’s letters or anywhere else. Suetonius identifies Como as the birthplace of
Pliny the Elder, and his words supply another justification for Pliny the Younger’s
portrait. In 1481, Como was engaged in a vociferous dispute with Verona over
which city was the birthplace of Pliny the Elder. Local intellectuals vigorously
debated each site’s title to the Plinys, and both sites staked their claims with
prominent monuments to the uncle and nephew. Como commissioned sculptures
of the pair – larger than life – to frame the main cathedral portal in 1480. Shortly
thereafter, Pliny the Elder was installed amid the cohort of Verona’s native sons
atop the roofline of the city’s Loggia del Consiglio, while a relief of Pliny the
Younger was carved to decorate a lower portion of the building’s façade.33 The

29 Pliny, Letters and Panegyricus, ed. and trans. Betty Radice, 2 vols (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1969). See the “Letter to Cornelius Tacitus,” no.VI.xvi (I, pp.
428–33) and that to Baebius Macer, no. III.v (I, pp. 172–5).
30 Pliny addressed four letters to Suetonius and discussed him in three others. Pliny’s
letters to Suetonius are numbers I.xviii (Pliny, Letters, I, pp. 53–5); III.viii (I, pp. 186–9);
V.x (I, pp. 366–7); and IX.xxxiv (II, pp. 150–51). He refers to a military tribunate he
procured for Suetonius in III.viii, consults with him about writing in V.x, and about his
skills in reading poetry in IX.xxxiv. The three letters about Suetonius include one to a
friend requesting that he help Suetonius in buying property (I.xxiv; I, p. 75) and an appeal
to the Emperor Trajan on behalf of Suetonius (X.xciv; II, pp. 282–5). The wording of the
appeal has convinced some scholars that Suetonius was a member of Pliny the Younger’s
staff in Bithynia. For this correspondence, see Stanley E. Hoffer, The Anxieties of Pliny the
Younger (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 211–25.
31 For three different compilations in which Pliny’s Letters were known, see L. D.
Reynolds, ed., Texts and Transmissions: A Survey of the Latin Classics, (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1983), 316–22. All were available throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Both Guarino da Verona, with whom Pico studied in Ferrara, and Coluccio Salutati
acquired versions for their personal libraries.
32 The practice began with the second edition of the Natural History published by
Sweynheym and Pannartz in Rome in 1470. They followed a precedent established by
Guarino da Verona in his unpublished edition of the Natural History; see Remigio
Sabbadini, “Le Edizioni quattrocentesche della S. N. di Plinio,” Studi italiani di filologia
classica 8 (1900): 446–7.
33 My essay, “Renaissance Monuments to Favourite Sons,” Renaissance Studies, 19 (2005):
458-86, deals with the statues erected to Roman authors like Virgil, Pliny the Elder, Pliny

confusion regarding their birthplaces resulted from the scanty biographical

information as well as the medieval melding of the two Plinys’ identities. Even
though a fourteenth-century Veronese scholar succeeded in distinguishing them,
the elder and younger Pliny remained closely linked in the minds of fifteenth-
century Italians.34
The actual text of the Pico manuscript conventionally begins with an elaborate
full-page frontispiece containing a portrait of Pliny himself and Pico’s coat of
arms (Fig. 4.2).35 However, the architectural format of the page adopts an
innovation of late-fifteenth-century northeastern Italian miniature painters that
creates the illusion of text hanging from a Roman triumphal arch.36 An exuberant
troop of nearly nude young boys cavorts with cornucopias and trophies; music-
making satyrs lounge against the arch’s base or support Pico’s coat of arms.37
Accurately rendered features of Roman architecture – veined marble columns,
sculpted plinths, inset roundels with low relief narratives, and inscribed architrave
– are incongruously crowded together in an overloaded antiquarian illusion that
signals the distinctive erudition about the ancient world that runs through all the
illustrations in Pico’s manuscript. The text suspended from the architecture is the
elder Pliny’s prefatory letter to his patron, the Emperor Titus, which begins every
complete copy of the Natural History.
The frontispiece’s classicizing decoration accords with the changes in the
reception of Pliny’s text initiated at the end of the thirteenth century. Italian
humanists then began to seek complete manuscript copies of the Natural History
in France to make copies for Italian university libraries, convents, and

the Younger, Ovid, and Livy, as civic monuments in Italy during the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries.
34 Rino Avesani and Bernard M. Peebles, “Studies in Pietro Donato Avogaro of
Verona,” Italia medioevale e umanistica 5 (1962): 1–84, part II: Rino Avesani, “Il ‘De viris
illustribus antiquissimis qui ex Verona claruere,’” 49.
35 The full-page frontispiece to Pliny’s prefatory letter to Emperor Titus is on fol. 3
36 See Lilian Armstrong, “The Hand-Illumination of Printed Books,” in Alexander, ed.,
Painted Page, 42, for current bibliography on the architectural frontispiece. See also Otto
Pächt, “Notes and Observations on the Origin of Humanistic Book-Decoration,” in D. J.
Gordon, ed., Fritz Saxl 1890–1948: A Volume of Memorial Essays from Friends in England
(New York: T. Nelson, 1957), 192; M. Corbett, “The Architectural Title Page,” Motif 12
(1964): 49–62; Lilian Armstrong, “The Impact of Printing on Miniaturists in Venice after
1469,” in Printing the Written Word: The Social History of Books, circa 1450–1520, ed.
Sandra Hindman (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 174–202; reprint, Studies, vol. 1,
406–34. Giordana Mariani Canova, “The Italian Renaissance Miniature,” in Alexander, ed.,
Painted Page, 25, names a manuscript of Solinus’ epitome of Pliny, copied in 1457, as the
earliest example of a manuscript page laid out as architectural frontispiece. Although the
development of this new type of frontispiece coincided with the publication in northeastern
Italy of newly translated, edited, or discovered classical texts; the architectural frontispiece
was also used for modern texts.
37 For the argument that these figures represent spiritelli, or airy geniuses that nourish
the body and provoke involuntary reactions, see Charles Dempsey, Inventing the
Renaissance Putto (Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).

4.2 Attributed to the Pico Master. Frontispiece of Letter to Titus with Pico
della Mirandola’s coat of arms and portrait of Pliny the Elder. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice,
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 3 recto.
Ca. 1480s. Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

courts.38 Increased knowledge of the text in Italy reached an early high point in the
fourteenth century with Petrarch, the first scholar to study the Natural History for
its information about the ancient world.39 The great scholar’s passion for
understanding and recovering the Latin language, and with it, knowledge of
Roman civilization, spurred him to annotate his manuscript of Pliny and to share
it with his friend, Boccaccio.40 Petrarch’s careful marginal comments focus on the
books that yielded the most information about the Roman world and its absorption
of Greek art and culture.41 About a century and a half later, the illuminations in
Pico’s manuscript constitute a kind of visual equivalent of Petrarch’s antiquarian
interests and learning.
The frontispiece portrait of Pliny follows a tradition that had recently been
reestablished in Italian Renaissance manuscript illumination. The placement of an
author portrait at the beginning of the text had its roots in the classical tradition
and survived into the Middle Ages, where it was used exclusively to honor the
evangelists and major theologians and their connection to God. Typically, these
Christian authorities are shown writing at their desks, often responding to divine
inspiration.42 During the late-medieval period, the production of numerous
summaries, translations, and commentaries of classical literature occasioned the
revival of portraits of their authors, but now in the back pages of the text. The
images of medieval commentators responsible for the scholarly apparatus
appeared in the incipit initials where their guise and setting inevitably recalled the

38 Borst, Das Buch, 293.

39 Borst, Das Buch, 304–5, and Charles G. Nauert, Jr, “Humanists, Scientists, and
Pliny: Changing Approaches to a Classical Author,” American Historical Review 84
(1974): 72–85.
40 Petrarch’s manuscript of Pliny’s Natural History (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de
France, MS lat. 6802) contains 554 double-columned parchment pages, measuring 328 x
225 mm. The text was copied in the thirteenth century. On fol. 277 verso, Petrarch noted
that he had acquired it in Mantua on 6 July 1350. The manuscript includes all 37 books of
the Natural History, although some are very abridged. Boccaccio contributed a few
annotations in his own hand to Petrarch’s manuscript; see Giuseppe Billanovich,
“Autografi del Boccaccio nella Biblioteca Nazionale di Parigi (Parigini lat. 4939 e 6802),”
Rendiconti dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei ser. 8, 7 (1952): 378–88.
41 My examination of the manuscript reveals that Petrarch’s annotations are
concentrated on the Prefatory letter, Books Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, the books
describing the cosmos, the geography of the world, and its peoples; Book 20, about
medicines derived from plants; and Books 33–37, about metals, ores, and minerals, and the
art forms that utilize them, and gems. On what Petrarch learned from his manuscript of
Pliny, see Maurizio Bettini, “Tra Plinio e Sant’Agostino: Francesco Petrarca sulle arti
figurative,” Memoria dell’antico nell’arte italiana, ed. Salvatore de Settis, 3 vols (Turin:
G. Einaudi, 1984–86), vol. 1: L’Uso dei classici, 1984, 221–67; on his annotations in the
manuscript, see Armando Petrucci, La scrittura di Francesco Petrarca (Vatican City:
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1967).
42 See Kurt Weitzmann, Ancient Book Illustration (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1959), and A. M. Friend, Jr, “The Portraits of the Evangelists in Greek and Latin
Manuscripts,” Art Studies 5 (1927): 115–47, and Art Studies 7 (1929): 3–29. See Kubiski,
“Uomini Illustri,” 14–48, for a recent review of the tradition.

reverent earlier placement of church fathers in first place.43 In Italy during the
1450s, however, portraits of pagan Greek and Roman authors usurped the primary
position from the scholastics.44 The new practice seems to reflect book patrons’
growing preference for the direct study of ancient texts and the increased esteem
in which those texts were held.
The author portrait of Pliny the Elder in the upper story of the frontispiece
triumphal arch is notable in several other ways. He is seated outdoors, not in a
study. A balding and bearded figure, he is not writing, but instead, concentrating
on reading – moving his hand to follow the lines in a large codex balanced in his
lap and propped up against a round table. His other hand holds a compass, and an
armillary sphere rests on the desk beside him. Pliny is seated outdoors on a large
stone slab that simultaneously creates the floor of the columns surrounding him,
and the letter “L” of the word Libros. The column supports a wide architrave
whose inscription stretches out over Pliny’s head and records the title of Pliny’s
letter to the Emperor Titus. The unusual outdoor setting connotes Pliny’s authority
in natural philosophy, as in the case of Aristotle, whose author portraits
customarily showed him outside.45 More specifically, Pliny is pictured as an
astronomer, accompanied by the tools emblematic of ancient astronomers and
cosmologists. The compass and the armillary sphere thus link this image to
formulas used in author portraits of Ptolemy in other cosmological texts. Pliny’s
marked old age conflates his identity as an astronomer with that of the wise man
or magus: two types who showed a special understanding of the workings of the
cosmos.46 Finally, Pliny wears the robes and head-covering trailing over the
shoulder favored by fifteenth-century university professors; these serve to identify
him as a scholar.47 Thus the position of the portrait of Pliny the Younger above his

43Kubiski, “Uomini Illustri,” 48–51.

44Kubiski, “Uomini Illustri,” 144–206.
45John E. Murdoch, Album of Science. Antiquity and the Middle Ages (New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1984), 177, illustrates Aristotle in a translation by Theodore of
Gaza of Aristotle’s Historia animalium, a codex produced between 1471 and 1484 and
presented to Sixtus IV. The page is reproduced and discussed in Alexander, ed., Painted
Page, 101–4, cat. 38. See also the author portrait of Aristotle on fol. 1 recto in the 1483
printed edition of his work illuminated by Pietro Ugelheimer in the Pierpont Morgan
Library, New York (Inc. ML 21193), reproduced in Giordana Mariani Canova, La miniatura
veneta del Rinascimento (Venice: Alfieri, 1969), cat. 72, fig. 22. Another example is found
in the frontispiece to a manuscript of the Pseudo-Aristotle, Le Livre des problèmes, produced
in the southern Netherlands, ca. 1450–75: The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS KB,
133A3I, fol. 1 recto. I thank Karen Reeds for bringing it to my attention.
46 Murdoch, Album of Science, 178–9. Borst, Das Buch, 314, n. 50, lists about a dozen
illustrations of Pliny in the guise of Ptolemy. In rare cases, the Magi are depicted with an
armillary sphere, as in the fresco of the Adoration of the Magi painted by Fra Angelico for
Cosimo de’ Medici’s cell in the Dominican convent of San Marco ca. 1445. The Pico
Master had already represented Pliny with an armillary sphere, but within an interior, in
editions of the Natural History printed by Jenson in 1472 and 1476. See Armstrong, “Il
Maestro,” figs 2 and 18.
47 Jill Emilee Carrington, “Sculpted Tombs of the Professors of the University of Padua,

uncle’s biography relates to the nephew’s role in recording his uncle’s life for
posterity, whereas the portrait of Pliny the Elder in the manuscript frontispiece
connects him with the letter with which he dedicated his encyclopedia to the
Emperor Titus. The nephew is clearly distinguished from his uncle by his youth
and characterization as a scribe. In contrast, the portrait of Pliny the Elder
establishes him as a learned, wise man of venerable age, and associates him with
astronomy and science, the fields encompassed by the Natural History’s broad
Unlike the dual author portraits in Pico’s manuscript, the Piccolomini copy of
the Natural History follows standard practice: it illustrates only Pliny the Elder,
and it describes him in more generic terms.48 The placement of the portrait within
the loop of the gilded initial “P” that begins his name underscores the author’s
identity. Pliny the Elder is seated holding a book. The praise due him is conveyed
by the laurel wreath encircling his head, his scientific standing, by his location
outdoors on a small stone floor atop a grassy plateau overlooking a vast landscape.
The initial is surrounded by white vine-stems, or bianchi girari, a decorative
convention that emerged in the early fifteenth century to suggest Roman acanthus
ornamentation and a desire to emulate a pagan visual imagery – highly suitable for
ancient authors such as Pliny.49
In Pico’s manuscript, Book Two, the beginning of the Natural History’s actual
text, is ornamented with an elaborate depiction of the cosmos quite unlike those
found in other illustrated manuscripts of Pliny. The group of fourteenth- and early-
fifteenth-century illuminated manuscripts of Pliny illuminated with historiated
initials represented the cosmos either by a schematic view of stars above a section
of the earth or by the “T–O” map – an abstract diagram of the earth divided into
three continents. Such views of the cosmos symbolized God’s creation of the
world and his ongoing relation with it, and only the barest sort of scientific
information.50 The illustrator of the Piccolomini manuscript simply avoided a

ca. 1358–ca. 1557” (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1996), 117. The robes and cappuccio,
a type of hood that trails on the shoulders in a piece known as the becchetto, were typically
worn by professors.
48 See the color illustration in Whalley, Pliny, 11.
49 Despite its aptness for ancient texts, bianchi girari border decoration was used in the
manuscripts and incunables of modern writers as well.
50 The cosmos is represented by a T-shaped map of the earth surrounded by wide
concentric rings in the incipit initial to Book Two of the Natural History in Parma,
Biblioteca Palatina, MS 1278, fol. 10 verso; reproduced in Armstrong, “Pliny
Manuscripts,” pl. 11a. It is represented by a partial view of the curved surface of the earth
with a few plants and a star-filled sky above in the Natural History in Turin (Turin,
Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, MSS I. I. 24–I. I. 25, fol. 20 verso); reproduced in
Armstrong, “Pliny Manuscripts,” pl. 8a. Lilian Armstrong brought related illustrations in
other copies of Pliny to my attention. They include: (1) a Lombard mid-fifteenth-century
manuscript (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS. Lat. 1950); (2) a Neapolitan,
late-fifteenth-century manuscript for Card. Oliverio Carafa (Vatican City, Biblioteca
Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. Lat 3533); and (3) a copy of the edition printed by Jenson in

representation for Book Two altogether, substituting instead an initial “M”

(Mundus) entirely covered by ornamental interlacing.51
The illumination in Pico’s manuscript stands directly above the text’s
description of the universe and matches Pliny’s description point by point
(Fig. 4. 3). Both word and image present the Greco-Roman conception of an earth-
centered universe. Within the opening initial, earth is represented by a verdant
landscape with evidence of human habitation, very unlike the T–O ideograms
representing the cosmos in earlier Pliny manuscripts. Concentric rings track the
trajectories of elements and planets around the earth. The outermost circle holds
the signs of the zodiac; beyond it are the sun and stars. The only divergence from
Pliny’s description acknowledges Pico della Mirandola’s religious beliefs: the
Christian symbol of God the Father implicitly rules the cosmos from the top of the
page.52 Indeed, the closest parallel I have found to the illustration in Pico’s
manuscript is a panel painting by Giovanni di Paolo of the Expulsion from
Paradise, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.53
Book Five of the Natural History moves us from cosmology to geography and
ethnography. The text describes the topography and peoples of Africa and the Near
East. The illuminated initial in Pico’s manuscript departs from the landscape or map
images typically used as its incipit (Fig. 4.4).54 Instead, the illuminator depicts a lion
and a leopard within a grassy setting with trees. In the distance, buildings include
what seems to be a church and attached structures, perhaps a monastic complex. A
marginal field created by a dead tree trunk that metamorphoses into a biting, finned
monster contains a solitary bearded figure with long hair standing in a barren
landscape of rocks and water. His bare chest and arms protrude from the gray cloth

1472, illuminated by the Negi Master (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Inc.
Rés. 415).
For the medieval system of cosmological/theological maps like the T–O map, see John
Block Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1981), 37–58; and David Woodward, “Medieval Mappaemundi,” in J. B.
Harley and David Woodward, eds, History of Cartography: Cartography in Prehistoric,
Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, The History of Cartography, vol. 1
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 286–370. I thank Lilian Armstrong for the
51 For the decorated initial beginning Book Two in the manuscript owned by Gregorio
Lolli Piccolomini, see the color illustration in Whalley, Pliny, 11.
52 Pietro da Pavia had illustrated the beginning initial of Book Two of the manuscript
of the Natural History in the Ambrosiana with an image of God the Father in a mandorla
supported by two angels, and no cosmological symbol; see Rossi, “Pietro da Pavia,” 233–4.
53 The painting is in the Robert Lehman Collection (1975.1.31) of the museum.
Laurinda S. Dixon, “Giovanni di Paolo’s Cosmology,” Art Bulletin 76 (1985): 604–13,
illustrates it (figs 1 and 6) and traces the type of image of a geocentric universe to a
biblical/Aristotelian synthesis as documented by Johannes Sacrobosco’s Sphera Mundi.
She argues that the mappamundi in the center combines biblical tradition with Ptolemaic
54 See Armstrong, “Pliny Manuscripts,” 33. The Piccolomini manuscript’s opening
initial to Book Five is composed of a gilded letter “A” surrounded by bianchi girari; see
the color illustration in Whalley, Pliny, 15.

4.3 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book Two. Pico della Mirandola’s
manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice, Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 27 recto. Ca. 1480s.
Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

4.4 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book Five. Pico della Mirandola’s
manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice, Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 68 verso. Ca. 1480s.
Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

loosely wrapped around his torso and shoulders as he cranes forward with an intense
look on his face and holds aloft a stake with an animal skull atop it, as though to
frighten the lion. This figure evokes John the Baptist in his desert isolation, long
hair, and scant clothing. The skull recalls depictions of saints Jerome and Mary
Magdalene, who often hold skulls and muse on the transitory nature of earthly
existence. The figure is a total innovation in Pliny manuscripts.55 In my opinion, the
illuminator invented him to represent an Essene, a member of the isolated celibate
tribe that Pliny described as living west of the Dead Sea and renouncing all earthly
pleasure (5.73). John the Baptist is often associated with this sect because of his
asceticism and prayerful retreat into the desert, even though contemporary historians
such as Flavius Josephus do not identify him as an Essene.56
The illustration of this anecdote required great familiarity with the text. Pliny’s
account of the Essenes comes nowhere near the beginning of Book Five. While
Pliny itemized scientific topics in his lengthy table of contents that constitutes the
whole of Book One, its detailed topical sub-headings and sources for each of the
following 36 books do not list the anecdotes that enliven the Natural History.

Erudition on Display

Pico’s manuscript of the Natural History is not unique in its illustration of

anecdotes. The manuscript owned by Piccolomini illustrates one recounted at the
beginning of Book 17 in that book’s incipit initial, and the incipit initials of several
manuscripts depict a famous story told by Pliny in the opening lines of Book 34.57

55 I thank Karen Reeds for suggesting the figure’s resemblance to John the Baptist.
56 Neither the New Testament nor Flavius Josephus in his contemporary histories of the
Jews, Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish War, calls John the Baptist an Essene.
Nevertheless, he came to be associated with that sect in later Christian interpretation. See
Otto Betz, “Was John the Baptist an Essene?,” Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls. A
Reader from the Biblical Archaeology Review, ed. Herschel Shanks (New York: Random
House, 1992), 205–16, Heinz Schreckenberg, Die Flavius-Josephus-Tradition in Antike
und Mittelalter (Leiden: Brill, 1972), and Schreckenberg, Rezeptionsgeschichtliche und
textkritische Untersuchungen zu Flavius Josephus (Leiden: Brill, 1977).
57 For an anecdote uniquely illustrated in the Piccolomini manuscript, see Whalley,
Pliny, 26.7. Book 17’s subject is cultivated trees, but the incipit initial depicts an armored
figure, wearing a laurel wreath and holding an orb; he stands before a grove of trees in a
walled garden and looks out at a city in flames. This figure must represent Nero, watching
Rome burn. The connection between Nero, the burning city, and trees arises from Pliny’s
opening anecdote about the selfish nature of humans who, unlike animals, compete for
personal ownership of natural resources. Decrying Roman extravagance, Pliny told the
story of two famous Romans who vied for exclusive possession of a certain species of
desirable shade tree-a rivalry that lasted until the time of the fire in Rome (17.1–6.) Another
anecdote, this one concerning the hunchback Clesippus, was repeatedly illustrated as the
incipit to Book 34 (see Armstrong, “Pliny Manuscripts,” 28–9), in the process cementing
an association between the hunchback and Corinthian bronze lamp stands (34.5–6). See
Pliny, Natural History (Books 33–35), ed. and trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 134–5.

But Pico’s manuscript systematically decorates the opening initials of many books
with images that invoke anecdotes often buried deep in the text. The pictorial
sophistication inspired by these stories is far higher than in any other Pliny
manuscript. The choice bespeaks the erudite interests and thorough familiarity
with Pliny’s text that the manuscript’s patron, Pico della Mirandola, possessed. It
strongly suggests he devised the enhancement of Book Five’s standard
geographical emblems. The Essenes’ presumed role in Christianity’s early
development made them much more interesting to Pico and his contemporaries
than they had been to Pliny.
Book Seven in Pico’s manuscript focuses closely on the physiology and
biology of humans. This book’s initial follows tradition in depicting some of the
fantastic peoples Pliny catalogued in remote areas of the world (Fig. 4.5).58 So,
too, does the miniature in the initial opening of the same book in the Piccolomini
manuscript, which shows representatives of many of these races crowded around
Romans who record their peculiarities and keep order.59 The remarkable tribes
include an Indian Sciopod who shields himself from the sun with his sole umbrella
foot, an Ethiopian whose black skin Pliny ascribed to sunburn, a tiny African
pygmy, and one of the headless Blemmyae from Libya, whose eyes and mouths
are attached to their chests.60 The Piccolomini manuscript adopts the imagery of
late-medieval travel literature, such as Marco Polo’s Milione, which created
illustrations from Pliny’s accounts of fantastic tribes, often in juxtaposition to their
civilized visitors.61 This contrast between the uncivilized and civilized worlds is
true to Pliny’s own text, which stresses the central position of the Roman empire
and its triumphant establishment of peace and civilization in conquered lands.62
In contrast, the illumination opening Book Seven in Pico’s Pliny omits
westerners, and thereby avoids the contrast between their normative humanity and
the tribes’ lack of it. Fewer representatives of different tribes are shown, and they
look more human. Two members of the forest-dwelling Abarimons of Scythia,

58 Friedman, Monstrous Races, 5–36 and 131–62, and Rudolf Wittkower, “Marco Polo
and the Pictorial Tradition of the Marvels of the East,” Oriente Poliano (Rome: Istituto
Italiano per il Medio e Estremo Oriente, 1957), 155–72. The influence of Pliny’s
descriptions is so dominant that Friedman, The Monstrous Races, 5, terms the various tribes
“the Plinian races.” Solinus’ epitome focused on the ethnographical sections of Pliny’s text
and enhanced their influence. Wittkower, “Marvels,” 171–6, pointed out that the existence
of an illustrated thirteenth-century version of Solinus’ epitome suggests that earlier versions
must have been accompanied by imagery. He also argued that the tradition of late-medieval
books about the “marvels of the east” has its source in late antiquity, and that as the later
examples are illustrated, they likely reflect the imagery of their lost forebears.
59 For a color illustration, see Whalley, Pliny, 17.
60 Pliny’s description of Sciopods is found in 7.23; of Ethiopians in 7.31; of Pygmies,
7.26–27; of Blemmyae, 7.24.
61 Friedman, The Monstrous Races, 154–62, emphasizes the constant presence of the
traveling westerners in this literature.
62 Valérie Naas, Le Projet encyclopédique de Pline l’Ancien, Collection de l’Ecole
Française de Rome, no. 303 (Rome: Ecole Française de Rome, 2002), 449–72.

4.5 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book Seven. Pico della
Mirandola’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice,
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 96 recto.
Ca. 1480s. Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

famed for running extremely fast even though their feet are turned behind their
legs, seem to communicate recognizable emotions. Cannibals drink out of human
skulls, although the Pico Master minimizes their alterity by representing the skulls
as conch shells and omitting the scalps around their necks that Pliny says
substituted for napkins. To the left reclines an Androgen, an African tribe whose
combination of male and female sexual functions Pliny repeatedly described.63
The painter underscores the Androgen’s human capacities through its gesture to
the others. These illustrations seem to convey effectively the fantastic peoples’
humanity and suggest a viewpoint on an issue that had puzzled theologians. In
their attempts to understand God’s scheme of creation, learned Christians had
ardently debated whether the tribes of fantastic peoples were human and had
souls. An important issue was at stake: could they be converted to Christianity and
redeemed?64 The illumination’s affirmative interpretation of the tribes’ human
nature accords well with Pico’s own wide-ranging interests in non-Western
religions and belief systems and fits his characterization of the earth as “the most
august temple of divinity” and of man as God’s greatest miracle.65
Book 22 concerns plants’ medicinal properties, a subject depicted literally in
the Piccolomini manuscript by two men in a walled garden with many species of
trees and plants (Fig. 4.6). One, whose more formal dress conveys his superior
status, is seated and sniffs the leaves from a cut plant. The other man, dressed as
a worker and carrying a shovel, approaches him and offers another plant specimen
for him to study. The illustration follows the health handbook tradition in its
depiction of experts inspecting plants within a landscape setting.66 In contrast, the
initial “C” opening Book 22 in Pico’s manuscript surrounds a landscape with no

63 Pliny describes the Abarimons (7.11); cannibals (7.12); and Androgens (7.15 and
34–6). The figure seems to have male sexual organs but is reclining in a delicate feminine
posture. Furthermore, it may have the left breast of a woman and the right breast of a man
that Pliny says Aristotle described as an Androgen characteristic, although damage to the
pigment in this area makes it difficult to be certain.
64 Friedman, The Monstrous Races, 178–96; Wittkower, “Marvels,” 176–82; and Debra
Higgs Strickland, Saracens, Demons, and Jews. Making Monsters in Medieval Art
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 41–93.
65 Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Discorso sulla dignità dell’uomo, ed. Giuseppe
Tognon (Brescia: Ereditrice La Scuola, 1992), 5–11, for Pico’s characterizations of the
earth and of man. The treatise was written in 1486, five years after Pico commissioned the
illuminated manuscript of Pliny. Pico considered man to be the centerpiece of God’s
creation scheme and the only creature capable of choosing whether his nature would be
brutish or divine. See Michael J. B. Allen, “Cultura hominis: Giovanni Pico, Marsilio
Ficino and the Idea of Man,” in Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Convegno internazionale
di studi nel cinquecentesimo anniversario della morte (1494–1994), ed. Gian Carlo
Garfagnini, 2 vols (Florence: L. S. Olschki, 1997), vol. 1, 173–5.
66 See, for example, the illustration in the Tacuinum sanitatis in Rouen, Bibliothèque
Municipale, MS Leber 3054 (1088), fol. 31 recto, reproduced in Moly Mariotti,
“Contribution,” 34, fig. 9. Most of the illustrations of herbalists in earlier manuscripts of
Pliny’s Natural History isolated the figures and did not depict a landscape; see, for
example, the Parma Pliny’s incipit for Book 12, fol. 78 verso, illustrated in Armstrong,
“Pliny Manuscripts,” fig. 6a.

4.6 Attributed to Giuliano Amadei. Incipit to Book 22. Gregorio Lolli

Piccolomini’s manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. London,
Victoria and Albert Museum, MS L. 1504–1896, fol. 321 recto. 1460s.
Photo courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

plants in sight (Fig. 4.7). Two women, whose long flowing blonde tresses do little
to cover their nudity, stand on either side of a large metal container. One woman’s
face is covered with black and she seems to be applying more black stain to her
upper body. The other holds her hands together in prayer. The illumination derives
from Pliny’s anecdote recounted just below it on the page (22.2) about the wives
of Bretons in Gaul who prepare for rituals by disrobing and coloring their bodies
blue-black with dyes derived from woad.67 (The pigments on the body of the
praying woman have oxidized, so that the original dark tint of her painted body is
now a patchwork of black and silver shades.)
Book 37 deals with precious gems. In Pico’s manuscript the initial departs from
the standard scene for this book – which is either a gem-studded decoration, as in
the Parma Pliny, or a representation of a jeweler’s shop (Fig. 4.8). The
Piccolomini manuscript, for example, illustrates a shop where gems are cut and
set. Interlacing bianchi girari wind around the book’s opening initial, the gilded
letter “V,” to create a frame for three separate scenes.68 In the central image, two
gem specialists stand in a landscape. One points to a pile of unset stones on the
ground while the other examines a pendant whose green gem is incised with the
figure of a man. In the flanking scenes of shop interiors, a workman polishes
stones while another hammers into shape an oversized gold ring on a table strewn
with unset jewels.
In contrast, Pico’s book depicts a woman standing before a trestle table. She
has split open a large fish and is removing a red stone from its belly. The
illustration refers to Pliny’s story about Polycrates, the tyrant controlling Samos
and neighboring islands in the mid-sixth century BC, and the extraordinary
sardonyx he once owned. Polycrates worried that his good fortune would anger
the gods, and he tried to diminish its outward evidence by throwing a prized gem
into the sea. Fortune thwarted his plan: the gem was swallowed by a fish, the fish
was caught, and finally, as the initial shows the reader, the gem was discovered as
the fish was prepared for dinner in Polycrates’ own kitchen. The gem was later
acquired by the Empress Livia, who donated it to the Temple of Concordia in
Rome, where it was displayed in Pliny’s day. According to Pliny, the sardonyx of
Polycrates was judged the least impressive of the jewels exhibited there (37.3–4).
With this anecdote Pliny pays tribute to the great wealth and power of Rome and
the practice of its best rulers of appropriating treasures for the benefit of the state.
At the same time, he tacitly laments that what had seemed precious centuries
earlier had become by the standards of his day insignificant.
The elaborate pearl-encircled head to the left of the incipit illumination is the
pearl-studded portrait of Pompey. The bauble particularly enraged Pliny because
it symbolized the way extravagance had seduced Rome’s greatest general.
Pompey displayed this portrait in his third triumphal procession celebrating his

67 Armstrong, “Il Maestro,” 21, first pointed out the unusual subject of this illustration,
and its derivation from an anecdote in the text.
68 For a color illustration, see Whalley, Pliny, 47.

4.7 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book 22. Pico della Mirandola’s
manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 286 recto. Ca.
1480s. Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana; photo source:
courtesy of the Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art

4.8 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book 37. Pico della Mirandola’s
manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice, Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 446 verso. Ca.
1480s. Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

victory over Mithridates in 61 BC. The ostentation made “fashion veer to pearls
and gemstones” (37.12). Pliny angrily described it later in Book 37:

Pompey’s portrait rendered in pearls, that portrait so pleasing with the handsome growth
of hair swept back from the forehead, the portrait of that noble head revered throughout
the world … Here it was austerity that was defeated and extravagance [luxuria] that
more truly celebrated its triumph. Never, I think, would his surname “the Great” have
survived among the stalwarts of that age had he celebrated his first triumph in this
fashion! To think that it is of pearls, Great Pompey, those wasteful things meant only for
women, of pearls, which you yourself cannot and must not wear, that your portrait is
made! (37.14–16)

Both stories are crucial to Pliny’s running polemic about the dangers of luxuria.
To understand the central importance of this theme in the Natural History, one
needs to read the entire text. Pliny was very concerned that during the Empire the
rigorous moral standards of the Republic had been replaced by the decadent lust
for expensive, exotic materials and wanton despoiling of the earth’s natural
resources.69 To appreciate the pearl-studded portrait as a symbol of Pompey’s
transformation from venerated warrior to self-indulgent fop, the reader must
search the encyclopedia page by page – there is no index of proper names. In Book
Seven – on human biology – Pliny proclaimed Pompey the greatest general who
ever lived, surpassing even Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar (7.95). Pliny
then contrasted him to Alexander who, unlike Pompey, behaved honorably and
resisted the lure of jewels. Rather, Alexander used a pearl and gem-encrusted case
of unguents gained as booty from Darius to preserve the works of Homer. Pliny
commended Alexander for his public-spirited act. Whereas Pompey bought jewels
for personal adornment, Alexander rightly recognized that Homer’s writings were
among mankind’s greatest legacies, and he sought their transmission to posterity
in a suitably precious container (7.108).
One last example of the erudition and familiarity with Pliny’s text displayed in
the Pico manuscript’s illuminations is the figure beginning Book 35 on geology
(Fig. 4.9). It has nothing to do with the usual imagery, a depiction of a painter’s
workshop or of a painter standing with brush in hand before a panel on his easel
– seen, for example, in the Parma manuscript (Fig. 4.10).70 This sort of illustration

69 Writers from Cato the Elder (234–149 BC) onward railed against the growing Roman
taste for luxuria, a negative term that suggests suspicion and disapproval of things foreign,
exotic, expensive, and opulent. Karl-Wilhelm Weeber, Luxus im alten Rom: Die
Schwelgerei, das süsse Gift (Darmstadt: Primus Verlag, 2003). See also Sandra Citroni
Marchetti, Plinio il Vecchio e la tradizione del moralismo romano, Biblioteca di materiali
e discussioni per l’analisi dei testi classici (Pisa: Giardini, 1991), and more generally, Jacob
Isager, Pliny on Art and Society: The Elder Pliny’s Chapters on the History of Art (London:
Routledge, 1991), 52–6; Naas, Le Projet encyclopédique, 71–105, and Sorcha Carey,
Pliny’s Catalogue of Culture: Art and Empire in the Natural History (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2003), 75–101.
70 The Piccolomini manuscript represents another series of three scenes within the
interlace of bianchi girari surrounding the gilded initial “V.” In the center a painter stands

4.9 Attributed to the Pico Master. Incipit to Book 35. Pico della Mirandola’s
manuscript of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Venice, Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI. 245 (coll. 2976), fol. 420 verso (bis). Ca.
1480s. Photo courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

4.10 Cristoforo Cortese. Incipit to Book 35. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, MS 1278, fol. 210 recto. Ca. 1420–30. Photo:
su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali; photo
source: Greci

became standard for Book 35 because Pliny digressed from his catalogue of the
earth’s minerals to outline the history of Greek painting. His rationale was that
minerals were ground to manufacture pigments.
The initial in Pico’s manuscript does not follow this practice, nor does it
illustrate a specific anecdote in the learned strategy that I have argued is typical of
many of its illuminations. Instead, by depicting a bust of a painter with a pot of
paints marginalized into a corner of an incipit dominated by large birds in a
landscape, it alludes to four of Pliny’s tales about birds deceived by the illusions
wrought by painters. The most famous of these stories became a paradigm for the
interpretation of naturalism as the goal of art.71

[Parrhasius] entered into a competition with Zeuxis, who produced a picture of grapes
so successfully represented that birds flew up to the stage-buildings [where they hung];
whereupon Parrhasius himself produced such a realistic picture of a curtain that Zeuxis,
proud of the verdict of the birds, requested that the curtain should now be drawn and the
picture displayed; and when he realized his mistake, with a modesty that did him honor
he yielded up the prize, saying that whereas he had deceived birds Parrhasius had
deceived him, an artist. It is said that Zeuxis also subsequently painted a Child Carrying
Grapes, and when birds flew to the fruit with the same frankness as before he strode up
to the picture in anger with it and said, “I have painted the grapes better than the child,
as if I had made a success of that as well, the birds would inevitably been afraid of it.”

Retold again and again by intellectuals during the Renaissance and later epochs, it
was used to praise artists who succeeded in creating a convincing replica of nature.73

on an elevated base so that he can paint the ribbed vaults above him. To the left, a helper
grinds pigments on a table outdoors, while on the right another painter decorates cassoni.
See the color illustration in Whalley, Pliny, 45.
71 Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1983), 12–14, critiques the notion that art should be a record of
perception, which is, in his estimation, the prevailing theory in western aesthetics from the
Renaissance through the writings of Ernst Gombrich in the twentieth century. He traces the
origin of the theory to ancient aesthetics, as epitomized by Pliny’s anecdote. See also
Stephen Bann, The True Vine: On Visual Representation and the Western Tradition
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 28–35. A recent exhibition at the National
Gallery of Art in Washington structured its interpretation around themes such as the
“Curtain of Parrhasios” and the “Grapes of Zeuxis.” See the exhibition catalog: Sybille
Ebert Schifferer, ed., Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe-l’oeil Painting
(Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2002).
72 Pliny, Natural History (Books 33–35), 35.65–66, pp. 310–11. Marcon, in Vedere i
classici, ed. Buonocore, 425, connected this illustration to the Zeuxis anecdote but did not
develop the point.
73 Leonard Barkan, “The Heritage of Zeuxis: Painting, Rhetoric and History,” Antiquity
and its Interpreters, ed. Alina Payne, Ann Kuttner, and Rebekah Smick (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2000), 99–109, assesses why the anecdote was so often
repeated. Creighton Gilbert, “Grapes, Curtains, Human Beings: The Theory of Missed
Mimesis,” Künstlerischer Austausch. Artistic Exchange, ed. T. W. Gaehtgens, 3 vols
(Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993), vol. 2, 413–19, probes the implications of Pliny’s two
stories about Zeuxis and Parrhasius.

Pliny reinforced his endorsement of naturalism in art by supplying two other

tales of birds tricked by the mimetic talents of painters. The first concerned the
greatly admired stage-sets erected for theatrical performances sponsored by
Claudius Pulcher, consul and co-commander of the Roman fleet at Syracuse
during the First Punic War (249 BC). The scenery painting was so convincing that
crows tried to alight on the roof-tiles of the buildings it depicted (35.23). The
second recorded a likeness of a large snake painted on a parchment strip and
wound around a tree that so frightened birds that they stopped singing. Aemilius
Paulus Lepidus (the partner of Marc Antony and Octavian in the second
Triumvirate of 43 BC) engineered this early version of a scarecrow because the
sounds of the birds prevented him from sleeping (35.121).
The point of these stories is not how easily birds are deluded into mistaking
images of objects for the real things. Above all else, Pliny valued art for its
mimetic potentials. Rather, his anecdotes insist upon the great level of skill
achieved by certain artists and they measure art in terms of its capacity to trick the
eye of natural creatures. The birds, which seek out images that imitate reality,
should instead be seen as surrogates for Pliny’s judgment about good art. Pliny’s
praise of the bronze statue of a hound licking his wounds that stood before the
Shrine of Juno on the Capitol offers a characteristic example of his aesthetic

the miraculous excellence and absolute truth to life of which is shown not only by the
fact of its dedication in that place but also of the method taken for insuring it: for as no
sum of money seemed to equal its value, the government enacted that its custodians
should be answerable for its safety with their lives. (34.38)74

To Pliny, the birds were far better judges of quality than his fellow Romans,
who spurned the naturalistic tastes of their ancestors in favor of other aesthetic
criteria based on lavishness of materials and decorative opulence.75 Pico probably
designed the allusive illustration to Book 34 for only a reader expert in the
nuances of Pliny’s text and cultural context could appreciate the painting’s witty
implications and enjoy sharing with fellow intellectuals the satisfactions of their
mutual erudition about Roman civilization.
This sampling of illuminations from Pico’s manuscript demonstrates that a
number of the images in the books’ opening initials diverge from the standard
Plinian repertory of images derived from the herbal and health handbook tradition.

74 Pliny, Natural History (Books 33–35), 34.38, pp. 156–7. See the Natural History
35.52, for Pliny’s approving claim that the chief aim of Roman portraiture for generations
was to achieve a lifelike resemblance.
75 Pliny denounces the taste for expensive materials in sculpture: Pliny, Natural History
(Books 33–35), 34.5, pp. 128–9. He also criticizes the painting of his day, which had
introduced many colors derived from imported pigments, contrasting it with the four-color
palette of Apelles and other earlier painters whose work he esteems: Pliny, Natural History
(Books 33–35), 35.50 pp. 298–9.

The miniatures in the other incipits are versions of the illustrations established by
tradition for each book and provide visual emblems of the book’s contents that any
reader would recognize. The departure from the set visual repertory is not wholly
unprecedented. Some earlier manuscripts of Pliny had been illustrated with an
occasional scene that depicted an anecdote in the encyclopedia, as the images in
Pico’s manuscript do.
Examples of these rare exceptions fall into one of two categories. The first
involves the unique case in which Pliny’s text readily conjured up a visual image:
the explanation (Book 34) why the hunchback Clesippus was always associated in
the minds of Greeks and Romans with Corinthian bronze candelabra. In a number
of manuscripts this yielded an initial with an image of a male statue between two
candelabra.76 The second category (including many examples in Pico’s
manuscript) seizes on anecdotes recounted in the opening lines of a book. Pico’s
manuscript adopted this system of text and image relationship several times. The
illumination in the initial beginning Book Three, for instance, depicts the cosmos
because Pliny describes it first, before focusing on the earth. The illumination
beginning Book 22 (Fig. 4.7) – the two women of Gaul dyeing their bodies black
– refers to the first lines of the book where Pliny uses it to exemplify the uses of
plants for human benefit.
Whether the Pico illustrations are based on the first visually interesting
allusions in a book or on anecdotes buried deep within Pliny’s narrative or on a
synthesis of stories and themes in several books, the relationships between text
and images are always sophisticated and complex. They signify a deliberate
choice of subjects, designed to be intelligible only to a learned audience familiar
with Pliny’s dauntingly long and discursive text. The erudite Pico must have been
deeply engaged in devising them. But the motive was the intellectual titillation of
himself and his colleagues through visual allusions to the Greco-Roman culture
they so ardently admired, not instruction about science and medicine.

76 See above, note 57.

Chapter 5

Reading and Writing the Illustrated

Tractatus de herbis, 1280–1526
Jean A. Givens*

Toward the very end of the thirteenth century, a Salernitan scholar compiled an
updated summary of herbal knowledge that has come to be known as the Tractatus
de herbis et plantis. Such collections of text extracts were familiar adjuncts to
therapeutic theory and practice, but this particular scholar departed from several
centuries of medieval practice by including some 400 images as part of his
strategy of communication. The decision proved popular as demonstrated by the
appearance of the Tractatus in Latin and the vernacular, in many manuscripts, and
still later, in print. Indeed, readers appear to have consulted this work well into the
sixteenth century. The mere survival of a medieval “scientific” text in print is no
novelty; fifteenth- and sixteenth-century printers freely mined comparable
sources. Rather, the interest of this text and its survival resides in the ways in
which the text and its visual apparatus were initially conceived and then reworked
over time to suit a changing audience for the text.
Three copies of the Tractatus – manuscripts in Latin and English and a printed
book in English – exemplify the ways in which the goal of learning by reading
could be guided by a combination of verbal and visual strategies. A Latin
manuscript, London, British Library, Egerton MS 747 dates to the very late
thirteenth or early fourteenth century and it is the oldest copy of the Tractatus.
Another, much less well-known manuscript, Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek,
MS GKS 227 2°, combines illustrations derived from Egerton 747 with a French
translation of the text; it is one of the oldest surviving copies of this French

* I want to offer my sincere thanks to the organizations that supported this project and
helped make the research possible, including: the American Council of Learned Societies,
the American Philosophical Society, as well as the Research Foundation and the School of
Fine Arts of the University of Connecticut. Colleagues at the British Library, the library of
the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, and the Yale University
Cushing/Whitney Medical Library generously made the books in their care available to me.
Many individuals have kindly offered their assistance, as well. Erik Petersen and others at
the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen have made my studies of MS GKS 227 2° a
pleasure. Peter Murray Jones, William Clark, and Fred Biggs have all been generous with
their time and their expert advice. Finally, I am very grateful to Lana Babij, Lynn Sweet,
Lois Fletcher, and, especially, Michael Young of the University of Connecticut, Homer
Babbidge Library for their gracious help with this project.


version, usually known as the Livre des simples médecines. Finally, the Grete
Herball of 1526 – a translation of the French text – has the distinction of being the
first illustrated herbal printed in English.
These multiple versions of the Tractatus demonstrate a fair degree of stability;
a reasonably knowledgeable reader can move from one to the other with some
confidence. All register considerable deference to Latin nomenclature, and
features common to all three include an organizational system derived from the
Latin original, a synthesis of therapeutic and theoretical information drawn from
classical and medieval sources, and the use of illustrations to signpost the text. At
the same time, a process of reorganization and reordering of the contents as well
as the introduction of visual cuing systems helped sustain the use of this text for
over 200 years.

A Treatise for the Scholarly Reader: London, British Library, Egerton MS


The earliest manuscript of the Tractatus known to scholars, Egerton 747 is a

lavishly illustrated work that appears to have been compiled in the ambit of the
medical school at Salerno.1 The university link is confirmed by the specific pattern
of the manuscript’s foliation, by two images of scholars contained in this
manuscript, and by the incorporation of a text that became required reading in
Salerno ca. 1280.2 The manuscript’s most striking feature is its several hundred
illustrations, and it is these pictures, and especially their naturalism, that have
attracted most scholarly attention. Egerton 747 was first discussed in a seminal
and frequently cited essay by art historian Otto Pächt that addresses the moment
when, as he put it: “nature observation, the study of the individual appearance of
the external world, became of topical interest to Italian artists.”3 As Pächt first
recognized, and as other scholars have confirmed since, the plant images included
in Egerton 747 frequently are remarkably descriptive, and in this, a striking
departure from much (although by no means all) imagery of the period.4

1 Minta Collins’s dating of Egerton 747 to ca. 1281–1309 corresponds to that cited in
nearly all other major studies. Minta Collins, Medieval Herbals: The Illustrative Traditions
(London: British Museum, 2000), 245. Composed of 148 parchment folios, this manuscript
today measures 360 x 242 mm with approximately 55 lines of text in two columns. It shows
evidence of having been trimmed. For a facsimile of folios 1–109, see A Medieval Herbal:
A Facsimile of British Library Egerton MS 747, intro. Minta Collins, list of plants by
Sandra Raphael (London: British Library, 2003).
2 P. O. Kristeller, “The School of Salerno, Its Development and its Contribution to the
History of Learning,” in Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters (Rome: Edizioni di
Storia e Letteratura, 1956), 495–551; and Gerhard Baader, “Die Schule von Salerno,”
Medizinhistorisches Journal 13 (1978): 124–45.
3 Otto Pächt, “Early Italian Nature Studies and the Early Calendar Landscape,” Journal
of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 13 (1950): 28, 13.
4 For other descriptively rendered images contemporary with Egerton 747, see: Jean A.

Pächt’s interest in this phenomenon is part of art history’s long-standing project

to identify the origins of descriptive naturalism, an enterprise that can be traced
back to early modern and even Roman commentaries on the artist as an observer
of nature. Equally important, his essay validates this accomplishment with an
argument that is grounded in several key assumptions about the manner in which
illustrated books on plants like Egerton 747 were used. Taking his cue from
historian of science Charles Singer, Pächt makes the claim that herbals were
practical manuals, that their illustrations “would be useless to the herbalist (and
doctor) unless the plants were depicted with such veracity as to be easily
identified,” and that most medieval herbals failed to achieve this standard since
illustrations typically were mindlessly copied again and again.5 Although he stops
well short of claiming they are based on the firsthand observation of nature, Pächt
highlights the informational value of the images in Egerton 747, and by extension,
the assumption that its readers used this lavishly illustrated book as a guide to
plants in the wild. Even so, the use of such a book by university-trained scholars
– more precisely, the use of the pictures – is not at all obvious.
The value of images as sources of information and, by extension, the divergent
strengths of visual and verbal communication have been subjects of debate for
centuries.6 Equally important, although it is easy to overlook this point, the vast
majority of medieval plant books did not incorporate images, and those few that do
nearly always were copies of a single late antique text – the fourth-century work
known as the Pseudo-Apuleian Herbarius. On a purely pragmatic level, the
seemingly self-evident notion that medieval images were intended to help medieval
practitioners locate plants in the field misses the point that by the time the Egerton
manuscript was produced, the sort of university-trained scholar likely to have used
this book would have received plant materials in prepared form, much like his
modern counterpart. As Karen Reeds observes in her survey of medieval and
Renaissance botanical study, plant gatherers typically are identified in medieval
texts as rustici, a group singled out for criticism by Roger Bacon specifically for
being illiterate.7 Just as important, it is difficult if not impossible to imagine anyone
taking a big, expensive book like Egerton 747 out into the field. As a consequence,
the function of illustrated plant books remains a much more open-ended question
than the accounts of Pächt and, before him, Singer might suggest.

Givens, Observation and Image-Making in Gothic Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 2005).
5 Pächt, “Nature Studies,” 25–7, citing Charles Singer, “The Herbal in Antiquity and its
Transmission to Later Ages,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 47 (1927): 1–52.
6 See, for example, David Freedberg, “The Failure of Colour,” in Sight and Insight:
Essays on Art and Culture in Honour of E. H. Gombrich at 85, ed. John Onians (London:
Phaidon, 1994), 245–62; and W. J. T. Mitchell, “Nature and Convention: Gombrich’s
Illusions,” in Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1986), 75–94.
7 Karen Meier Reeds, Botany in Medieval and Renaissance Universities (New York:
Garland, 1991), 10, 24–5.

Whereas the many pictures included in Egerton 747 have attracted

considerable scholarly attention, the text generally has been neglected, perhaps
because in contrast to the seeming innovation of the images, it remains a more
typical “medieval” product in its respect for traditional sources. The Tractatus
builds on a substantially earlier Salernitan work known as Circa instans, so called
from the first two words of the incipit: Circa instans negotium in simplicibus
medicinis (“About the present business with the medicinal simples”).8 Circa
instans was composed by one “Platearius,” most likely Matthaeus Platearius of
Salerno, and it contains well over 200 entries concerning “simples,” that is,
medicines with a single active ingredient as opposed to compound remedies.9
Widely circulated from the twelfth century onward, Circa instans provided a
useful synthesis of a range of ancient and medieval medical sources. This textual
information presumably was capable of standing on its own; given the many
unillustrated copies of this text made both before and after Egerton 747 was
written, it seems safe to conclude that the original Circa instans had no pictures.
As a consequence, the inclusion of images of plants and figural scenes in the
revision of this text that appears in Egerton 747 was a significant innovation.10
Along with including illustrations, the compiler of the Tractatus expanded on the
text of Circa instans in several, clearly visible ways.11 First, of all, the revised text
includes a longer list of substances, including a few exotics such as nux sciarca
(melegueta pepper) and blacte bisancie (a mollusk from Byzantium). Additional
information is drawn from the Pseudo-Apuleian Herbarius, as well as from
authorities such as Dioscorides, Macer Floridus, Constantine the African, and
others.12 A dietetic treatise by an Egyptian physician known as Is’h.a- q ibn-Sulayma- n

8 For the Latin text of Circa instans see: Liber de simplici medicina dictus circa instans.
Practica platearij (Venice: Octauianus Scotus, 1497). This edition recently has been placed
on line by the Göttingen State and University Library. For a French translation of a
thirteenth-century French manuscript of the text see Paul Dorveaux, Le livre des simples
medecines (Paris: Société française d’histoire, 1913). Here and elsewhere, the title of the
Livre des simples médecines is cited in modern French (with an accent) or middle French
(without), following the author’s preference. My citations are in modern French.
9 The attribution to Platearius is complicated by the existence of two authors of that
name: “Johannes” and “Matthaeus.” Dorveaux, Livre des simples, v.
10 Felix A. Baumann, Das Erbario Carrarese und die Bildtradition des Tractatus de
herbis (Bern: Benteli Verlag, 1974), 116; Carmélia Opsomer, Enid Roberts, and William T.
Stearn, eds, Livre des simples medecines Codex Bruxellensis IV. 1024: A 15th-Century
French Herbal (Antwerp: De Schutter, 1984), 16. This publication is a revised edition and
translation of Carmélia Opsomer’s 1980 French-language transcription of this same
manuscript. The French and English editions are not identical.
11 An explicit on fol. 106 recto of the Tractatus credits the “hand and mind of
Bartholomeus Mini of Siena, well versed in the knowledge of drugs and spices” and offers
the wish that Bartholomaeus may “live blessed (?) in heaven.” As first noted by Pächt,
however, both references to Bartholomeus are written over erasures. Pächt, “Nature
Studies,” 28, n. 3; Collins and Raphael, Facsimile, 4.
12 For the sources of the French version of the Tractatus that circulated as the Livre des
simples médecines, see Opsomer, Roberts, and Stearn, eds, Livre des simples, 12.

al-Isra- ’ı-lı- (Isaac Israel: or Isaac Judaeus) also is cited at length in passages inserted
at various points. This expanded version of Circa instans comprises the first 106
folios, followed by several images of plants with little or no text on fols 106 verso
to 109 recto. Fols 109 verso–111 verso contain texts written in a later hand, followed
by an unnumbered leaf, and a final set of texts on compound medicines written in
the same hand as the Tractatus.
These last works – the Antidotarium Nicolai (another work sometimes attributed
to Matthaeus Platearius), a copy of De dosibus medicinarum, a quid pro quo or list
of substitutions, information on weights and measures, a list of synonyms of plant
names drawn from Galen and other authorities, and an incomplete copy of an
addendum to the Antidotarium Nicolai – round out the presentation of
pharmaceutical knowledge by pairing the account of simples provided in the
Tractatus with an account of the use of compound medicines.13 That parallelism is
underlined visually by the inclusion of images of university scholars positioned at
the start of both the Tractatus on fol. 1 recto and the Antidotarium Nicolai on fol.
112 recto – the only two figural initials in the manuscript.14
The arrangement of the entries in Egerton 747 reflects the additive manner in
which the text was conceived. That is, the armature and the basic structure of the
Tractatus is provided by Circa instans, to which the compiler adds supplementary
information from his several sources as well as pictures. Finally, he appends
information drawn from the text by Isaac. The first surviving folio of Egerton 747
includes the preface to Circa instans and an initial that pictures a university
scholar reading that same text (Fig. 5.1). (The words Circa instans are clearly
visible in the book he holds.) Next follows a table of contents – a list of plants
beginning with the letter “A.” Following frequent medieval practice,
alphabetization extends no further than the first letter; thus, the plant entries begin
with aloen, but absinthium is nearly halfway down the list.15 Once established, this
order is followed in the text entries as well.
The substances listed in the “A” section duplicate those found in Circa instans
until about three-quarters through the list when we reach aspaltum (bitumen), at
which point entirely new substances begin to be introduced. Other changes occur
when some of the sections on individual plants are given an extended treatment.
For example, in Circa instans, the entry for appium (probably celery) briefly
mentions the names, etymologies, and uses of three variant forms: appium
raninum, appium risus, and appium emoroidarum. The entries in the Tractatus, in
turn, expand on this information. First, the text provides a main entry for appium

13 Collins and Raphael, Facsimile, 23–4 citing Lynn Thorndike and Pearl Kibre, A
Catalogue of Incipits of Mediaeval Scientific Writings in Latin (London: Mediaeval
Academy, 1963), cols 1231, 1059, 439, 740, 27.
14 For a color photograph of fol. 112 at the start of the Antidotarium Nicolai see Collins,
Medieval Herbals, pl. XXIII. Unfortunately, the recent facsimile omits the Antidotarium
and the other, unillustrated sections of Egerton 747 that begin on fol. 109 recto.
15 Lloyd W. Daly, Contributions to a History of Alphabetization in Antiquity and the
Middle Ages (Brussels: Lathomus, 1967), especially 69–75.

5.1 Preface, table of entries beginning with the letter “A,” and aloen (aloe).
Tractatus de herbis. London, British Library, Egerton MS 747, fol. 1 recto.
Ca. 1280–1300. Photo by permission of the British Library

commune with a text that follows Circa instans. Following this, we find what are
now separate entries for appium raninum, appium risus, and appium
emoroidarum that expand upon habitats, the names by which these plants are
known, and several extra remedies. Finally, in this modified form, each of the
individual entries is paired with a picture.
The relationship between the short table of contents included at the start of each
alphabetical section and the text entries themselves reveals that the compiler of the
Tractatus groups plants in ways that superficially resemble Linnaean binomial
nomenclature. As we have seen, the term appium is used here to refer to a grouping
or “family” of plants that is, in turn, broken into sub-categories. And following the
form of the plant list provided in Circa instans, in the table of contents for entries
beginning with the letter “A” only appium is cited, not the separate listings for the
variant plant forms (Fig. 5.1).16 This pattern holds true elsewhere, for example in
the entries for other plants listed by the letter “A” such as aristolongia and
amigdales. For each of these items there is a single listing in the table of contents,
but just as we saw for appium, the body of the text includes information on multiple
forms of each. Moreover, the fact that the scribe left room for images of the variant
forms indicates that expanded entries of this sort were planned from the start. In
this case and elsewhere, the scribe sometimes underestimated the amount of space
required – as for example, in the case of appium risus at the foot of the right column
of fol. 3 verso – but he consistently left room for pictures (Fig. 5.2).
This sort of advance planning is not evident when it comes to the way
information drawn from Isaac’s text on dietetics is incorporated in the Egerton
manuscript. A relatively new addition to the Latin therapeutic repertoire, Isaac’s
treatise was translated from the Arabic into Latin as the Liber dietarium
universalium et particularium by Constantine the African only in the late eleventh
century.17 This text addresses the value of a series of familiar botanicals such as
olive oil and hazelnuts. In some cases, the added information simply expands
upon the properties of simples already covered in Circa instans; in other cases,
wholly new substances are added. In either case, these passages are squeezed into
the margins even though they appear to be written at the same time as the main
text. See, for example, the passage at upper left of fol. 3 verso (Fig. 5.2). The
layout of the book suggests that these entries were a late addition. When entries
supplement information previously provided by Circa instans, the substances are
illustrated. But entirely new entries – that is, ones covered only in the marginal
notations taken from Isaac’s text – are not provided with pictures.
16 Medieval Latin nomenclature is by no means identical to Linnaean terminology.
Rather, the similarities often derive from Linnaeus’s injunction in his 24th canon: “The
ancient names of the classics are to be respected.” John Earle, English Plant Names from
the Tenth to the Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1880), xl.
17 For Isaac’s treatise see Omnia opera Ysaac (Lyon: Bartholomaeus Trot in officina
Johannis de Platea, 1515). On Isaac and Constantine the African, see Manfred Ullmann,
Islamic Medicine (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1978), 53; and Ullmann, Die
Medizin im Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1970). For the Antidotarium Nicolai see Dorveaux, Livre
des simples, x.

5.2 Appium commune (celery), appium raninum (buttercup), and appium risus
(celery-leaved buttercup). Tractatus de herbis. London, British Library,
Egerton MS 747, fol. 3 verso. Ca. 1280–1300. Photo by permission of the
British Library

These and other choices such as the use of smaller, lighter script establish a
textual hierarchy in which the comments from Isaac’s text are clearly subordinate.
In practice, the reader moves between the main body of the text and the
supplementary entries from Isaac, the sort of slightly awkward shift of attention
familiar to any modern reader of footnotes. Even so, the citations from Isaac’s text
were drafted carefully. Most entries begin with a large, decorative letter. These
litterae notabiliores are usually written in brown ink, although in a few cases they
are highlighted in red. In one batch of entries for cucumeris, citruli, caules, cicer,
and castanee (fols 27 recto–28 verso) the initial letter is omitted, a clear indication
that these were to have been added by a second scribe or in a second round of
finishing up the manuscript that was missed here. Many of the entries are
relatively easy to locate, thanks to the fact that the citations usually begin with the
name of the subject under discussion, but other design choices, particularly the
tiny script, mean that the reader has to work a bit harder to read the passages from
Isaac’s text.
Examined closely, it is clear that the design of the Tractatus facilitated the
reader’s task of locating certain kinds of information. Tables of contents of the sort
included for the letter “A” introduce nearly each alphabetical listing, and within
these tables, each item listed is set off with an elaborated “C” for capitulum
(known as a paraph symbol) highlighted alternately in red and blue. When we
move to the entries in the body of the text, each includes a picture and the name
of the remedy under discussion. Those names are introduced with litterae
notabiliores that alternate in red and blue, a pattern that is visible on fols 3 verso
and 4 recto (Figs 5.2 and 5.3).18 Subdividing the text still further, each substance
is, in turn, associated with a series of remedies, and these individual cures are
highlighted with alternating red and blue paraphs. For example, the discussion of
antimonium in the right-hand column of fol. 4 recto (probably sulphide of
antimony) details its use against canker (entry line 9), polyps (line 11), for
problems of the eye (line 13), for nose bleeds (line 16), and so on; thanks to the
colored symbols, it is relatively easy to pick out the start of each individual
Then or now, any reader of Egerton 747 who knows the medieval Latin name
of a substance is able to use the tables of contents at the start of each alphabetical
section to locate the separate entries; and within the full text entries, the symbols
that highlight the text make it easy to find their therapeutic uses. The system has
its limitations, however. It is easy to move from substance to remedy, but moving
in the other direction – that is, starting with an ailment and trying to locate the
available treatments – requires a close reading of the whole text. Even so, the
book’s design facilitates consultation as well as the broader understanding of the
complementary nature of “simple” versus “compound” remedies, this last thanks

18 For the medieval use of punctuation and letterforms to emphasize text patterns see
Malcolm Parkes, Pause and Effect, An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the
West (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), especially 41–61.

5.3 Appium emoroidarum (lesser celandine), amidum (starch), antimonium

(antimony), and acatia (blackthorn). Tractatus de herbis. London, British
Library, Egerton MS 747, fol. 4 recto. Ca. 1280–1300. Photo by
permission of the British Library

to the (generally overlooked) texts appended to the Tractatus. And its overall
layout provides a practical analog to the scholarly efforts that Malcolm Parkes
identifies in western scholarship from the twelfth century onward, that is:
compilatio, or summary versions of authoritative texts and ordinatio or systematic
organization of the text’s apparatus.19

Elite Concerns and the Livre des simples médecines: Copenhagen, Kongelige
Bibliotek, GKS MS 227 2°

An early-fifteenth-century manuscript copy of the French translation of the

Tractatus de herbis known as the Livre des simples médecines, Copenhagen,
Kongelige Bibliotek, MS GKS 227 2° follows the model of Egerton 747 in many
ways, but by no means all, particularly when it comes to way-finding devices.20
The scholarly consensus is that Egerton 747 was intended for the use of a
university-trained physician – someone like the figures in academic garb
represented in the initials at the start of the Tractatus and the Antidotarium
Nicolai. The folio that introduces the core text in the Copenhagen manuscript also
pictures “professionals” – in this case, working physicians occupied in a range of
activities such as examining a uroscope vase, reading, operating a still, and
examining a patient (Fig. 5.4). The theoretical and historical basis of the healing
arts is suggested by the presence of the standing figure of Galen at right (identified
by the name prominently displayed on the hem of his garment).
Despite these visual references, this copy may have been made for an educated
bibliophile rather than a researcher or practitioner. In contrast to the staining of
Egerton 747, the Copenhagen manuscript shows few signs of heavy wear. As
important, the layout of the text has changed. The body of the text often lacks the
signposting we find in Egerton 747; for example, the individual applications of

19 Malcolm Parkes, “The Influence of the Concepts of Ordinatio and Compilatio on the
Development of the Book,” in Medieval Learning and Literature, Essays Presented to
Richard William Hunt, ed. J. J. G. Alexander and M. T. Gibson (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1976), 115–41; reprinted in Parkes, Scribes, Scripts and Readers (London: Hambledon
Press, 1991), 35–69.
20 Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek MS GKS 227 2º contains 217 parchment folios
measuring 310 x 220 mm ruled in double columns of approximately 40 lines of text. For
the dating cited here and the association with the Master of Guillebert of Mets, see Kåre
Olsen and Carl Nordenfalk, Gyllene Böcker: Illuminerade Medeltida Handskrifter i Dansk
och Svensk Ägo, Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Maj–September, 1952 (Stockholm: National
Museum, 1952), entry 141. A recent catalog extends the dating to 1400–1450: Erik
Petersen, ed., Living Words and Luminous Pictures: Medieval Book Culture in Denmark,
Catalog (Copenhagen: Kongelige Bibliotek, 1999), cat. 138, p. 98. See also N. C. L.
Abrahams, Description des manuscrits français du moyen âge de la Bibliothèque royale de
Copenhague (Copenhagen: Imprimerie de Thiele, 1844), 34–9; and C. Brüün, De
illuminerede Haandskrifter i Det store kongelige Bibliothek (Copenhagen: Gyldendal,
1890), 217–18.

5.4 Preface. Livre des simples médecines. Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek,

MS GKS 227 2º, fol. 28 recto. Ca. 1430. Photo courtesy of the Royal
Library, Copenhagen

each plant are not always highlighted. Conversely, like many of the manuscript
copies of this French translation of the Tractatus, GKS 227 includes two aids to
the reader that are not in the version of the text in Egerton 747: a list of remedies
and a glossary.
The translation of the Tractatus de herbis contained in GKS 227 circulated
widely and is known by several titles, including the Livre des simples médecines.
The French connection here makes sense in light of some marginal notations in
Egerton 747 that Otto Pächt describes as “written in a fifteenth-century hand.”
Based on these notes, he concluded that this manuscript was in France at least by
ca. 1458 since we know that a manuscript copy of the Latin Tractatus was made
there around that date. More recently, François Avril dated the translation of the
Tractatus into French to the late fourteenth century.21
Codicological studies by Felix Baumann and François Avril separate the
surviving illustrated manuscripts in French into at least two, and perhaps three,
groups. But both scholars agree that the Copenhagen manuscript figures in a small
number of manuscripts that demonstrate a particularly close relationship to
Egerton 747.22 In turn, this specific manuscript has been dated to ca. 1420–40 and
attributed the workshop of a figure with ties to court patronage, the so-called
“Master of Guillebert of Mets.”
If we approach the Copenhagen manuscript expecting it to be more accessible
or “user-friendly” than its scholarly Latin prototype simply because it is written in
the vernacular, the contents of this manuscript potentially come as something of a
surprise. First of all, although the body of the text has been translated into French,
the tables of contents follow the Latin original even when French plant names
would seem to dictate otherwise. For example, in Egerton 747 the table of
contents for the letter “A” lists the Latin names beginning with De aloen, followed
by De aloen ligno, De auro, De argento vivo, De assa fetida, De agno casto, De
alumine, and so on. In the Copenhagen manuscript, a table listing the same

21 Pächt, “Nature Studies,” 28, n. 3. Platéarius, Le livre des simples médecines, d’après
le manuscrit français 12322 de la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris, trans. and adaptation by
G. Malandin, commentaries by François Avril, Pierre Lieutaghi and Ghislaine Malandin
(Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1986), 268. Baumann dates the translation to the early-
fifteenth century; Baumann, Erbario Carrarese, 100. Collins (Medieval Herbals, 245)
dates the translation to the late-fourteenth or early-fifteenth century, citing the résumé of C.
Maury’s thesis: Un herbier en français du XVe siècle: Le livre des simples médecines.
Thèse à l’Ecole nationale des chartes, 1963. Résumé published in Ecole nationale des
chartes, Positions des thèses soutenues par les élèves de la promotion de 1963 pour obtenir
le diplôme d’archiviste paléographe, Paris, 105–8.
22 Baumann’s survey divides the north French manuscripts into three groups, whereas
Avril concludes in favor of two. But both identify a cluster of five texts that Avril describes
as “la plus proche du manuscrit de Londres” (Baumann’s group 3): Copenhagen,
Kongelige Bibliotek, MS GKS 227 2°; Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, MS 2888; Dijon,
Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 391; Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 12320;
and Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 19081. Baumann, Erbario Carrarese,
121; Platéarius, Le Livre des simples médecines, 280, n. 15.

substances similarly precedes the text proper. Some of the names retain their Latin
form – for example aloen. Others are translated into French; thus argentum vivum
(quicksilver or mercury) appears here as vif argent. Significantly, however, even
when the name changes completely, for example when the Latin aurum (gold) is
replaced by the French or, it remains in the table of contents beginning with “A.”
The practical effect is that locating any individual substance requires knowing the
medieval Latin terminology as well as the French translation.
Although the general layout follows the Egerton manuscript, a number of
changes make locating some individual remedies more difficult. Ordinarily, the
start of each entry is signaled by an elaborately decorated initial that incorporates
gold leaf along with an illustration modeled on the one in Egerton 747. Many of
these illustrations are labeled, and at first glance this appears to be an effort to aid
the reader in associating text and image. On closer examination, though, we find
occasional over-painting that suggests at least some “captions” were scripted first
and the images drawn afterward, a sequence that may mean the labels were
intended to guide the illustrator rather than the reader.
When it comes to the overall design of the manuscript, we find that the layout
of GKS 227 actually reduces the number of visual cues to the contents of the body
of the text. The systematic use of paraphs to highlight individual applications was
planned; indeed, marks to guide the scribe are visible throughout. But the colored
pen work often was not added. In some instances, the “C” of contre is crossed to
make a paraph mark, as in line 13, right column, fol. 34 verso (Fig. 5.5). In other
instances, paraphs appear to have been added. See, for example, the end of line 6,
right column, fol. 35 recto (Fig. 5.6). But some such marks are the same color as
the running text, making the cues much less visible. Other, more subtle systems of
identification are dropped, as well. Entries in the Egerton manuscript frequently
begin with a list of synonyms by which each plant is known – for example, “to the
Gauls,” “to the Dacians,” “to the Italians,” and especially to unspecified “others”
or “alii.” These lists often are subtly pointed up with tiny splashes of red that, once
noticed, are easy to find; see, for example, the synonyms for appium risus and
appium emoroidarum – left column, fol. 4 recto (Fig. 5.3). In the Copenhagen
manuscript, however, these lists are truncated, and alternative names are not
highlighted. As a consequence, here as elsewhere, the reader finds that items
singled out in Egerton 747 are sometimes more difficult to locate in the later
French manuscript.
Other changes include the way the passages from Isaac’s text are treated. In the
Copenhagen herbal, these are no longer listed separately; rather, they are
integrated here into the text proper. As noted above, in Egerton 747 the
information drawn from Isaac was treated two ways when it came to illustrations.
Substances already included in Circa instans were illustrated, whereas those
entries cited for the first time based on Isaac were not. In the Copenhagen
manuscript, however, the new entries drawn exclusively from Isaac’s treatise are
paired with pictures.

5.5 Apium emoroidarum (lesser celandine) and amidum (starch). Livre des
simples médecines. Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek MS GKS 227 2º,
fol. 34 verso. Ca. 1430. Photo courtesy of the Royal Library, Copenhagen

5.6 Antimonium (antimony). Livre des simples médecines. Copenhagen,

Kongelige Bibliotek MS GKS 227 2º, fol. 35 recto. Ca. 1430. Photo
courtesy of the Royal Library, Copenhagen

The illustrations derive for the most part from those in Egerton 747 or
something very much like it. The dependent nature of that artistic relationship is
demonstrated again and again; physical details, including leaf shape and flower
form, generally are simplified and sometimes misunderstood in the fifteenth-
century French copy. The images of apium emoroidarum – probably the plant
known as lesser celandine – pictured on fol. 3 verso of the Copenhagen
manuscript and on fol. 4 recto of Egerton 747 demonstrate the differences between
the two sets of illustrations (Figs 5.3 and 5.5).23 In this case, the illustration in the
Egerton manuscript highlights three sets of cordate leaves on long thin stems,
whereas the plant pictured in the Copenhagen manuscript is far less distinctive.
With regard to the plant images that have been copied from an earlier manuscript
source, the relationship between model and copy demonstrated here is precisely
the one predicted by Pliny the Elder and, later, by any number of modern visual
theorists. According to Pliny, Greek botanists abandoned the practice of
illustrating botanical treatises in part because of an inherent difference between
visual and verbal description; that is, unlike the text passages, those images could
not be reliably reproduced. As he explains, whatever the informational value of an
image, its reproduction introduces error: “multumque degenerat transcribentium
fors varia.”24
The Copenhagen illustrator was not always content simply to copy
illustrations, however. As noted above, an entry like the one for amidum or starch
(one of the non-botanical substances that is not illustrated in Egerton 747) is now
paired with a picture, in this case a vat filled with irregularly shaped sheets. When
it comes to the entries drawn from Isaac that now required illustration, such as, for
example, the hazel or filbert on fol. 49 verso, the plants are represented following
a scheme much like the one employed elsewhere in the Copenhagen manuscript –
that is, with few overlapping structures, a flattened silhouette, and a neatly
outlined margin.
Images are expanded in other ways: the so-called “action” figures are handled
with a degree of finish not seen in the earlier manuscript. Humans appear in the
entries for a very diverse range of mineral, animal, and vegetal substances, among
them: aloe wood (fol. 30 recto), gold (30 verso), sulphide of antimony (35 recto),
orpiment (44 verso), balm of Gilead (50 recto), bole armeniac (51 recto), an
ointment from the glands of the beaver (67 recto), a powder derived from
embalmed mummies (141 recto), musk (145 verso), and sulfur (188 recto). In
Egerton 747, such scenes generally are crudely executed and rendered in a sketchy

23 Here and elsewhere, considerable variation in spelling occurs in these manuscripts

and printed books. Appium and apium are variant forms of this name as used in Egerton
747 and GKS 227, for example. And even within a given volume, the same name may be
spelled several ways.
24 Pliny, Natural History (Books 24–27), ed. and trans. W. H. S. Jones, Loeb Classical
Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 25.8, pp. 140–41. See also: William
M. Ivins, Jr, Prints and Visual Communication (1953; reprint, Cambridge: MIT Press,
1985), 14–16.

manner that differs from the subtle techniques employed in the plant images (Fig.
5.3). In contrast, the corresponding images in the Copenhagen manuscript are
carefully rendered in bright colors. The artist crafted the figures in a masterful
fashion that highlights costume details, lively poses, and a plausible rendering of
space and physical setting (Fig. 5.6).
It is hard to know what function most of these images served – to inform, to
serve as mnemonics, to visually signpost the entries or, perhaps, simply to assert
a degree of textual authority – although in a few cases the illuminators may be
employing visual means to identify one sub-category of entries. That is, along
with a range of vivid pigments that tended to be very expensive, the artists and
scribes responsible for the Copenhagen manuscript also had access to the use of
gold, which provides a sparkling accent to the flourishing on several folios as well
as the elaborate litterae notabiliores that highlight the start of each entry.
Touches of matte (as opposed to burnished) gold appear scattered elsewhere
throughout the manuscript, and in some cases this selective use coincides what
were regarded as noble remedies suitable for notable persons.25 Thus the image
paired with an entry for the hardened cartilage believed to derive from the heart
of a stag (fol. 160 verso) is highlighted in gold, as are musk (fol. 145 verso) and
what probably is amber or “lynx stone” (fol. 133 recto). All of these substances
figure among those used to dose royal or aristocratic patients, as was the case
during the last illness of Edward I in 1307, a circumstance documented in the
enormous pharmaceutical bill of some £134 left unpaid at the King’s death.26
Other expensive items highlighted in gold include lapis lazuli (fol. 125 recto), but
gold highlights also are used on much humbler items such as the hat of the figure
mining for sulfur and the plant commonly known as fleabane (fols 188 recto and
166 recto). Conversely, several expensive items such as roses (179 recto) –
mentioned in the fourteenth-century pharmacist’s bill – are overlooked by the
artist with the gilded touch.
In this context, expensive materials may tell us much more about the reader
than about the text being read, and if the attribution of the illustrations in the
Copenhagen manuscript to the “Master of Guillebert of Mets” is correct, then we
should probably look to aristocratic patronage. This “Master” is an anonymous

25 The images touched in gold are paired with entries that include: icensaria – a herb
with “a smell of incense,” fol. 123 recto; lapis lazuli, fol. 125 recto; “lynx stone,” possibly
yellow amber, fol. 133 recto; “stones found in sponges,” fol. 133 recto; “gum from an
overseas tree,” fol. 135 verso; honey, fol. 145 recto; musk, fol. 145 verso; eggplant, fol. 151
verso; water lily, fol. 154 recto; nutmeg – “the fruit of a tree that grows in India,” fol. 154
verso; “stag’s heart cartilage,” fol. 160 verso; cuttle bone, fol. 161 recto; fleabane, fol. 166
recto; and sulfur, fol. 188 recto.
26 “Item, pro uno electuario confortativo cum ambra et musco, et margaritar’ et
jacinctar’ et auro et argento puro lb. viii.–viii marc. Item, pro sucurosset’ acuat’ cum
margaritar’ et curall’ uncias iiii – v. marc … Item, pro aqua rosata de Damasc’ lb. xl. – iiii.
li … ,” Charles H. Hartshorne, “Bill of Medicines Furnished for the Use of Edward I. 34
and 35 Edw. I., 1306–7,” Archaeological Journal 14 (1857): 267–71.

illuminator whose work has been associated with the activities of the scribe,
Guillebert of Mets. (Although the terminology is confusing here, it is important to
note that these two are separate figures.) The scribe Guillebert himself is named
in a French translation of the Decameron (Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, MS
5070) and also in a manuscript that contains his description of the city of Paris as
well as texts by Christine de Pisan (Brussels, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS
9559–64).27 The illuminator whose work is associated with him, the “Master of
Guillebert,” appears to have been well connected. Among other things, his earliest
work appears in a breviary made for a noble patron, either Jean sans Peur of
Burgundy or his wife (London, British Library, Harley MS 2897).28 His
association with the scribe, Guillebert, is notable, as well, since the latter
described himself as the “libraire” of Jean, Duke of Berry, and the scribe’s 1434
history of Paris mentions the celebrated Limbourg brothers–“les trois freres
enlumineurs”–artists responsible for Jean de Berry’s most famous illuminated
manuscript.29 Although one authority wrote off the “Master of Guillebert” as a
figure “of little importance,” more recently, scholars have underlined his skills as
a gifted colorist and adroit composer of narrative scenes.30
The attribution to the Master of Guillebert of Mets certainly warrants further
study, but whether or not the association with this specific “Master” holds, several
points are clear. First, there is no question that the prefatory page and the figures
in the “action” scenes in the Copenhagen copy of the Livre des simples have been
illustrated by a talented artist skilled in the techniques of luxury manuscript
production. Moreover, the flourishing applied to the opening of the text proper on
fol. 28 recto of GKS 227 and occasionally, elsewhere in this manuscript also has
many analogs in luxury manuscripts.

27 See Maurits Smeyers, Flemish Miniatures from the Eighth to the Mid-Sixteenth
Century (Leuven: Brepols, 1999), 241–8; and Scot McKendrick, “Painting in Manuscripts
of Vernacular Texts, circa 1467–1485,” 258, in Thomas Kren and Scot McKendrick,
Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe (Los
Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003). Other works associated with this anonymous
Master include a Book of Hours dated to approximately 1440–50 (Copenhagen, Kongelige
Bibliotek MS NKS 132 4°) and a Book of Hours of Tournai use also dated to around 1440
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawl. liturg. e. 14). Erik Drigsdahl, “The False Use of
Rome: Apropos a Reconstruction of Copenhagen MS NKS 132 4º Illuminated by the
Master of Guillebert of Mets,” in Flanders in a European Perspective: Manuscript
Illumination around 1400 in Flanders and Abroad (Leuven: Peters, 1995), 581–91.
28 McKendrick, “Paintings in Manuscripts,” 258, n. 7. Millard Meiss, French Painting
in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Limbourgs and their Contemporaries (New York:
Braziller, 1974), 325–7.
29 Meiss, French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry, 70. The Hague, Koninklijke
Bibliotheek, MS 133. A. 2.
30 L. M. J. Delaissé, A Century of Dutch Manuscript Illumination (Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), 64, n. 14; fig. 119. Also, see James R. Tanis,
ed., Leaves of Gold: Manuscript Illumination from Philadelphia Collections (Philadelphia:
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2001), cat. 34, in which Roger Wieck expands the Master of
Guillebert’s oeuvre to include a Book of Hours today in the Free Library of Philadelphia
(MS Lewis E M 5.20, 5.19).

In contrast, the plant images appear to be the work of a different artist: unlike
the vivid color range and subtle shading applied to the figures, plants are rendered
in flat washes of a relatively limited range of greens. The task of producing this
large manuscript appears to have been divided among several craftsmen: the
scribe who produced the main text, a rubricator responsible for the initials and
perhaps the flourishes, and at least two illuminators – the one who produced the
figures and another painter in charge of the plants. This sort of division of labor
would have been standard practice for any elaborate thirteenth-century manuscript
production. As is often the case in such big projects, this manuscript includes
notes that communicated instructions to the scribes and artists. Tiny letters in red
cued the rubricator to the placement of decorated initials, and from fol. 60 recto
onward (the start of signature “e”), small notes often instruct the plant illustrator
by indicating the French names of the colors in which some of the roots are to be
painted, among them brun and groen.
The scale of this production, the expensive materials employed, the elaborate
ornamental vocabulary, and the involvement of a talented artist capable of
drawing elegant figures all support the conclusion that this manuscript was made
for a very wealthy patron. Whatever that patron’s status or intentions, as we have
seen, this book was handled carefully, but this does not mean it was not read. In
fact, the reader – then and now – has the advantage of the two informational
guides to the text. A list of remedies (Les remedes pour lez maladies de la teste)
and a glossary of problem terms (La exposition des mos obscurs) constitute the
first 27 folios of the Copenhagen manuscript. Significantly, perhaps, neither of
these seems to have formed part of the earliest Latin version of the text. Although
Egerton 747 has long been missing three folios (room, perhaps, for an introduction
of some sort), this would not be sufficient space for these two, companion texts.31
Examining GKS 227 reveals that fols 1 recto–27 verso – those that comprise
Les remedes and La exposition – were composed separately from the rest of the
manuscript as it appears today, although at the same time. The script in which this
“front-matter” is written is the same as that used in the main text, and the hand is
especially close to the one responsible for the signatures from fol. 60 onward.
These prefatory folios are carefully written and give very little evidence of
updates or corrections. Almost certainly, the scribe simply copied these sections
from his manuscript exemplar since the glossary and list of remedies are

31 Another sort of index is found in the opening folios of a late-thirteenth-century Italian

manuscript with a text that has been compared to Egerton 747 – the so-called Rufinus
herbal (Florence, Laurentian Library, MS Ashburnham 189). In this case, however, the
listing achieves a different purpose. Plant entries are placed in roughly alphabetical order
along with the ailments each is said to cure. As a consequence, it is a handy guide to the
uses an individual plant might achieve, but not an index to remedies for individual ailments.
Lynn Thorndike, The Herbal of Rufinus (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946), xl.
For references that cite the Rufinus herbal in the context of the Tractatus and Livres des
simples tradition, see: Opsomer, Roberts, and Stearn, eds, Livre des simples, 44; and Collins
and Raphael, Facsimile, 11.

incorporated into most of the Livre des simples manuscripts.32 Modest soiling on
both fol. 1 recto and fol. 28 recto suggests the two sections existed as separate
volumes before they were bound together; but the fact that fol. 28 recto is cleaner
than fol. 1 recto may be evidence that this joining happened not long after the two
parts were written (and before there was much chance to dirty fol. 28 recto).
The glossary and index found in the Copenhagen manuscript direct the reading
process in new ways. The “list of remedies” follows two organizational systems:
one anatomical, the other alphabetical. The list begins with ailments associated in
some way with the head, in which the first sub-category is headache, followed by
a list of relevant remedies listed in the same, roughly alphabetical order used for
the entries themselves. Thus we find that aloe purges the stomach in ways that are
good for the head, aloe ligno is good for weakness of the brain, to warm the cold
brain, and so on. The list then moves on to a second category of illnesses related
to the hair; then to the eyes and eyelids; to the ears; to the nose and nosebleed; to
the throat; and it concludes with more general categories, including fever and
As for the “exposition of obscure words” (fols 23 verso–27 verso), this
alphabetical listing contains terms and their definitions. Approximately half of the
items covered are ailments such as asmatique and melancolie. Others include
specific remedies, among them some compound medicaments “to be had in the
apothecary,” substances such as savon, instruments such as siringue (syringe),
qualities and concepts such as corrosive and degre, and finally, a few parts of the
body, among them: diaframe (diaphragm) and pores (pores in the skin). A reader
puzzled by a term encountered in the body of the text could often, in fact, look up
the relevant entry in this glossary. Locating individual remedies within the body
of the text is still a matter of sifting through the loose groupings of alphabetical
listings. But even so, the Copenhagen herbal includes aids that allow the reader to
clarify some of the nuances of therapeutic nomenclature and to identify remedies
for specific illnesses – two points of access unavailable to the reader of Egerton

32 Of the French manuscripts cited by Baumann, the majority include the glossary and
list of remedies, although not always in the same order. Baumann, Erbario Carrarese,
33 GKS 227 later passed through the hands of one owner who entered a passage on fol.
216 verso that Abrahams identified as a prescription in Dutch, and another who signed
himself “Johannes le Duerg” in 1626 on folio 217 recto. An inscription on what appears to
be the inside of the original binding reads “Liuinus Stuudert me ligavit – Jn Gandavo” and
has been noted and identified by Erik Drigsdahl as the signature of a well-known Ghent
bookbinder. According to the inscription on a paper leaf bound at the start of the
manuscript, GKS 227 was donated to the Royal Library in 1737 by Princess Charlotte
Amalie, daughter of King Frederik IV. Abrahams, Description des manuscrits français, 43;
Drigsdahl, “False Use of Rome,” 581.

Remedies for All Manner of Diseases: the Grete Herball

Some hundred years later, when the Livre des simples was translated from French
into English and printed by Peter Treveris of Southwark in his edition of 1526, it
was transformed beyond recognition, and in the process, a new set of aids to the
reader was added. Indeed, the publisher of the Grete Herball incorporated changes
that made it possible to navigate the text in ways not possible in the two
manuscripts surveyed above.
We know that the Grete Herball is based on a French version of the text since
Treveris concludes the text proper of his book with a note: “Thus ends the great
herbal with his [its] tables which is translated out of the French into English.”34
This statement certainly is true, although the Grete Herball also appears to draw
some features from works in German and Latin, notably editions of the so-called
Gart der Gesundheit and the Hortus sanitatis.35 Even so, the relationship between
the Grete Herball and its French prototypes frequently is very close. The
publishing history of the Livre des simples médecines is a big topic and one that
is vastly complicated by the many late-fifteenth- and sixteenth-century editions—
each with very few surviving copies—and the fact that these editions often did not
include publication specifics.36 That said, even a very brief overview of these
publications helps to bridge the gap between fifteenth-century French manuscripts
like GKS 227 and the early-sixteenth-century Grete Herball.
The Livre des simples médecines was first printed by Pierre Metlinger in
Besançon in either 1485 or 1486. Titled the Arbolayre, Metlinger’s edition
resembles aspects of GKS 227.37 Just as we saw in the Copenhagen herbal, the

34 See Agnes Arber, Herbals, Their Origin and Evolution: A Chapter in the History of
Botany, 1470–1670, 3rd edn, intro. and annot. by William T. Stearn (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1986), 26–8, 44–50. Arber highlights the relationship between
the Grete Herball and Le Grant Herbier although she does not specify an edition of the
latter. As for Treveris’s claim, this sort of statement is by no means unique. For example,
the edition of the Grant Herbier published by Guillaume Nyverd, ca. 1520 (discussed
below) similarly credits a translation, in that case, from the Latin to the French.
35 This subject awaits further, comprehensive study, but the relationship is routinely
cited. For example, Arber, Herbals, 45 describes the illustrations to the Grete Herball as
“degraded copies of the series which first appeared in the Herbarius zu Teutsch.” The
catalog description of the Grete Herball cited in Stanley H. Johnston, Jr, The Cleveland
Herbal, Botanical, and Horticultural Collections, Descriptive Catalog … (Kent, OH: Kent
State University Press, 1992), cat. 36 also associates the introduction, the conclusion, and
the illustrations of the Grete Herball with the Gart der Gesundheit and the Hortus sanitatis.
For studies of the Gart der Gesundheit and the Hortus sanitatis see Gundolf Keil, “Hortus
Sanitatis, Gart der Gesundheit, Gaerde der Sunthede,” in Medieval Gardens, ed. Elisabeth
MacDougall (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks, 1986), 55–68.
36 Frank J. Anderson, The Illustrated History of Herbals (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1977), 98–105.
37 Metlinger’s 1486 publication of the French translation of the Tractatus was followed
by Pierre le Caron’s late-fifteenth-century publication as well as a long series of sixteenth-
century editions, all of which use some version of the title, Le Grant Herbier en francoys.

book opens with a list of remedies and a glossary, followed by the prologue based
on Circa instans, and by the entries beginning with the “A” table of contents and
the entries for “A” starting with aloe. As in GKS 227 the entries in the Arbolayre
conclude with zuccaro (sugar), and the list of remedies and the glossary also are
very similar to those found in that manuscript. Some new features register the
change in technology. Like many printed books, the Arbolayre includes a title-
page, in this case, one that is followed by a full-page image that serves as a
frontispiece.38 Other changes reveal alternate sources of information or
organizational schemes. The tables of contents in the Arbolayre include both the
Latin names of the simples as well as French translations of some (but not all)
entries. The tables also include variants for substances like apium, and in a few
instances, entries are added, such as the one for aqua or leaue found at the very
end of the listing for the letter “A.”
Aspects of the design of the Arbolayre were abandoned at least by 1520 when
Guillaume Nyverd published one of his editions of the French translation as Le
Grant Herbier (the title used for all editions after the first). The book begins with
an elaborate title-page and a prologue based again on Circa instans (just as is
found in Arbolayre). At this point, the text launches directly into the first of the
individual entries, but in this case there are no tables of contents. This edition of
the Grant Herbier also differs from GKS 227 and the Arbolayre in that lists of
remedies and the glossary are now to be found after the last entry for zuccaro.
Finally, there is a new item added to the very end of the book: an alphabetical list
of entries that indicates where each item is to be found in the volume. This list
capitalizes upon the fact that in the 1520 edition of the Grant Herbier each page
in the body of the text is identified in the upper right corner as a numbered fueillet.
This system does not extend to the list of remedies, the glossary, or the index;
although these sections are cued to the text they accompany, they were printed
separately. The list of chapters together with this printed foliation allow the reader
to locate individual entries, thus providing a substitute for the alphabetical tables
of contents that we saw in earlier manuscript and printed copies.
The Grete Herball was published in 1526, only a few years after this French
edition by Guillaume Nyverd. Again, we have a decorative title-page – in this
case, one that pictures figures harvesting flowers and the vintage, flowering
plants, as well as a male and female mandrake. Along with identifying the scope
of the text and its grounding in the knowledge of “many expert and wise masters,”
the text of the title-page cites information not seen in Nyverd’s edition or the
Arbolayre, including a note crediting the printer – “me Peter Treveris” – and a

38 The title-page reads: “Arbolayre, contenant la qualitey et vertus, proprietey des

herbes, arbres, gommes, et semences extrait de pluseurs tratiers de medicine, comment
davicenne, de rasis, de constantin, de ysaac, et plateaire, selon le connunn usaige bien
correct.” The frontispiece shows scholars in the open air holding books and, in one case, a
plant. This same woodcut appears in the Gart der Gesundheit as printed in Strassburg by
Johann Grüninger ca. 1485.

dedication of the work to the “perfect knowledge and understandings of all

manner of herbs and their gracious vertues.”39 Following a short prologue, the
reader encounters a Register of the Chapters in Latin and English, an alphabetical
listing that combines features seen in both the Arbolayre and the Grant Herbier.
Like the tables of contents found in Arbolayre, the list is primarily in Latin but it
sometimes includes translations into the vernacular. Like the alphabetical listing
found at the end of the Grant Herbier, the Register numbers each entry. But this
time, rather than numbering the folios of the volume, the publisher has numbered
each entry as a separate chapter. Thus the text begins with “Aloe/ a juice so named
ca. i.; Aloes / a wood so named ca. ii.; Aurum/gold ca. iii.; Argentum vivum/ quick
silver ca. iiii.; Asa fetida ca. v.” and so on (Fig. 5.7).40
The Register is followed by an image of a skeleton that introduces the names
of bones of the body, and then the text proper follows, beginning as usual, with De
aloe (Fig. 5.8). As in the 1520 Nyverd edition of Le Grant Herbier, there is no
table of contents; it is not needed since the Register of Chapters identifies the
contents of the text entries.41 At the end of the entries, the Grete Herball also
includes a separate section of some 25 remedies that the publisher claims are an
innovation. Labeled “Hereafter follows a rehearsal of diverse chapters which
before have not been specified concerning diverse causes of medicines needful to
the behalf of man,” this section follows the discussion of zuccarus or sugar
(traditionally, the last entry). The section must have been planned from the start,
however, since the entries are listed in the initial Register of Chapters. A treatise
on urine that the publisher ascribes to Avicenna comes next. As in Le Grant
Herbier, the glossary follows toward the end of the volume and, once again, we
have virtually the same list found earlier in both the Arbolayre and GKS 227.
The Grete Herball demonstrates several ways in which a publisher might direct
the reader’s access to the information a book contains. The division into chapters
introduced here follows a system that occurs in at least one of Treveris’s earlier
publications, and in this case the system makes it easy to locate individual
remedies.42 For example, the first listing – for aloe – is labeled in Latin and clearly

39 All citations here are derived from the first, 1526 edition of the Grete Herball and are
quoted in modern English spelling.
40 For an analysis of the English plant names in the Grete Herball, see Mats Rydén, The
English Plant Names in the Grete Herball (1526): A Contribution to the Historical Study
of English Plant-Name Usage (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1984).
41 When the Grete Herball was published in a second edition in 1529, the skeleton
disappeared and the Register was reworked, as well.
42 Treveris published an English translation of Hieronymus Brunschwig’s Noble
Experyence of the Vertuous Handy Warke of Surgeri that incorporates numbered chapters
and a text that frequently is set in labeled blocks for emphasis. The plate with the skeleton
found later in the Grete Herball appears here, as well. The Handy Warke of Surgeri was
published in March, 1525 – just over a year before the Grete Herball made its appearance
in July, 1526. See Hieronymus Brunschwig, The Noble Experyence of the Vertuous Handy
Warke of Surgeri, English Experience, No. 531 (Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum,

5.7 Registre of the chaptrees. The Grete Herball. Southwark: Peter Treveris,
1526. London, British Library, C.27.11. Photo by permission of the British

5.8 De aloe (aloe). The Grete Herball. Southwark: Peter Treveris, 1526.
London, British Library, C.27.11. Photo by permission of the British

indicated as “Chapter i” in the upper right of the left text column (Fig. 5.8). Here,
as elsewhere, a picture follows the label and serves to indicate the text block. A
very large and elaborate initial equivalent to some nine lines of text heads the
entry (its size in this case determined by the fact that this particular initial
introduces the section with entries beginning with “A”). Within the text,
individual cures are set off from the introductory remarks; for example, at the very
bottom of the right-hand text column, a label introduces the text that follows on
the use of aloe to purge phlegm, and a key at the right indicates this is remedy
“A.” Thus the reader knows this entry is to be found under Chapter i – sub-
category A. In this fashion, the reader of the Grete Herball is equipped with a full
set of coordinates for finding individual remedies and specific manifestations of
their use.
Equally important, the Grete Herball includes something Treveris describes as
a “table very useful and profitable for them that desire to find quickly a remedy
against all manner of diseases and they be marked by the letters of the A. B. C.
in every chapter.” At this point, the publisher has introduced a way-finding
device that we have not seen before – a look-up table that compactly synthesizes
the sort of index of cures found previously in Les remedes included in the
Copenhagen herbal, the Arbolayre, and the Grant Herbier—along with other
useful information (Fig. 5.9). As in the earlier listings, ailments are listed roughly
from head to toe and from specific to general (although the categories diverge
somewhat from those in the earlier lists). The Table begins with remedies
“Against ache of the head” and complaints such as “for a broken head,” “against
a bald head,” “for forgetfulness,” “for lunatic people,” “against shaking of the
head,” “to grow hair,” “to dye hair black,” and it concludes with “for them that
be fearful,” “to make the folk merry,” “for worms,” and “to recover strength.”
Rather than listing remedies by name, in each category, the publisher simply lists
the numbered chapters and subheadings. Thus, for example, with this chart in
hand, a reader seeking a remedy “against headache” is neatly directed back to
remedies in the text, among them Chapter i, entry F; conversely, to find how “to
purge phlegm” one simply moves to Chapter i and entry A at the bottom right of
the page.
These cues demonstrate that the Grete Herball could be used for reasonably
easy and selective access to verbal information. The Register clarifies
nomenclature and provides a guide to the numbered items; the entries themselves
are arranged in a way that makes it easy to skim the various complaints an
individual “simple” might cure; and the Table of remedies makes it just as easy to
locate the several possible cures for any manner of problems.
When it comes to pictures and, by extension, the reader’s access to visual
information, the situation is much less clear. Many of the illustrations are
relatively schematic, and the association of text and image often is far from
secure. The pictures are a mixed lot. With their neat, black borders, the
illustrations in the Grete Herball recall those used in works such as the 1520

5.9 Table of Remedies. The Grete Herball. Southwark: Peter Treveris, 1526.
London, British Library, C.27.11. Photo by permission of the British

Grant Herbier.43 Some images bear at least a passing resemblance to the substance
under discussion such as allium – chapter xviii (garlic) shown with large bulbs; or
fragraria – chapter clxxv (strawberries) complete with simple, five-petaled
flowers and berries. Others, such as the image of aloe (chapter i), bear no
resemblance to the plants with which they are paired. Some plates are repeated;
for example, the same picture illustrates the entries for auro or gold (chapter iii)
and for argento vivo or quicksilver (chapter iiii). But just when we conclude that
the publisher is completely unconcerned with any notion of representational
accuracy, we come across the note paired with the entry for boragine (chapter lviii
– borage) that alerts the reader to “Note the picture of bombax and borago. The
one is put for the other.”44 Judging from the illustrations (which roughly resemble
cotton and borage), the printer swapped the pictures, noticed his mistake before
the reverse side of the page was printed and included this note as an erratum.
The question that remains, of course, is how the publisher and the reader
intended to use this book, a question that is not easily answered. Introductory
comments in the Grete Herball refer to “villages whereas neither surgeons nor
physicians be dwelling nigh by many a mile, as it is in good towns where they be
ready to hand.” This sort of comment should not be taken too seriously, though,
since related topoi are a frequent occurrence in early printed works.45 Indeed, none
of the works reviewed here gives a secure indication of its intended function,
despite seeming clues such as the academics pictured in Egerton 747 and the
physicians shown working with their patients in the Copenhagen manuscript.
None of these should be taken as a portrait of the reader at work; rather, they are
a reflection of ideal conditions of use. The question of the intended and, perhaps,
actual use of these books demands the clues to be drawn from extra-textual
sources such as records of the medieval university curriculum, evidence of elite
book-collecting practices, and patterns of book ownership and sales.
What these books do tell us, even at a preliminary stage of this research project,
is nonetheless suggestive. First, when it comes to their informational value, the
images demonstrate a trajectory bound to surprise most art historians. That is, it is

43 Several of the plates in Le Grant Herbier are reproduced in Anderson, Herbals, fig.
42 and fig. 44; pp. 98–105. The images of plantagine and cepe he illustrates correspond to
the ones in the 1526 Grete Herball, chapters cccxliiii and cvii. The Grete Herball woodcuts
were reused in the translation of The Vertuose Boke of Distyllacyon by Hieronymus
Brunschwig published by Laurence Andrewe in 1527. See Hieronymus Brunschwig, The
Vertuose Boke of Distyllacyon, English Experience, No. 532 (Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis
Terrarum, 1973).
44 These two entries are on the front and back of the same leaf. Bombax also is one of
several entries that are not numbered.
45 See Paul Slack, “Mirrors of Health and Treasures of Poor Men: The Uses of the
Vernacular Medical Literature of Tudor England,” in Health, Medicine and Mortality in the
Sixteenth Century, ed. Charles Webster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979),
237–73. My thanks to Peter Murray Jones for this reference and other much-appreciated
advice related to the problem of establishing the readership of the Grete Herball.

the earliest of the books surveyed here – the late-thirteenth-century Egerton

manuscript – that contains the most descriptive images, whereas the later works
are much further from any version of accurate representation. Pliny’s caution
about the effect of copying notwithstanding, most standard histories of art
routinely trade heavily on the notion that “early modern” or “Renaissance” images
typically are more naturalistic than those produced in any “medieval” atelier. In
contrast, the images reviewed here suggest both that this dualism is an
oversimplification, and that conditions of use may well determine the artist’s
commitment to naturalistic rendering.46 As important, the illustrations to the
Tractatus in its several versions form just one part of a larger system of
signposting the text. Up to a point, their job was to help the reader to find his way
around the text rather than the herb garden. Pictures and other visual cues
highlight sections of these books. These cues to the reader change over time,
suggesting that the reader’s priorities (at least as the scribe or printer understood
and anticipated them) have changed.
The examples offered here demonstrate a range of visual and verbal devices
that enlarge and reshape the text by providing what graphic designers aptly refer
to as way-finding devices. Articulation systems that include page layout, text
hierarchies, the emphasis provided by punctuation, and the use of color are as
much visual as verbal. These three presentations of the Tractatus thus reflect
several interrelated processes. The text is recast into the vernacular – first French
and then English (a relatively fluid process that retreats from aspects of the Latin
original only very slowly). Latin nomenclature defines the order of entries in the
French Livre des simples; and even in the Grete Herball, English terminology
takes a back seat to Latin, at least in the very useful Register that introduces the
volume. Both versions of the Tractatus in the vernacular acknowledge the
problem of interpreting “obscure and problematic” terms. Indices and look-up
tables increasingly come to direct the reading process; and paired with the
notational guides provided by the scribe and, later, the printer, they establish a set
of visual hierarchies.
The result is an important shift, at the end of which we have, in the Grete
Herball, a book with a flexible design that permits it to be read several ways,
among them: by going directly to one of the subjects neatly listed in the Register,
by consulting the treatise on urine, by clarifying specialized terms in the glossary,
and by locating a specific cure for a specific ill – as listed in the Table at the book’s
end. Here and elsewhere, these manuscript and print versions register a synergy
between verbal text, illustrations, and communication design. Text layout, page
design, and navigational tools directed the way this medieval text was read,
initially by academics, and later by bibliophiles as well as readers seemingly more
interested in practice than theory. As Tony Hunt observed a few years ago, “the
study of the translation of scientific texts in the Middle Ages is, surprisingly, still

46 Givens, Observation and Image-Making, chapter 5, 134–68.


in its infancy.” But it is a study worth expanding to encompass the interpenetration

of visual and verbal systems with the goal of understanding the book as an agent
of scholarly communication.47

47 Tony Hunt, “Old French Translations of Medical Texts,” Forum for Modern
Language Studies 35 (1999): 350–7.
Chapter 6

Leonardo da Vinci’s Anatomical Studies

in Milan: A Re-examination of Sites
and Sources
Monica Azzolini

On Sunday 26 April 1478, Giuliano de’ Medici was murdered as he attended High
Mass in Florence’s cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Led by members of the
Pazzi family with the support of Count Girolamo Riario, Pope Sixtus IV, and
Federico da Montefeltro, the conspirators planned to kill both Lorenzo de’ Medici
and Giuliano. The events of that day seized the imagination of contemporary
Florentines. In his Istorie Fiorentine, Machiavelli recounts how one of the
conspirators, Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, stabbed Giuliano in the stomach
and inflicted many more wounds on his body as Giuliano lay on the floor.1 Having
failed to kill Lorenzo, Bernardo fled Florence and took refuge in Turkey, but he
was eventually tracked down and extradited. On 28 December 1478, he was
hanged publicly in Florence. Bernardo’s public execution is famously recorded in
Leonardo da Vinci’s pen-and-ink sketch of his hanging body. This is Leonardo’s
first extant sketch of the body of a criminal.2

The Dead Body on Public Display

Three decades after Leonardo sketched the assassin’s corpse, he witnessed and
recorded another public execution. While in Milan around 1508, Leonardo
observed the dissection of a hanged criminal, made direct observations, and drew

1 Niccolò Machiavelli, Istorie Fiorentine, Vittorio Fiorini ed., intro. Delio Cantimori
(Florence: Sansoni, 1962), Book VIII, i–x, esp. vi; and Florentine Histories, trans. Laura F.
Banfield and Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr; intro. Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1988). Recent studies of the conspiracy include Lauro Martines, April
Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
2 Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, reproduced in Martines, April Blood, 170. See also Carmen
C. Bambach, “Documented Chronology of Leonardo’s Life and Work,” in Leonardo da
Vinci, Master Draftsman, ed. Carmen C. Bambach (New Haven: Yale University Press,
2003), 229.


some conclusions about hotly debated issues of Galenic anatomy. Leonardo’s note
addresses the reasons for the erection of the penis in some cadavers (Fig. 6.1).
Here Leonardo rejects the Galenic explanation that the “wind” causes the erection
in favor of the theory that the phenomenon is caused by settled blood. Leonardo
explicitly says he had observed it himself: “This I have seen in dead men who
have this member erect, for many die thus, particularly those hanged. Of these I
have seen the anatomy.”3 The reference to “those hanged” (li apichati), in the
plural, suggests that he observed the dissection of a number of criminal bodies at
close range.
In recent years, much emphasis has been placed on the relationship between
criminal justice and dissection in pre-modern Europe. The widespread assumption
has been that dissection was practiced only on the bodies of criminals and that it
was seen as the ultimate punishment for the unrepentant.4 In a seminal article in
1994, however, Katharine Park demonstrated that autopsies were far more
common in medieval and Renaissance Italy than had been generally assumed. She
also argued that these practices coincided with the emergence of autopsy and
dissection as a regular part of both legal and medical practice in northern Italy.5
Her article corrected the persistent misconception that the opening of corpses was
a well-established taboo in medieval and Renaissance Europe and that dissection
was used solely for punitive purposes.
In Italy dismemberment and dissection do not seem to have provoked much
unease. Boniface VIII’s bull Detestande feritatis – promulgated for the first time

3 “Ne morti che an tal membro djritto perche molti cosi muoiono e massime li apichati
de quali ho visto notomja.” Kenneth Keele and Carlo Pedretti state that “this note …
confirms that Leonardo dissected hanged criminals.” See Kenneth D. Keele and Carlo
Pedretti, eds, Leonardo da Vinci: Corpus of the Anatomical Studies in the Collection of Her
Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, 2 vols (London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1978–80), vol. 1, 92, commentary to 39 verso, W. 19019v (B2v), n. VI. All references to
the anatomical sheets in the Royal Library Collection at Windsor Castle in this article
follow the standard Windsor Castle reference system (W. #).
4 This is still maintained in the otherwise praiseworthy book by Andrea Carlino, La
fabbrica del corpo: Libri e dissezione nel Rinascimento (Turin: Einaudi, 1994), 67–132;
translated as Books of the Body: Anatomical Ritual and Renaissance Learning, trans. John
Tedeschi and Ann C. Tedeschi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999). See also the
earlier studies: Francis Barker, “Into the Vault,” in his The Tremulous Private Body: Essays
in Subjectivity (London: Methuen, 1984), 72–112; Glenn Harcourt, “Andreas Vesalius and
the Anatomy of Antique Sculpture,” Representations 17 (1986): 28–61; Marie-Christine
Pouchelle, Corps et chirurgie à l’apogée du Moyen Age. Savoir et imaginaire du corps chez
Henry de Mondeville, chirurgien de Philippe Le Bel (Paris: Flammarion, 1983), and its
English translation, The Body and Surgery in the Middle Ages, trans. Rosemary Morris
(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990); and Jonathan Sawday, The Body
Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London: Routledge,
5 Katharine Park, “The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Early
Renaissance Italy,” Renaissance Quarterly 47 (1994): 1–33; and for a more detailed
discussion, Katharine Park, The Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of
Human Dissection (New York: Zone Books, forthcoming 2006), esp. ch. 3.

6.1 Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomical Drawings. Two small drawings of the

alimentary system (with a note on the erection of the penis). Windsor
Castle, Royal Collection, W. 19019v. Photo courtesy of The Royal
Collection © 2005, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

in 1299 and, successively, in 1300 and 1303 – forbade the practice of

dismembering and boiling corpses (a practice related to embalming, the
multiplication of burial sites, and the transportation of the deceased from distant
lands). Even so, there is no evidence that this religious pronouncement stopped
Italian physicians from performing post-mortems and dissections.6 Dissection and
dismemberment certainly had theological implications relative to the doctrine of
resurrection, but beliefs about the effects of dismemberment on resurrection
differed substantially among the Church Fathers and medieval theologians. For
example, Saint Augustine believed that, ultimately, the fate of the body was
meaningless as the soul of the dead separates itself completely from the body at
the moment of death.7 Others, like some eleventh-century theologians at the
University of Paris, argued against this position.8

6 On the impact of the bull on civil and religious practice see Mary Niven Alston, “The
Attitude of the Church towards Dissection before 1500,” Bulletin of the History of
Medicine 16 (1944): 211–38; Elizabeth A. R. Brown, “Death and the Human Body in the
Later Middle Ages,” Viator 12 (1981): 221–70; Brown, “Authority, the Family, and the
Dead in Late Medieval France,” French Historical Studies 16 (1990): 803–32; Francesco
Santi, “Il cadavere e Bonifacio VIII, tra Stefano Tempier e Avicenna: Intorno a un saggio
di Elizabeth Brown,” Studi Medievali, 2nd series, 27 (1987): 870; Agostino Paravicini
Bagliani, “Storia della scienza e storia della mentalità: Ruggero Bacone, Bonifacio VIII e
la teoria della ‘prolungatio vitae,’” in Aspetti della letteratura latina nel secolo XII: atti del
primo convegno internazionale di studi dell’Associazione per il Medioevo e l’Umanesimo
Latini, ed. C. Leonardo and G. Orlandi (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1983), 243–80;
Paravicini Bagliani, Il corpo del Papa (Turin: Einaudi, 1994), translated as The Pope’s
Body, trans. David S. Peterson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); and
Katharine Park, “The Life of the Corpse: Division and Dissection in Late Medieval
Europe,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 50 (1995): 111–32.
Paravicini Bagliani sees Boniface VIII’s position as a reflection of a “Mediterranean”
investment in the integrity of the corpse. For a different position see Brown, “Authority, the
Family, and the Dead,” and Park, “The Life of the Corpse,” esp. 113.
7 Augustine, The City of God against Pagans, ed. and trans. G. E. McCracken et al.,
Loeb Classical Library, 7 vols (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957–72), vol. 1,
1.12–13 and vol. 7, 22.9; See also Augustine, De civitate dei contra paganos, in J.-P.
Migne, Patrologia Latina [electronic resource] (Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1993–5),
vol. 41, col. 0026–0028, 0771–2; and Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, in
Patrologia Latina, vol. 40, col. 0593–6, 0598–605.
8 On the discussion about the unity of the body, and against the practice of separate
interment, in the Faculty of Theology in Paris in the eleventh century see note 6 above. For
a wider account of the development of the doctrine of the resurrection through the Middle
Ages, see Roger K. French, Dissection and Vivisection in the European Renaissance
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 8–11; and Roger French and Andrew Cunningham, Before
Science: The Invention of the Friars’ Natural Philosophy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1996), esp.
ch. 6. See also Caroline Walker Bynum, “Body Miracles and the Resurrection of the Body
in the High Middle Ages,” in Thomas A. Kselman, ed., Belief in History: Innovative
Approaches to European and American Religion (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame,
1991), 68–106; and Bynum, “Material Continuity, Personal Survival and the Resurrection
of the Body: A Scholastic Discourse in its Medieval and Modern Contexts,” in her
Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval
Religion (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 239–97.

As Park demonstrated in still another article, unlike Northern Europeans,

Italians believed that, at death, body and soul were entirely and radically
separated, and that the body no longer affected the afterlife of the soul.9 Leonardo
da Vinci himself reflected this view when he stated that “The soul can never be
infected by the corruption of the body, but acts in the body like the wind which
causes the sound of the organ.”10
Leonardo’s most prominent Milanese patron, Ludovico Sforza, seems to have
shared this relaxed attitude towards post-mortems. When the Milanese
ambassador in Florence, Francesco Castiglioni, reported to Ludovico on the death
and autopsy of Lorenzo il Magnifico in April 1492, the exchange is remarkably
detached in tone. In this instance, Ludovico had queried Castiglioni about the
suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of Lorenzo and of his physician,
Pierleone Leoni. Rumor had it that Pierleone had caused Lorenzo’s death and that
the Medici family had taken revenge by killing Pierleone (found dead at the
bottom of a well only a few days later). Castiglioni reported, however, that there
was nothing suspicious in Lorenzo’s death, and that once the body was opened,
“all the internal organs were found to be in their place, with the exception of the
tip of his heart, which was found to be a bit damaged (guasta).”11
Lorenzo de Medici’s autopsy, together with those of other members of powerful
families (both male and female) and the numerous autopsies of aspiring female and
male saints, constitute evidence that this practice was not seen as a violation of the
body of the person who was anatomized.12 By the late-thirteenth century, post-
mortems were regularly conducted for religious, forensic, or public health purposes.
Over the course of the fourteenth century, human dissection was introduced into the
medical curriculum for the teaching and the study of anatomy. By the end of the
fifteenth century, public dissection, forensic and medical autopsy, as well as private
dissection, were common features of Renaissance medical practice.13

9 Park, “The Life of the Corpse.”

10 Leonardo da Vinci, Codice Trivulziano [i.e. Milan, Castello Sforzesco, Codex
Trivulzianus N 2162], fol. 71 recto, in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. Edward
MacCurdy, 2 vols (New York: George Braziller, 1958), vol. 1, 68, as quoted in Park, “The
Life of the Corpse,” 119.
11 Archivio di Stato Milano (henceforth ASMi), Carteggio Sforzesco, Potenze Sovrane,
cart. 937, Francesco Castiglioni to Ludovico il Moro, Florence, s.d. (ca. April 1492):
“ et s. mio: Le altre lettere de vostra eccelentia venute in queste tre cavalcate
non ricercano altra risposta sinoche circha al facto de Magistro Piero Lione como se e
precipitato in uno pozzo, a quest’hora per altre mie lettere la eccellenza vostra l’havera
apieno inteso. Fo pur deliberato al ultimo de aprire il Magnifico Lorenzo et cuosi Lunedi
da sera avanti fosse portato alla sepoltura fo aperto, et fo li trovato tuti li interiori neti e
ben disposti, excepto che la puncta del cuore fosse uno puocho guasta.” On Pierleone
Leoni see Maike Rotzoll, Pierleone da Spoleto: Vita e opere di un medico del Rinascimento
(Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2000).
12 For numerous examples of women as well as other members of noble families
mentioned in the medical literature, see Park, “The Criminal and the Saintly Body,” and
“The Life of the Corpse.”
13 Park, “The Criminal and Saintly Body.”

In light of Park’s general conclusions as well as additional evidence such as

Castiglioni’s letter to Ludovico, this essay argues that several long-standing
assumptions about Leonardo’s anatomies and his relationship with contemporary
medical practitioners need to be reconsidered. Found in standard authorities on
Leonardo as well as in popular accounts, these assumptions include the notion that
an ingrained taboo against dissection meant that Leonardo could not view
autopsies and that he had to teach himself anatomy and perform dissections alone
and in secret. Another assumption has been that Leonardo’s limited knowledge of
Latin and his lack of university training both isolated him from the professional
medical learning of his day and enabled him to look afresh at the anatomy of the
body and to discover things his contemporaries had not noticed. Scholars also
often assume that it was only in his late anatomical studies that Leonardo
collaborated closely with an anatomist, the Paduan Marcantonio della Torre
(1478–1511) – a bright young medical professor at Pavia. In re-examining these
assumptions, I concentrate on Leonardo’s anatomical work in Milan, the city
where he spent more time than anywhere else.

Leonardo’s Anatomical Studies in Milan and Florence

Leonardo lived longer in Milan than in any other city – 23 years in all – from
about 1482 to 1499 and, again, from about 1506 to 1512. Although the intellectual
and social contexts of his artistic commissions in Milan have been the subject of
much recent scholarship by art historians Martin Kemp, Evelyn Welch, Paola
Venturelli, and Pietro Marani, the circumstances of his anatomical work in Milan
have received far less attention.14
In part, this is because his best-documented anatomical drawings – and, to
many scholars, the apex of his anatomical studies – seem to date from a brief
sojourn in Florence around 1507–8. There, at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova,
Leonardo dissected the corpse of a centenarian man who had died before his eyes
in the hospital. He recorded his observations in the notes and sketches known as
the “centenarian series.”15 These Florentine studies on human bodies are also

14 Martin Kemp, “‘Your humble servant and painter:’ Towards a History of Leonardo
da Vinci in his Contexts of Employment,” Gazette des beaux-arts 140 (2002): 181–94;
Evelyn Welch, Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1995); Paola Venturelli, Leonardo da Vinci e le pietre preziose: Milano tra xv e xvi secolo
(Venice: Marsilio, 2002); Pietro C. Marani, “Leonardo’s Drawings in Milan and their
Influence on the Graphic Work of Milanese Artists,” in Leonardo da Vinci, Master
Draftsman, ed. Carmen C. Bambach (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 155–90.
15 Kemp maintains that Kenneth Clark presented convincing evidence in favor of the
dating to 1507–8. See Martin Kemp, “Dissection and Divinity in Leonardo’s Late
Anatomies,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 35 (1972): 200; reprinted in
Claire J. Farago, Leonardo da Vinci: Selected Scholarship, 5 vols – vol. 5: Leonardo’s
Science and Technology: Essential Readings for the Non-Scientist (London: Garland,

unequivocally documented by contemporary sources. An anonymous sixteenth-

century author (the so-called Anonimo Gaddiano) recounts how Leonardo “made
innumerable drawings, all marvelous things, and among them one of one of our
Ladies and a Saint Anne, which went to France, and anatomical studies which he
drew in the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence.”16
This passage often has been interpreted as evidence that Leonardo performed
the Florentine anatomies in secrecy and on his own.17 Such an interpretation,
however, warrants reconsideration on several grounds. First, the Anonimo tells us
that Leonardo sketched these anatomies in Santa Maria Nuova, within the hospital
premises, a fact that makes it unlikely that Leonardo performed the dissection
secretly. Second, the hypothesis that he was alone does not reflect the practice of
dissection and autopsy in the Renaissance. Body snatching constituted a criminal
offence, and the very rare cases reported in the Renaissance were severely
punished.18 Post-mortems as well as dissections generally were performed by an
équipe of medical practitioners that often included an incisor, an ostensor and, at
least in the case of public dissections, a lector who would explicate an anatomical

1999), 230; and Kenneth Clark, A Catalogue of the Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci at
Windsor Castle, 2nd edn rev., with the assistance of C. Pedretti, 3 vols (London: Phaidon,
1968–9), nos W. 19020, 19021, 19023, 19027, 19030, etc. See also Martin Clayton,
Leonardo da Vinci: The Anatomy of Man (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1992), 18–19.
16 Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, Anonimo Gaddiano, MS Magl., XVII, 17, fol. 91
verso: “Fece infinitj disegnj, cose meravigliose, et infra li altrj una Nostra Donna [possibly
Lisa di Antonio Maria di Noldo Gherardini, wife of Francesco di Bartolommeo di Zanobi
del Giocondo] e una santa Anna ch’ando in Francia, et più notomie le quali ritraeva in
nello spedale di Santa Maria Nuova di Firenze.” The original Italian also was published in
Cornelius von Fabriczy, Il libro di Antonio Billi e il codice dell’anonimo gaddiano
(Farnborough: Gregg, 1969). An English translation is available in Claire J. Farago,
Leonardo da Vinci: Selected Scholarship, 5 vols – vol. 1, Bibliography and Early Art
Criticism of Leonardo da Vinci (New York: Garland, 1999), 73–5. In my translation, I
interpret “una Nostra Donna” as referring to the portrait of the Mona Lisa, and not, as
indicated in Farago, 75, to the Virgin Mary (“Madonna”).
17 This is, among others, the view of McMurrich, who also stressed Leonardo’s freedom
of thought, independence from authority, and reliance upon direct observation. See James
P. McMurrich, Leonardo da Vinci: the Anatomist (1452–1519) (Baltimore: William and
Wilkens, 1930), esp. 16; and Jane Roberts, “An Introduction to Leonardo’s Anatomical
Drawings,” in Nine Lectures on Leonardo da Vinci, ed. Frances Ames-Lewis (London:
University of London Press, 1990), 53–62, now reprinted Farago, Leonardo’s Science and
Technology, 265–74. This myth of Leonardo’s secret anatomies has been portrayed popularly
in a BBC documentary entitled Leonardo da Vinci: The Man Who Wanted to Know
Everything (Producer Malcolm Clark, Executive Producer Michael Mosley, 2003). It also
is firmly maintained in some of the scholarship. See for example, Edwin M. Todd, The
Neuroanatomy of Leonardo da Vinci, preface by Carlo Pedretti, foreword by Kenneth D.
Keele (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1983); reprint, with a foreword by James T. Goodrich
(Park Ridge: American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 1991).
18 See the case of Maestro Alberto of Bologna in Park, “The Criminal and Saintly
Body,” 7. Park remarks that it was only with Vesalius in the mid-sixteenth century that
“anatomists began to rely heavily on unofficial or extralegal sources of supply” (17).
Carlino, La fabbrica del corpo, 222–30.

text (most often, Mondino’s Anatomia).19 A solitary dissection thus would have
contravened well-established professional hierarchies in Renaissance hospitals
and medical schools.20 It seems much more plausible that Leonardo performed
these dissections in concert with Florentine medical practitioners.
Leonardo’s dissection of the centenarian in Florence was not exceptional.
There is evidence to suggest that anatomies of this sort were practiced regularly in
Milanese hospitals; and Florence, in this respect, was no different from Milan.
Moreover, attending anatomies may have been relatively easy once someone had
ties and contacts with the medical community. His courtly patronage, as well as
his many other contacts in the city, could easily have given Leonardo ample
opportunities to witness (and possibly perform) anatomies in a semi-private
Although documentary evidence of Leonardo’s contacts with Milan’s medical
and scientific community in the city and at the Sforza court is less detailed than
historians of medicine would wish, it is still possible to reconstruct the context of
medical practice in the city and the milieu of his researches. In turn, several
questions deserve further study. When did Leonardo begin his studies of anatomy?
What are the sources of his learning, and how did he learn to dissect the human
body? Who were his contacts at court and in the city? A fresh look at the evidence
of Leonardo’s notes and the context of medical practice in Milan may provide
some answers.
One of the few dated anatomical sheets to have survived is the first leaf of a
sketch-book reporting that on 2 April 1489 – in his seventh year in Milan –

19 For a detailed description of the roles of those involved in public dissections, together
with a discussion of the visual and documentary sources, see Carlino, La fabbrica del
corpo, chs 1–2.
20 For a survey of the function of Italian Renaissance hospitals in this period, see
Katharine Park, “Healing the Poor: Hospitals and Medical Assistance in Renaissance
Florence,” in Medicine and Charity before the Welfare State, ed. Jonathan Barry and Colin
Jones (London: Routledge, 1991), 26–45. See also Welch, Art and Authority, chs 5–6.
21 The difficulty of establishing a reliable chronology is a persistent theme in Leonardo
scholarship. The two most recent co-editors of the anatomical sheets, Carlo Pedretti and
Kenneth Keele, admit that Leonardo’s own study practices – which often included the
writing and re-writing of different notes on the same sheet at years’ distance – make the
attempt to order these drawings chronologically quite challenging. In discussing
Leonardo’s drawings I rely substantially on Keele’s and Pedretti’s chronology. For a
facsimile edition of the anatomical sheets, see Keele and Pedretti, Leonardo da Vinci.
Corpus of Anatomical Studies. For a brief history of Leonardo’s manuscripts and their fate,
see Edward MacCurdy, ed., The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, 2 vols (London: Jonathan
Cape, 1938, 2nd edn 1956), vol. 1, 42–55; and also Jean Paul Richter, ed., The Literary
Works of Leonardo da Vinci, 2 vols (London: Phaidon, 1970), vol. 2, 393–9 (I refer to
passages in Richter’s anthology according to his numeration, by R. #). On the
reconstruction of Leonardo’s now lost book of painting, see Carlo Pedretti, Leonardo da
Vinci on Painting: A Lost Book, Libro A, reassembled from the Codex Vaticanus Urbinas
1270 and from the Codex Leicester (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1964). On recent challenges to the established chronology of Leonardo’s drawings,
see Bambach, “Chronology,” and Marani, “Leonardo’s Drawings in Milan,” 155–90.

Leonardo intended to start a book entitled “On the human figure” (Fig. 6.2).22 This
note accompanies some of his earliest-known anatomical drawings (of the skull
and vessels of the forehead), and it is the earliest extant testimony of Leonardo’s
interest in systematically studying the workings of the human body. Another note,
this one dated 1510, states that he hoped to finish his anatomies by that date (Fig.
6.3).23 Leonardo thus seems to have been engaged in the writing of a book on
human anatomy for over two decades, from his early stay in Milan to his later visit
in 1510–12.
Numerous contemporary and posthumous references to Leonardo’s anatomical
drawings suggest Milanese connections. The most famous of these accounts
occurs in Giorgio Vasari’s second edition of the Vite (1568). Vasari not only refers
to a “book on the anatomy of the horse (libro di notomia di cavagli)” that
Leonardo prepared for the equestrian monument of Francesco Sforza, but also to
the fact that he “applied himself, but with greater care, to the anatomy of man,
assisted by and in turn assisting, in this research, Messer Marcantonio della Torre,
an excellent philosopher, who was then lecturing at Pavia, and who wrote on this
matter.”24 I shall return to Marcantonio della Torre later, but for the moment I want
to emphasize that Vasari’s testimony – taken together with Leonardo’s numerous
extant sketches of horses – documents Leonardo’s dissections of animals in Milan
while under the patronage of Duke Ludovico il Moro.
Writing somewhat earlier, the Renaissance historian Paolo Giovio (1486–1552)
recorded that Leonardo “dissected the corpses of criminals in the medical schools
(in ipsis medicorum scholis) indifferent to this inhuman and disgusting work,” in
order to “paint the various joints and muscles as they bend and stretch according
to the laws of nature.”25 According to Giovio’s description, Leonardo tabulated all
the different parts down to the smallest veins and the composition of the bones
with extreme accuracy in order to make it possible for his work to be printed.26

22 “A dì 2 d’aprile 1489 libro titolato de figura umana.” See W. 19059r, R. 1370.

23 “In questa vernata del mille 510 credo spedire tutta tal notomia.” See W. 19016, R.
24 “attese di poi, ma con maggior cura, alla notomia degli uomini, aiutato e
scambievolmente aiutando in questo messer Marcantonio della Torre, eccellente filosofo,
che allora leggeva a Pavia, e scriveva di questa materia.” Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’più
eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, ed. G. Milanesi (Florence: G. Barbèra, 1893),
199. The English quotations are from Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters,
Sculptors and Architects by Giorgio Vasari; trans. Gaston du C. de Vere (1913; reprint, New
York: AMS Press, 1976).
25 “Secare quoque noxiorum hominum cadavera in ipsis medicorum scholis inhumano
foedoque labore didicerat, ut varii membrorum flexus et conatus ex vi nervorum
vertebrarumque naturali ordine pingerentur.” Paolo Giovio, Leonardi Vincii Vita, first
published in Tiraboschi, Storia della Letteratura Italiana (Venice, 1796), vol. 7, 1641–2. For
the Latin original and its English translation, see Richter, The Literary Works of Leonardo
da Vinci, vol. 1, 2–3 (recently reprinted in Farago, Biography and Early Criticism, 70–71).
26 Giovio, Leonardi Vincii Vita “… Propterea particularum omnium formam in tabellis,
usque ad exiles venulas, interioraque ossium, mira solertia figuravit, ut ex eo tot annorum
opere (infinita exempla) ad artis utilitatem typis aeneis excuderentur.”

6.2 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. Two drawings of the cranium

(with the date of 2 April 1489). Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, W.
19059r. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection © 2005, Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II

6.3 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. Large study of the left foot and
leg, showing muscles of the calf and tendons; sketch of the arm and hand
(with the date of winter, 1510). Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, W.
19016r. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection © 2005. Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II

Giovio’s testimony is particularly relevant because he was a late contemporary of

Leonardo who lived in Milan and Pavia and who may have known him
personally.27 Moreover, Giovio refers to the dissection of criminals (noxiorum
hominum cadavera) in medical schools, a testimony that may be related to
Leonardo’s note of ca. 1508 of his study of the penises of criminals, as well as to
the two dated notes of 1489 and 1510 mentioned above.
These notes, drawings, and sixteenth-century testimonies leave little doubt that
while he was in Milan, Leonardo was able to study anatomy from the corpses of
both animals and human beings and that he attended a number of dissections in
the city’s medical schools. Giovio’s account also furnishes valuable evidence
about the semi-private practice of autopsies. Dissections might be disgusting, but
they were not forbidden, and they did not have to be performed in secrecy. It now
remains to be determined just where in Milan Leonardo might have executed his
sketches, what kind of cadavers were available, how he could have procured these
bodies, and, finally, how he learned anatomy.

Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Milan

The practice of dissection and autopsy was well known in Milan from the mid-
fourteenth century onward. Demands on physicians’ technical expertise were
frequent. Deaths in Milan were regularly documented in the Books of the Dead
(Libri de Morti), which often recorded the cause of mortality as well as the name
of the physician providing the diagnosis.28 Doctors in most northern Italian cities
were required by law to report violent or suspicious deaths, as well as wounds,
evidence of sodomy, and certain physical ailments.29 Most important for our
purposes, the early practice of forensic medicine in Milan is documented in the
city statutes of 1351–1481 that regulated the medical profession under
Visconti–Sforza rule, including provisions for dissections.30
Documents for Bologna, Padua, and Florence cited by Park show that Italian

27 There are at least two periods in which both Giovio and Leonardo were living in the
same city: sometime between 1501 and 1509, when Giovio had moved first to Milan and
then to Pavia to pursue his studies; and a later period in Rome (between 1513 and 1516,
when Leonardo lived briefly in Rome). In this second period, moreover, both Leonardo and
Giovio were under the patronage of members of the Medici family (Leonardo under
Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici, and Giovio under Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, who was to
become Pope Clement VII). For Giovio’s role as a humanist physician and his relationship
with Leo X, see T. C. Price Zimmermann, Paolo Giovio: The Historian and the Crisis of
Sixteenth-Century Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), esp. chs 2–3.
28 ASMi, Popolazione, Parte Antica, “Libri dei Morti.” See also Ann Carmichael,
“Contagion Theory and Contagion Practice in Fifteenth-Century Milan,” Renaissance
Quarterly 44 (1991): 213–56.
29 Park, “The Criminal and the Saintly Body,” 5–6, 8–9.
30 Archivio dell’Ospedale Maggiore (hereafter AOM), Codex Statutorum Veterum
Mediolani, 1351–1481 (hereafter CSVM).

doctors often performed forensic autopsies, most commonly in order to rule out
the suspicion of poisoning.31 The Milanese statutes do not explicitly refer to the
possibility of performing post-mortems to ascertain the cause of death, but no
document officially sanctions the practice. It seems entirely plausible that
Milanese doctors – like their counterparts in other major northern Italian cities –
performed autopsies for this purpose.
We know that physicians were asked to carry out post-mortems during the
plague epidemics that hit Florence and the rest of Italy in the late Middle Ages and
the Renaissance.32 Physicians on the city payrolls also were employed for the cure
of plague in the city’s lazarettos.33 Although Milan did not establish the office of
Magistrato di Sanità – health officer – until 1534,34 the city had an Officio di
Sanità (Health Office) and it appointed health officers (called ducales
conservatores or deputati sanitatis) as early as the late thirteenth and fourteenth
It seems likely that in the majority of cases, bodies were opened to determine
the cause of death and not necessarily to dissect them. Indeed, as Katharine Park
has observed, public dissections were less common in fifteenth-century Italy than
often is imagined.36 The Milanese city statutes of 1351–1481, like those of most
northern Italian cities, called for at least one public dissection a year.37 The
ordinance entitled De cadavere dando medicis pro faciendo nothomiam indicates
that on the petition of the prior of the college of physicians or of that of surgeons,

31 Park, “The Life of the Corpse,” 5.

32 One such wave of epidemics hit Venice in 1535 and the Health Office forced a rather
unwilling College to practice a series of anatomies to establish the cause of death. See
Richard Palmer, “Physicians and the State in Post-Medieval Italy,” in The Town and State
Physician from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, ed. A. W. Russell (Wolfenbüttel:
Herzog August Bibliothek, 1981), 56; and Palmer, “The Control of Plague in Venice and
Northern Italy 1348–1600” (Ph.D. diss., University of Kent at Canterbury, 1978). See also,
Park, “The Criminal and the Saintly Body,” 4–5.
33 The first Milanese lazaretto was established in Milan in 1451. See Carlo Decio, La
peste in Milano nell’anno 1451 e il primo lazaretto a Cusago (Milan: Tip. L. F. Cogliati,
1900). For Venice, see Palmer, The Control of Plague. For Florence, see Ann Carmichael,
Plague and the Poor in Renaissance Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
34 See Alessandro Visconti, “Il magistrato di sanità nello Stato di Milano,” in Archivio
Storico Lombardo 4th series, 15 (1911): 263–84; Achille Giussani, L’archivio del
Magistrato di Sanità in Milano (Perugia: Unione Tipografica Cooperativa, 1915),
previously published in Annuario R. Archivio di Stato di Milano per l’anno 1951,
35 ASMi, Sanità, Parte antica, 44: “Compendio cronologico storico delle vicende più
rimarchevoli che hanno dato materia alle incombenze straordinarie del Magistrato di
Sanità Supremo.”
36 Park, “The Criminal and Saintly Body,” 8.
37 Compare this regulation with the 1405 and 1442 University of Bologna regulations
discussed in Giovanna Ferrari, “Public Anatomy Lessons and the Carnival: The Anatomy
Theatre of Bologna,” Past and Present 117 (1987): 53–4; for university regulations in other
northern cities, see her n. 23.

the potestas of the city was to release the body of a criminal for dissection.38 This
dissection was to be performed in the hospital of the Brolo:

The Podestà of Milan ought to concede and hand over (or have handed over by somebody
else) one cadaver to the priors of the doctors of medicine just as to those of surgery who
ask for it in order to perform an anatomy on the bodies of those upon whom justice will be
served, and will die by justice, as long as the body that is given is of vile and humble
condition. And it is clear that the Podestà ought to [do] every year as written below, namely:
The cadaver of a man one year, and of a woman the other year, just as the opportunity will
occur. And in order to do the said anatomy, the vicar of the office of provisions ought to
make available a room in the Brolo hospital, so that it will be done more expediently.39

Contemporary evidence shows, however, that regulations like these often were
neglected and that public dissections were held infrequently.40
Even had they been observed, such provisions obviously were insufficient for
the instruction of medical students. Moreover, as the Bologna anatomist Jacopo
Berengario da Carpi (ca. 1460–1530) lamented in the late-fifteenth century, public
dissections taught hardly anything to those who were present. Berengario, who
claimed to have anatomized several hundred bodies, did not hesitate to dismiss
them as useless displays. His praise was instead for private anatomies carried out
with a small number of students.41 It seems plausible, therefore, that dissections of

38 In Milan, surgeons seem to have been clearly distinct from learned physicians.
According to the Milanese statutes, Milan had both a college of physicians and a college
of surgeons. Unfortunately, we do not possess any other documentation about the college
of surgeons. The little information we can infer is limited to their mention in the civic
statutes, and to occasional “gride” promulgated by the Duke to reinforce regulations. We
can presume, however, that the relationship between doctors and surgeons was largely one
of collaboration and dependence. The statutes of the city of Milan seem to indicate that
surgeons were generally employed by the civic authorities for the cure of the poor and the
convicts in prisons. AOM, CSVM, Rubrica Iurisdicioniis, Cap. cxlvii: “De ellectione et
officio medici cilorgie pauperum: Unus medicus cilorgie qui appelletur medicus pauperum
elligatur per dominum Mediolani, cuius officium duret per annum unum et habeat pro
feudo suo libras quinquaginta tertiolorum omni anno et qui teneatur et debeat medicare
gratis infirmos hospitalium civitatis Mediolani et suburbiorum Mediolani et carcerum.”
39 “Dominus potestas mediolani teneatur concedere et tradere [sic] seu tradidi facere
unum cadaver prioribus medicorum tam phisice quam cirogie petentibus, pro nothomiam
facienda, ex illis corporibus de quibus fiet iustitia, et morientur mediante iustitia, dum
tamen illud quod continget dari sit villis [sic] et humilis condicionis, et ad hoc teneatur
dominus potesta singulis annis, sub forma infrascripta, videlicet: cadaver masculi uno
anno, et mulieris alio anno, prout casus occurrerit, et quod pro dicta nothomia facienda,
vicarius officii provisionum teneatur concedi facere locum in domibus hospitalis Brolii,
prout expedientius fuerit.” AOM, CSVM, Extraordinariorum, cap. clii.
40 See a letter from the rector of the faculty of arts and medicine at the Studio of Pavia
(the University of the Duchy of Milan) requesting the body of a woman accused of
witchcraft. The rector lamented the fact that the last public dissection happened six years
before. London, Wellcome Institute, MS 5265 (dated ca. 1464–5). I wish to thank Professor
Vivian Nutton for drawing my attention to this document.
41 Park, “The Criminal and the Saintly Body,” 15–16, esp. n. 51. On Bologna
specifically, see Ferrari, “Public Anatomy,” esp. 53–5.

the sort Berengario favored were practiced (whether in hospitals or doctors’

homes), and that the provenance of the bodies was not always restricted to those
of criminals.
Two hospitals were pre-eminent in Renaissance Milan: the Brolo and the Ca’
Granda. As far as we know, public dissections in Milan were performed only at
the older of the two, the Brolo hospital – a large foundation that at times housed
up to 500 bed-ridden patients. Apart from lepers, anyone who was sick could
receive help there, and the commune paid the hospital’s team of three surgeons to
perform surgical operations on the poor.42 Administered by a religious order, the
Brolo is typical of Renaissance charitable institutions, a setting in which Italian
patricians publicly demonstrated their piety by supporting the weak, the sick, and
the destitute.43
Toward the late twelfth century, however, increasing mismanagement came to
characterize Milanese hospitals, and by the end of the thirteenth century a reform
was much needed. Valuable examples of successful large-scale management came
from Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and Santa Maria della Scala in Siena.44 With
the rise of the Sforzas, a new hospital was conceived for Milan – the Ca’ Granda.
Intended to compete in splendor and efficiency with hospitals of Florence and
Siena, the project was initiated by Francesco Sforza in 1456, and the Florentine
architect Antonio Averlino, known as Il Filarete, was commissioned to design it –
evidence of what Evelyn Welch regards as the “overwhelming control of the new
duke and a small faction of his patrician supporters” over this municipal
institution.45 As for patient care, unlike the Brolo, the Ca’ Granda generally housed
only short-term patients with potentially deadly conditions, and not the
chronically ill.46
By 1459 most of the Milanese hospitals were administered officially by the
Deputati sopra le Provvisioni dei Poveri (Deputies Providing for the Poor) based
in the Ca’ Granda.47 A deliberation of these deputies of the hospital dated 7

42 On the Brolo see Bonvesin da la Riva, De magnalibus Mediolani, ed. and trans. Paolo
Chiesa (Milan: Scheiwiller, 1997), ch. 3, vi. According to Bonvesin, at the end of the
trecento Milan counted around 15 hospitals. See also Welch, Art and Authority, 125.
43 Welch, Art and Authority, 126. For the charitable as well as medical functions of the
Renaissance hospital, see John Henderson, “The Hospitals of Late-Medieval and
Renaissance Florence: a Preliminary Survey,” The Hospital in History, ed. L. Granshaw
and R. Porter (London: Routledge, 1989); and Henderson, “Ospedali fiorentini ed opere
d’arte nel Rinascimento: valore storico e ruolo sanitario-devozionale,” Medicina nei secoli
12 (2000): 273–95.
44 Welch, Art and Authority, 126–7.
45 Welch, Art and Authority, 120.
46 In the year 1481–2, when the Ca’ Granda was fully operative, the books record 1808
deaths in Milan, of which 3 per cent, or 57, occurred in the city hospitals. Ten of those were
in the Ca’ Granda. By the last decade of the fifteenth century the number of deaths in the
hospitals had increased to 10 per cent. Welch, Art and Authority, 162.
47 The origins of the hospital and its organization in the Renaissance have been
investigated in Franca Leverotti, “Sulle origini dell’Ospedale Maggiore di Milano,”
Archivio Storico Lombardo 10th series, 6 (1981–3): 77–103; Giuliana Albini, “La gestione

December 1491 officially states that doctors could perform “anatomies” on the
bodies of the poor, an indication that criminals were not the only subjects of
dissection. Dissection in the Milanese hospitals thus is clearly documented in
1491, and in this case, the setting appears to have been the Ca’ Granda. (Even if
these dissections took place at the Ca’ Granda, presumably the public dissection
of the bodies of criminals remained at the Brolo.) The deputies of the hospital also
indicated that the bodies of the poor who died in the Ca’ Granda could be used for
ad hoc anatomies (nothomia particularis) at the discretion of the physicians. Most
significantly for understanding Leonardo’s work, the deliberation also specified
that drawings of such dissections be made (fiat designum), and be kept on the
hospital’s premises.48 Unfortunately, none of these drawings have been preserved.
How public were these anatomies? Judging from the different status of the
corpse – no longer that of a criminal but that of a pauper – the liberty conceded to
the doctors, and the meaning of the term “particularis,” it is possible to speculate
that these were private or semi-private anatomies to be carried out in the hospital
premises by physicians and their pupils.49 As noted, they also required the
presence of an artist. While we have no direct proof that Leonardo visited the Ca’
Granda, in his manuscripts there are scattered references to the Brolo, which was
situated very close to the Ca’ Granda, at the back of the Milanese cathedral.50 The
Brolo remained the wealthiest and most important hospital after the Ca’ Granda,
and was particularly famous for its surgical team.51 In the documents of the time

dell’Ospedale Maggiore nel Quattrocento: un esempio di concentrazione ospedaliera,” in

Ospedali e città. L’Italia del Centro-Nord, XIII–XVI secolo, ed. Allen J. Grieco and Lucia
Sandri (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1997), 157–78; and Albini, “La riforma quattrocentesca
degli ospedali nel Ducato di Milano, tra poteri laici ed ecclesiastici,” in Povertà e
innovazioni istituzionali in Italia. Dal medioevo ad oggi, ed. Vera Zamagni (Bologna: Il
Mulino, 2000), 95–110.
48 AOM, 7 December 1491, Ordinazioni Deputati Spedalieri, “‘pro nothomia’:
deliberaverunt quod de pauperibus moriendi in hospitale ad discretionem dictorum phixicorum
[sic] fiat not(h)omia particularis, et de ipsa not(h)omia fiat designum perpetuo remanendum in
prefato hospitale.” See also Carlo Felice Biaggi, “Gli studi anatomici dell’Ospedale Maggiore
nel sec. XV e Leonardo a Milano,” Ospedale Maggiore 7 (1956): 405–10.
49 The context in the ordinazione does not help much in clarifying the meaning. The only
other occurrences of the term “particularis” known to me are documented in the mid-sixteenth
century. In this instance, it seems that its meaning can be translated either as “ad hoc” or
“specific,” and it refers to private anatomies. See Carlino, La fabbrica del corpo, 225–6.
50 Leonardo refers directly to the Brolo in London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Codex
Forster II 2 [formerly London, Forster Library, South Kensington Museum, MS S.K.M.
II.2], fol. 65 recto, which can be dated to 1495–7: “Piscina da Mozania all’ospedale di
Brolio ha molte vene per le breaccia e gambe.” See R. 1521. It is not clear what he means
with “Piscina da Mozania.” In Paris, Institut de France, MS F. (2177), [inside front cover;
former foliation 0’; (datable to 1508–9 or earlier)], he refers to the stufe: “Va ogni sabato
alla stufa e vedrai delli nudi.” The term stufe often indicated the communal baths at the
hospital. Leonardo da Vinci, I manoscritti dell’Institut de France, ed. Augusto Marinoni,
12 vols – Il Manoscritto F (Florence: Giunti Barbèra, 1988): transcr. vol., 3. See R. 1421.
51 See Welch, Art and Authority, 125; and Leverotti, “Sulle origini dell’Ospedale,” 106,
where she reports the salaries of the Rettori for the year 1461.

hospitals are mostly referred to as luoghi pii (pious institutions), but occasionally
also consorzii or scuole.52 The name scuole (or scolle, scole) seems particularly
significant given Paolo Giovio’s use of the term (in the plural) medicorum scholis
to refer to the places where Leonardo performed his anatomies.
Although the practice of dissection is documented only for the Brolo and the
Ca’ Granda, autopsies and dissections were routinely practiced in Milanese
hospitals. There is no incontrovertible evidence that Leonardo practiced
anatomies in the Brolo or the Ca’ Granda, but there is good reason to believe that
some of Leonardo’s studies happened within these premises. Leonardo’s best-
documented series of drawings substantiates the hypothesis that his studies were
undertaken in hospitals such as the Ca’ Granda and Santa Maria Nuova. The
dissection of the centenarian was completed in Florence in late 1507 or early
1508, although according to Pedretti, the detailed notes and finished drawings
were not set down until after 12 September 1508 on Leonardo’s return to Milan
(Fig. 6.4 and Fig. 6.5).53 Significantly, Leonardo’s description of the procedure and
his statement of the cause of death of the old man reflect quite closely the general
practice of post-mortem carried out by contemporary physicians in medical
schools. Equally important, in Leonardo’s report, there is no hint of secretiveness
or difficulty about obtaining the body.
Leonardo recalls how the man died at the hospital soon after their conversation
and how he performed an “anatomy” (notomia) on the old man’s body. His note
reports on the cause of death of the old man, what in modern terms would be
defined a coronary occlusion:

And this old man, a few hours before his death told me that he was over a hundred years
old and that he felt nothing wrong with his body other than weakness. And thus, while
sitting on a bed in the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, without any
movement or other sign of mishap, he passed out of this life.
And I made an anatomy of him in order to see the cause of so sweet a death. This I
found to be a fainting away through lack of blood to the artery which nourished the
heart, and other parts below it, which I found very dry; thin and withered. This anatomy
I described very diligently and with great ease because of the absence of fat and
humours which greatly hinder the recognition of the parts. The other anatomy was on a
child of two years in which I found everything contrary to that of the old man.54

52 Welch, Art and Authority, 131.

53 For the dating, see Pedretti’s comments in Keele and Pedretti, Leonardo da Vinci,
Corpus of Anatomical Studies, vol. 2, 114–15 (note to R. 848), and in his Richter
commentary, note to R. 848 in Carlo Pedretti, The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci:
Compiled and Edited from the Original Manuscripts by Jean Paul Richter, 2 vols (London:
Phaidon, 1977), hereafter cited as Pedretti, Richter Commentary with Richter’s R. #.
54 “Ecquesto vechio dj poche ore inanzi lazua morte mj djsse lui passare cento anni e
chenonsi sentiua dalcun mancamento nela persona altro che deboleza e così standosi a
sedere sopra vno letto nello spedale dj santa maria nova dj firenze sanza altro movimento
osegnjo dalchuo accidente passò dj questa vita – e io ne feci notomja per uedere lacausa
djsi dolce morte la qualle trovai venjre mene per il mancamento dj sangue, che arteria che
notria ilcore elli altri membri inferiori li quali trovai molti aridi stenuati esecchi lacqual
notomja discrissi assai diligentemente e con gran facilita peressere priuato dj grasso

6.4 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. The superficial veins of the left
arm, and the vessels of the young and old. Windsor Castle, Royal
Collection, W. 19027r. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection © 2005,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

6.5 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. The portal veins in old age and
notes recording observations on the death of an old man in Florence.
Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, W. 19027v. Photo courtesy of The
Royal Collection © 2005, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Paraphrasing Leonardo’s own opinion of the value of his anatomical drawings,

Martin Kemp comments that viewing the series “would be at least as good as the
witnessing of an actual dissection,” yet at the same time he seems to exclude the
possibility that Leonardo was actually performing a formal autopsy.55 Leonardo’s
note, however, clearly states that he performed the anatomy to determine the cause
of death. His words are remarkably similar to those used by fifteenth-century
physicians in documenting their autopsies. For instance, the Florentine Antonio
Benivieni reported in similar terms on the anatomy of one of his relatives, Antonio
Bruni, who arranged for his body to be dissected for public benefit:

Wherefore, the cadaver of the deceased having been cut up for public benefit, it was
found that the ventricle of the man had so hardened in the joints of the opening toward
its lowest part, that since it was able to transmit nothing from there to the inferior parts,
by necessity death followed.56

On the basis of such comparisons, we can set aside Kemp’s interpretation and read
Leonardo’s passage as the account of an autopsy, followed by a dissection of the
rest of the body.
The term “notomia” used by Leonardo and his contemporaries is semantically
ambiguous, meaning – depending on context – embalming, post-mortem (or
autopsy), dissection, or possibly a combination of two or more of these.57 As
noted, post-mortems were much more frequent than public dissections, and semi-
private dissections seem to have been particularly common. It is impossible,
however, to determine where a physician (or Leonardo, in our case) would have
drawn the line between an autopsy and a dissection. Autopsies certainly offered
the opportunity for physicians to increase their knowledge of the human body. It
can be presumed that attempts to locate the origin of a disease saw no established

edjomore che assai impedjsce lacognitione delle parti laltra notomja fu dun putto dj 2 annj
nelquale trovai ognj cosa contra<r>ia aquella del uechio.” W. 19027v; ca. 1504–6.
Transcription [contractions expanded here] and translation, Keele and Pedretti, Leonardo
da Vinci, Corpus of Anatomical Studies, vol. 1, 214, 69v (B10v), n. III.
55 “ … his ultimate aim cannot be equated with that of a modern pathologist examining
a heart-failure victim in a post-mortem room.” Kemp, “Dissection and Divinity,” 203
(reprinted in Farago, Leonardo’s Science and Technology, 233). Similarly, Keele says, “The
stimulus to Leonardo’s performance of a post-mortem was to find the cause of the
physiology of death, not its pathology as is assumed today.” Keele and Pedretti, Leonardo
da Vinci, Corpus of Anatomical Studies, vol. 1, 214. Leonardo’s comment is on W. 19070v.
56 “Quare defuncti cadavere publicae utilitatis gratia inciso inventum est hominis
ventriculum ita iunctis oris ad imam eius partem obcalluisse, ut cum nihil inde ad inferiora
transmittere potuerit, necessario mors subsecuta sit.” Antonio Costa and Giorgio Weber,
“L’inizio dell’anatomia patologica nel Quattrocento fiorentino sui testi di Antonio
Benivieni, Bernardo Torni, Leonardo da Vinci,” Archivio “de Vecchi” per l’anatomia
patologica 39 (1963): 564–5. For further examples, see Antonio Benivieni, De abditis
nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis, ed. Giorgio Weber (Florence: Leo
S. Olschki, 1994).
57 On the term “anatomy” used to indicate embalming, see the case indicated in Park,
“The Criminal and the Saintly Body,” 6.

limits to the intervention of the physician (or the person who was manually
performing the operations under his guidance) on the corpse of the deceased.
This can explain why, when it comes to images, it is not always easy to
distinguish between representations of the different practices associated with
anatomy – namely public dissection, autopsy, and private dissection.58 From the
detailed nature of Leonardo’s drawings of the vecchio’s internal organs, it seems
evident that both for Leonardo and for fifteenth-century physicians, performing a
notomia may have often entailed practicing both an autopsy and a partial
dissection. Although there is no evidence that Leonardo participated in the
anatomies held at the Ca’ Granda, we should notice the similarities between
Leonardo’s partial anatomies and the provisions for anatomies and drawings
indicated in the 1491 deliberation of the Milanese hospital. At the very least,
Leonardo was not unique in recording anatomical dissections, and he may well
have taken part in the anatomies that were carried out in the Milanese hospitals.

Leonardo’s Interactions with the Milanese Medical Community

Leonardo’s drawings were not based solely on observation; much of what he drew
does not correspond to our current knowledge of anatomy. This is a point that has
often troubled historians of anatomy: how could such a keen observer and skilled
draftsman make such mistakes? If, however, we regard these drawings as a form
of visual thinking, through which Leonardo tried to understand beliefs and
theories of the human body found in the anatomical textbooks of the time
(particularly Mondino’s Anatomia and Avicenna’s Canon), then these drawings
become less problematic.59 That is, Leonardo sketched the human body not only
according to what he was able to observe, but also according to what he read and
heard from his contemporaries. Reading, listening, and observing were intimately
interrelated aspects of Leonardo’s learning. Personal interpretation, graphic
codification, and expectations based on acquired learning all intertwined in a
complex set of relationships.
This can be seen particularly well in an anatomical drawing dated to around
1493–1500 and produced in Milan (Windsor 19097v). The drawing addresses
issues of embryology, reproduction, and the shape and function of female and

58 Andrea Carlino, “Marsia, Sant’Antonio ed altri indizi: Il corpo punito e la dissezione

fra Quattro e Cinquecento,” in Le corps à la Renaissance: Actes du XXXe Colloque de
Tours 1987, ed. Jean Célard (Paris: Aux amateurs de livres, 1999), 135. For a study of
Renaissance anatomical iconography see also Carlino, La fabbrica del corpo, esp. ch. 1. In
addition, Park remarks that “the techniques of embalming and autopsy are so similar that it
is impossible to distinguish them in contemporary images.” Park, “The Criminal and the
Saintly Body,” n. 13.
59 See especially Martin Kemp, “‘Il concetto dell’anima’ in Leonardo’s Early Skull
Studies,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 34 (1971): 115–34, and Kemp,
“Dissection and Divinity.”

male genitalia (Fig. 6.6). Leonardo’s note seems to be a memorandum; it

comprises a series of questions that he wants to investigate. They include a note
as to what the testicles have to do with coition and the sperm, how the infant
breathes and how it is nourished through the umbilicus, why one soul governs two
bodies as you see when the mother desires a certain food and the infant remains
marked by it, and why an eight-month baby does not live.60
As scholars have noticed, the drawings of the male and female reflect some
common medical beliefs of the time, and not the actual anatomy of the human body
as we understand it today.61 For example, it was generally believed that the
imagination of the mother influenced the embryo, and that a desire for a certain type
of food would leave a mark on the baby’s skin (a belief that is still present in Italian
folklore). Likewise, according to Hippocratic–Galenic physiology, on conception, the
blood of the retained menses would be carried to the breasts by way of the epigastric
veins and transformed into milk.62 Although, below this drawing, Leonardo scribbled
the note “here two creatures are cut through the middle and the rest is described,” it
seems clear that Leonardo’s sketch of the female and male copulating does not reflect
an actual dissection.63 It follows, instead, a number of popular medical theories about
the source of conception and the begetting of the soul in the body of the embryo.
Leonardo was here investigating the anatomy of the penis in order to establish
how the soul was infused in the embryo. This study seems to have preceded, and
may be related to, his study of the erection of the penis in his 1508 note.64
Examples of this kind demonstrate Leonardo’s interest in and reliance upon the
theories propounded in the medical literature of the time. Given his description of
himself as a “man without letters,” how did he learn these medical concepts?65 The

60 The recto of this folio may refer to the statue of Francesco Sforza or to the building
up of an anatomical model. Clark dated it to ca. 1493. O’Malley and Saunders date the
sheet to around 1500 on the basis of a reference to ulcers (ferite) that, they speculate, may
refer to syphilis. I think the sentence “per queste figure si dimosterra la cagione di molti
pericoli di ferite e malattie” is too generic to grant such an interpretation, and I am more
inclined to keep Clark’s dating of around 1493. See Clark, Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci,
vol. 3, 37–8; and Charles D. O’Malley and J. B. de C. M. Saunders, Leonardo da Vinci, on
the Human Body (New York: Henry Schuman, 1952), 460.
61 Keele and Pedretti, Leonardo da Vinci, Corpus of Anatomical Studies, vol. 1, 78, 35r.
62 On the blood’s transformation into breast milk, see Hippocrates, Volume VIII, ed. and
trans. Paul Potter, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995),
Glands, paragraph 16, 123–4. On maternal imagination, see Katharine Park and Lorraine
Daston, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 221,
63 “Qui si taglia due creature per me[z]zo, el rimanente si disscrive.” O’Malley and
Saunders’s translation “Here two creatures are cut through the middle and the remains are
described” may be over-interpreting “el rimanente.” It is unlikely that Leonardo referred to
the human remains of a dissection. O’Malley and Saunders, Leonardo da Vinci on the
Human Body, 460.
64 Cf. W. 19019v (Fig. 6.1) and W. 19097v (Fig. 6.6).
65 For Leonardo’s description of himself as a “homo sanza lettere,” “a man without
letters,” in the Proemio to the book on painting, see Richter, vol. 1, 116, R. 10.

6.6 Leonardo da Vinci. Anatomical Drawings. Coition of hemisected man and

woman (with dissection of the penis). Windsor Castle, Royal Collection,
W. 19097v. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection © 2005, Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II

question of Leonardo’s knowledge of Latin and his access to these medical

writings has haunted Leonardo scholars for decades. All major scholars agree that
Leonardo’s medical knowledge derives in large part from the classical, medieval,
and Arabic works that were studied in the medical curriculum of fifteenth-century
universities. There is no consensus, however, about how Leonardo managed to
read this material, which was written in rather technical, and sometimes difficult,
Latin.66 Leonardo’s Latin was, at best, fair, certainly not proficient, and he had no
university training in medicine.
A brief note – “Have Avicenna translated (Fa tradurre Avicenna)” – reveals
Leonardo’s willingness to go to considerable lengths to understand a key medical
authority available only in Latin. As a general assumption, it is reasonable to
suggest that Leonardo learned a good deal of medicine through oral instruction.
Like all artists of his day, he acquired his craft in workshops where knowledge
was shared and instruction was imparted verbally. It is also well documented that
he learned mathematics this way from his friend, the Franciscan mathematician
Luca Pacioli.67 If Leonardo was similarly able to listen to Milan’s physicians and
surgeons expound texts, to pose his questions directly to them, and to work with
them at the dissecting table, this would help explain his access to the content of
Latin medical treatises and the related issues of his ability to procure bodies and
perform anatomies.68
Documenting such unofficial, non-contractual situations often is impossible; but
miscellaneous notes in Leonardo’s manuscripts show several examples of interactions
between him and Milanese medical practitioners. There were three institutional
settings where Leonardo would have encountered learned Milanese physicians: the
hospitals (and their pharmacies), the court, and the Studio – the Duchy’s university in
neighboring Pavia. Physicians were connected to the court through the Sforza

66 Scholars who have raised doubts about Leonardo’s knowledge of Latin include
Eugenio Garin, Carlo Dionisotti and, especially, Augusto Marinoni. See E. Garin, “Il
problema delle fonti del pensiero di Leonardo,” in Atti del Convegno di Studi Vinciani
(Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1953), 157–72; C. Dionisotti, “Leonardo uomo di lettere,” Italia
Medioevale e Umanistica 5 (1968): 183–216; A. Marinoni, Gli appunti grammaticali e
lessicali di Leonardo da Vinci, 2 vols (Milan: Castello Sforzesco, 1944–52); A. Marinoni,
“Saggio sugli appunti grammaticali e lessicali di Leonardo,” in Leonardo da Vinci, Scritti
Letterari, ed. A. Marinoni (Milan: Rizzoli, 1974), 227–38; and Marinoni, “Note sulla
ricerca delle fonti dei manoscritti vinciani,” Raccolta Vinciana 25 (1993): 3–37, esp. 5–11.
Scholars more inclined to believe that Leonardo possessed at least a working knowledge of
Latin include Pierre Duhem, Etudes sur L. de V. Ceux qu’il a lus et ceux qui l’ont lu (1906;
reprint, Paris: Editions des Archives Contemporaines, 1984); and Edmondo Solmi, Scritti
Vinciani (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1974). Joanne Snow-Smith’s article, “Leonardo da
Vinci and Printed Ancient Medical Texts: History and Influence,” Journal of the
Washington Academy of Sciences 90 (2004): 2–16 should be used with caution.
67 On the relationship between Leonardo and Pacioli, see Monica Azzolini, “Anatomy
of a Dispute: Leonardo, Pacioli and Scientific Courtly Entertainment in Renaissance
Milan,” Early Science and Medicine 9 (2004): 115–35.
68 The annotations in R. 1448 suggest that Leonardo asked people to explain a variety
of subjects. They often start with “Fatti mostrare … ,” “Domanda a … .”

patronage of hospitals and through the Duke’s control over university appointments.69
The court itself employed a number of physicians and surgeons, and some university-
trained medical professors also were appointed as court physicians.
Leonardo’s earliest documented acquaintance with a doctor is that of Fazio
Cardano. The degree of Fazio’s active involvement in medicine is hard to
determine. He earned his living partly as a lawyer, but he also possessed a degree
in medicine (a fact that has been largely overlooked by Leonardo scholars).70
Sometime after 1502, he taught geometry in the Scuole Piattine, one of the civic
schools attached to the hospital Ca’ Granda.71 The Cardano family itself produced
numerous practicing physicians, notably Fazio’s son, Girolamo Cardano.72
Leonardo’s manuscripts reveal ample familiarity with Fazio Cardano’s edition of
Pecham’s Perspectiva communis, which was published in Milan in 1482–3.73
Leonardo also refers to a “Fatio” in a miscellaneous list of books that Leonardo
wanted to see – datable to 1495–9: “Ask Messer Fazio to show you the book ‘On
Proportions’ (Fatti mostrare da messer Fatio ‘di proportione’),” and he adds, “get
from Messer Fazio the proportions of Alkindi with the notes of Marliano (le
proportioni d’Alchino colle considerationi del Marliano da messer Fatio).”74 One

69 The Duke of Milan exerted direct control over the appointment and the salaries of the
professors teaching at the Studio. Ludovico il Moro, however, maintained a separate school
for rhetoric, poetry, Greek and mathematics in Milan. The scholars teaching in Milan
generally had higher salaries than those in Pavia. On the relationship between the Duke and
the Studio, see Agostino Sottili, “L’Università di Pavia nella politica culturale sforzesca,”
in Gli Sforza a Milano e in Lombardia e i loro rapporti con gli stati italiani ed europei
(1450–1535) (Milan: Cisalpino Goliardica, 1982), 519–81. On the Studio of Pavia see also,
Paul F. Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2002), 82–93. On the Milanese teaching of Pacioli, see Alfonso Corradi,
Memorie e documenti per la Storia dell’Università di Pavia e degli uomini più illustri che
v’insegnarono, 2 vols (1877–8; reprint, Bologna: Arnaldo Forni editore, 1970), vol. 1,
162–5; and Sottili, “L’Universita di Pavia,” 540–42.
70 Cardano’s dedicatory preface notes that Pecham’s work has been edited: “per eximius
artium et medicine ac iuris utriusque doctorem ac mathematicum peritissimum Facium
Cardanum Mediolanensem in venerabili colegio peritorum Mediolani residentem,” fol. 2
recto. (Emphasis is mine.) On Fazio and Leonardo and some of the terminology of the
Paragone, see also, my “In Praise of Art,” Renaissance Studies 9 (2005): 487–510.
71 Savatore Spinelli, La Ca’ Granda 1456–1956 (Milan: Antonio Cordani, 1956), 97;
and Nancy Siraisi, The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance
Medicine (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 98, and 270, n. 23.
72 ASMi, Giovanni Sitoni di Scozia, Theatrum Genealogicum Familiarum Illustrium,
Nobilium, et Civium Inclytae Urbis Mediolani […], MS. 1705, s.v. Cardano.
73 Johannes de Pecham, Perspectiva communis (Mediolani, 1482–3). On Fazio and
Leonardo see Solmi, Scritti Vinciani, s.v.; Kemp, The Marvellous Works, 102 and passim;
and Claire Farago, Leonardo’s Paragone: A Critical Interpretation with a New Edition of
the Text in the Codex Urbinas (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 291. Leonardo owned Pecham’s book,
which is listed in the book list in the Madrid Codex II. See item n. 42 (“Prospettiva
comune”), in Marinoni, “I libri di Leonardo,” in Leonardo da Vinci, Scritti Letterari, 242.
Fazio’s son, the famous Girolamo, was well acquainted with Leonardo’s researches, but he
had mixed feelings about them. See Siraisi, The Clock and the Mirror, 99, 110.
74 See R. 1448 (translations mine).

could even speculate that Leonardo was Fazio’s pupil at the Scuole
This note also suggests the possibility that it was through Fazio that Leonardo
first came in contact with the powerful Milanese family of the Marliani, many of
whom practiced medicine and law and enjoyed the Duke’s patronage. The best-
known member of this family was the ducal physician Giovanni Marliani, whose
studies in physics received critical attention by Marshall Clagett.75 Marliani’s sons
were themselves university doctors and taught in the Studio in neighboring Pavia.
Notes scattered over a dozen years reveal Leonardo’s knowledge of books written
or owned by the Marliani, as well as his assumption that he would be welcome to
consult their copies. Around 1493, Leonardo notes that “Maestro Giuliano da
Marliano has a fine herbal,” and he specifies Marliani’s address: “He lives
opposite to Strami the Carpenters (Maestro Giuliano da Marliano a un bello
erbolaro; sta a riscontro alli Strami legnamieri).”76 In the 1495–9 list of books
that Leonardo wanted to see (some of which appear in his second book list of ca.
1503–4), along with the note linking Fazio and Marliani to the work by Alkindi
on proportions, Leonardo notes books on both mathematics and medicine
available at the Marlianis:

Algebra which is with the Marliani and was written by their father (Algibra ch’é apresso
i Marliani fatta dal loro padre)
[Book] on the bones at the Marlianis (dell’osso, de’Marliani).77

And in another shorter list, Leonardo refers briefly to “Marliano ‘On calculation’
(Il Marliano de calculatione).”78
Alongside that Marliano de calculatione, Leonardo lists an important
anatomical treatise in Latin by one of the most established anatomists of the day,

75 Marshall Clagett, Giovanni Marliani and Late Medieval Physics (1941; reprint, New
York: AMS Press, 1967). My spelling follows Clagett except when I quote Leonardo.
76 London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Codex Forster III [Formerly London, Forster
Library, South Kensington Museum MS S.K.M. III] fol. 37 verso; R. 1386 (translation
mine). Richter indicates in a footnote that this refers to a “Giuliano da Marliano, appointed
physician of Lodovico il Moro.” I have not found any Giuliano da Marliano identified as a
physician of Ludovico il Moro in any of the sources consulted (archival or otherwise).
Numerous members of the Marliani family practiced medicine, so Leonardo could be
referring to one of them. It is also possible that Richter transcribed incorrectly. I have not
been able to consult the original manuscript to verify the transcription. The date is from
Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 2, 328, R. 1386.
77 R. 1448 (translations mine).
78 Paris, Institut de France, MS F. (2177), [inside front cover; former foliation, 0’].
Leonardo, Il Manoscritto F: transcr. vol., 3, 4 n. 7, R. 1421. Girolamo Calvi, I manoscritti
di Leonardo da Vinci dal punto di vista cronologico storico e biografico (Bologna:
Zanichelli, 1925), dates MS. F to 1508–9. The note is certainly related to the Milanese
milieu, as it also mentions a “Dante di Niccolò della Croce.” Niccolò della Croce was a
noble Milanese favored by Ludovico il Moro. As the list includes a number of books which
appear in the second list of 1503–4, I would be inclined to date the note to the earlier period
of Leonardo’s first stay in Milan, and certainly before 1503.

the Venetian Alessandro Benedetti. What Leonardo calls Anatomia, Alessandro

Benedetto is probably the first printed edition of the Historia corporis humani sive
Anatomice, libri v, published in Venice in 1495. (A second edition appeared in
1502.)79 The Benedetti reference and the reference to the Marliani’s book on bones
in the 1495–8 list testify to Leonardo’s serious interest in anatomy by 1495.
Leonardo’s Milanese medical contacts were not limited to Cardano and the
Marliani. At least four other names can be mentioned. A note dated to Leonardo’s
first period in Milan, stating that “the sons of maestro Giovanni Ghiringhelli have
works by [Biagio] Pelacani (Eredi di maestro Giovanni Ghiringhello anno opere
del Pelacano),” seems to indicate that Leonardo also had contacts with the family
of Giovanni Ghiringhelli, another well-established medical professor at Pavia.80
We also know that on at least one occasion, Leonardo met three other ducal
physicians – Ambrogio Varesi, Gabriele Pirovano, and Nicolò Cusano – in front
of whom Leonardo may have disputed on the superiority of painting over the other
liberal arts.81 Leonardo may have had some further contacts with at least one of
these three physicians, Nicolò Cusano, as he further mentions “el Cusano medico”
in a sheet of the Codex Atlanticus.82
Finally, there is the famous association between Leonardo and the young
Paduan professor at Pavia, Marcantonio della Torre, that was recorded by Vasari
and perhaps also indicated by the note on a sheet of Leonardo’s embryological
drawings: “libro dell’acqua a messer Marcho antonio (the book on water to
master Marco Antonio).”83 Even without knowing the precise circumstances of
their dissecting partnership or the town that was the site of their dissections, it is
clear that this represents a situation where Leonardo’s knowledge of anatomy was
facilitated by close contact with the medical community of Milan and the Pavia

79 Leonardo, Il Manoscritto F: transcr. vol., 3, 4 n. 7; R. 1421 (translations mine).

80 London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Codex Forster III [formerly, Forster Library,
South Kensington Museum MS S.K.M. III] fol. 86 recto; R. 1496. Giovanni Ghiringhelli
taught at Pavia between 1443 and 1483: ad lecturam Logicae between 1442 and 1443, ad
lecturae medicinae et metaphysicae in 1453, ad lecturam philosophiae ordinariae in 1455,
ad lecturam physicae ordinariae between 1461 and 1462, ad lecturam philosophiae
ordinariae between 1464 and 1465, ad praticae medicinae de sero between 1467 and 1468,
and ad lecturam Almansoris in 1483. Biagio Pelacani taught at Pavia between 1374 and
1407: ad lecturam loycae et philosophiae between 1374 and 1375, ad lecturam
philosophiae moralis, astrologiae et mathematicae in 1404, and between 1406 and 1407.
Corradi, Memorie e documenti, vol. 1, 115 and vol. 2, 147.
81 Luca Pacioli, De divina proportione, intro. by Augusto Marinoni (Milan: Silvana
Editoriale, 1982; facsimile edition of the manuscript at the Ambrosiana Library, Milan),
fols 1 verso–2 recto. See also Azzolini, “Anatomy of a Dispute,” 115–35.
82 R. 1424. See also Solmi, Scritti Vinciani, s.v. On Cusano see Memorie e documenti,
vol. 1, 120; and Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 2, 336, R. 1424.
83 Vasari, Vite, note 24 above. See Clark, Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, vol. 3, 40,
and comments on W. 19102r. Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 2, R. 1433. See also
Martin Clayton, Leonardo da Vinci, The Anatomy of Man: Drawings from the Collection of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1992), 125, cat. 22A. The
book on water may have been Leonardo’s own work.

Studio. But, rather than this being Leonardo’s first association with a learned
physician, it may have been the last of several.84

Conclusion: The Myth of the Isolated Genius

This essay has focused quite narrowly on Leonardo’s connections with the
Milanese medical community and the consequences of these connections for his
work in anatomy, medicine, and natural philosophy. Even without Leonardo’s
presence, the make-up of that community and its members’ roles in Milanese civic
life, public health, medical education, medical practice, and court culture warrant
much more attention from historians. However, this essay has a larger aim: to use
the interactions between Leonardo and the Milanese doctors as a partial corrective
to the deep-rooted Romantic view of Leonardo as the isolated genius.
Given the strong sense of professional hierarchy among physicians in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, one could legitimately object to the picture
presented here on the grounds that the world of the Milanese doctors would have
been closed to Leonardo; he belonged to a distinctively different social class, and
he did not share their command of Latin. Leonardo did, however, have much in
common with the university-trained surgeons who operated with these physicians.
For both the surgeons and Leonardo, work consisted of the union of theory and
manual practice, and informal instruction was probably in the vernacular.85
In any case, it is possible that too much emphasis has been placed on the
separation between the professional spheres of the learned physician, the surgeon,
and the artist. To cite a parallel example, Pamela Long’s recent studies of
Renaissance technology convincingly demonstrate that the flourishing production
of manuscripts on the mechanical arts by both artisans and university-educated
humanists in fifteenth-century southern Germany and northern Italy fits poorly
with Edgar Zilsel’s influential position that the Renaissance artisan was separate
from learned elites.86 The commonality of themes and interests suggests a certain
level of interaction and exchange between high and low culture, as well as
theoretical and practical knowledge.

84 Marcantonio della Torre died of plague in 1511. On della Torre see M. T. Gnudi,
“Torre, Marcantonio della,” in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. Charles Gillispie, 18
vols (New York: Scribner, 1970–81), vol. 13, 430–31. On Leonardo’s anatomical studies in
the Roman hospitals, and his relationship with Leo X, see Adalberto Pazzini, “Leonardo da
Vinci e l’esercizio dell’anatomia in Roma,” Sudhoffs Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin
und der Naturwissenschaften 37 (1953): 329–37.
85 On Milanese surgeons, see note 38 above.
86 Pamela O. Long, “Power, Patronage, and the Authorship of Ars: From Mechanical
Know-How to Mechanical Knowledge in the Last Scribal Age,” Isis 88 (1997): 1–41, esp.
1–6; and Long, Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of
Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
2001), esp. chs 4 and 7. See also Pamela H. Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and
Experience in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

Long argues that the patronage that encouraged the production of texts on
subjects as varied as gunpowder, artillery, machines, painting, sculpture,
architecture, and the military arts developed because of a new, close alliance
between political and military praxis and the mechanical arts. Mario Biagoli has
documented a similar social phenomenon for teachers of geometry and arithmetic
in which patronage and military interests elevated the social status of all these
practitioners of the mechanical and mathematical arts.87 University-trained natural
philosophers also were welcomed at the court, as historians of science have
shown; and, for at least a small, elite group of artists and poets with high
intellectual aspirations, the courts offered numerous contacts with the learned and
semi-learned spheres of society.88 Many, perhaps most, contacts among otherwise
socially distinct classes of practitioners – university-trained natural philosophers
or physicians, mathematicians, engineers, artisans, literary figures – happened in
the context of Renaissance patronage.89
It was not exceptional for a person with a valuable set of skills to find noble
patrons. Leonardo could be counted as a member of many of these categories –
artist, artisan, inventor, engineer, mathematician – but, in fact, it was his activities
as a military engineer for the Duke of Milan and his projects related to the castle
of Porta Giovia that brought him into Milanese court circles.90 Courtly patronage
was instrumental in bridging the social and educational gap that divided him from
the university-trained physician. In order to meet, artists and physicians had to be
a legitimate part of the same social milieu, and court patronage provided a
common ground for such encounters.
The myth of Leonardo da Vinci as an isolated genius is an old one; and, like
the myth of medieval and Renaissance resistance to dissection, it has proven
almost impossible to extinguish. Similarly, Leonardo’s “modernity” continues to
captivate historians; Carmen Bambach, for instance, describes Leonardo as
“largely self-taught intellectually.” She goes on to describes him as “the

87 Mario Biagioli, “The Social Status of Italian Mathematicians: 1450–1600,” History

of Science 27 (1989): 41–95. A parallel dynamic of social advancement can explain both
Pacioli’s and Leonardo’s arguments in favor of mathematics and painting in their works De
divina proportione and the Paragone; see Azzolini, “Anatomy of a Dispute.”
88 See Michael Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), and
Frances Ames-Lewis, The Life of the Early Renaissance Artist (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2000).
89 See, for example, Bruce T. Moran, ed., Patronage and Institutions: Science,
Technology, and Medicine at the European Court, 1500–1750 (Rochester: Boydell, 1991);
Mario Biagioli, “Galileo’s System of Patronage,” History of Science, 28 (1990): 1–62; and
Biagoli, Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1993).
90 “Leonardus de Florentia ingeniare [sic] et pinctore.” See ASMi, Autografi, Elenco
Ingegneri ducali, cart. 87, s.d. See Alba Osimo, “Bramante, Leonardo e gli altri,” in
Ludovico il Moro: La sua città e la sua corte (1480–1499) (Milan: New Press, 1983),
85–104, esp. 103.
91 Carmen C. Bambach, “Introduction to Leonardo and his Drawings,” in Leonardo da
Vinci, Master Draftsman, 3.

polymath theorist, scientist, and inventor whose work has spoken across the
centuries with an astonishingly modern voice,” and someone who “transcended
his time.”92 In discussing Leonardo’s anatomies, she also reiterates the point that
“human dissections were extremely regulated and usually performed only on the
corpses of criminals.”93 In a similar fashion, Jane Roberts describes Leonardo as
an autodidact in the practice of anatomy, a man who was “centuries in advance of
others.”94 The theory of the self-taught man certainly sustains the idea that
Leonardo remained excluded from much of the learning of his day. This, in turn,
overplays his “discoveries” and feeds into the image of the genius. Even when
scholars admit some collaboration, as in the case of Leonardo’s association with
the anatomist Marcantonio della Torre, it is to argue that Marcantonio recognized
Leonardo’s genius and that he partnered with him in order to illustrate a book on
anatomy.95 The danger of taking Leonardo’s isolation and superiority for granted
is that it stops us from asking what Leonardo shared with his contemporaries.
Once we start looking for evidence of possible associations and collaborations, we
see a man eager to overcome his own deficiencies of education by learning from
others. Recognizing this does not diminish Leonardo’s unprecedented talents, but
it will enlarge our own understanding of his accomplishments and his world.

92 Bambach, “Introduction,” 4. For a provocative argument against Leonardo’s

“modernity” see Piers Britton, “The Signs of Faces: Leonardo on Physiognomic Science
and the ‘Four Universal States of Man,’” Renaissance Studies 16 (2002): 143–62, esp.
93 Bambach, “Introduction,” 15.
94 Roberts, “An Introduction,” 62, reprinted in Farago, Leonardo’s Science and
Technology, 274.
95 Erwin Panofsky, “Notes on the ‘Renaissance-Dämmerung,’” in The Renaissance: Six
Essays (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 162; reprinted in Claire J. Farago, Leonardo
da Vinci: Selected Scholarship, 5 vols – vol. 4, Leonardo’s Writings and the Theory of Art
(New York: Garland, 1999), 60, where he compares Leonardo’s collaboration with
Marcantonio to that of other famous pairs such as Vesalius and Calcar, and Galileo and
Cigoli. On the collaboration of artists and anatomists, see Bernard Schultz, Art and
Anatomy in Renaissance Italy (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985).
Chapter 7

(Hu)moral Exemplars: Type and

Temperament in Cinquecento Painting
Piers D. Britton*

For Suzy Butters, with affection and esteem

In Leonardo da Vinci’s provisional outline for a tract on human physiology,

anatomy, and physiognomy, dated to around 1490, he made it clear that part of the
function of his book would be to describe the “complexions” of men and women.1
For Leonardo and his contemporaries, this term meant rather more than skin tone
and texture: in the Galenic medical tradition on which he drew, “complexion”
connoted a person’s whole physiological and temperamental makeup.2 In similar
vein, certain fragments of Leonardo’s writings on figural representation indicate
that his ideas on the human form in action and repose were informed by the theory
of four humors, with which the idea of complexion was inextricably related.3 Later

* Among the people whose suggestions have influenced the ideas embodied in this
essay are Michael Bury, David O’Connor, Caroline Elam, Nicholas Penny, John Onians,
Jill Dunkerton, Alex Pilcher, Sive Walker, Humfrey Butters, John Law, and Patricia Rubin.
I am especially grateful to John Paoletti and Simon Barker for invaluable comments on
early drafts of this text, and to Dolly Conger for fastidious proofreading. Carol Plazzotta
and other members of the curatorial and library staff at the National Gallery, London, were
unfailingly helpful at an early stage in the planning. I also thank Gene and Dodie Cavender
for providing warm hospitality while I was preparing this piece, and the editors of
Visualizing Medieval Medicine, Jean Givens, Alain Touwaide, and Karen Reeds, for an
extraordinary level of support and encouragement. To the dedicatee, my Ph.D. supervisor
Suzy Butters, who nurtured the better parts of the thinking that informs this piece for almost
a decade, I owe more than can possibly be vested in words.
1 W. 19037v, in Kenneth D. Keele and Carlo Pedretti, Leonardo da Vinci: Corpus of the
Anatomical Studies in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle (London:
Johnson Reprint Co., 1978–80), 81v: “Poi discrivi l’omo cresciuto e la femmina, e sue
misure, e nature di complessione, colore e filosomie … Dipoi figura in quattro storie quattro
universali casi delli omini, cioè letizia, con vari atti di ridere, e figura la cagion del riso;
pianto, in vari modi, colla sua cagione; contenzione con vari movimenti d’uccisioni, fughe,
paure, ferocità, ardimenti, ’micidi e tutte cose appartenenti a simil casi.”
2 For an excellent recent analysis of the role of complexion and humoral theory in
Leonardo’s thinking about anatomy and physiognomy, see Domenico Laurenza, De figura
umana: Fisiognomica, anatomia e arte in Leonardo (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2001), esp.
30–1, 66–70, and 96–9.
3 For a good summary of the interrelation of the notion of humors and complexions, see


Italian authors on the theory and practice of painting, such as Paolo Pino, writing
in the 1540s, and Giovan Paolo Lomazzo, writing around 1570, also showed
familiarity with the principle of diverse complexions or humors, in relation not
only to artists’ subjects but also artists themselves and their audiences. Pino was
at pains to stress that painters should have an understanding of human
physiognomy, and that the representation of complexional variety was a
demonstration of skill proper to the medium.4 Conversely, Lomazzo complained
that relatively few painters had the subtlety to show how men’s actions were
informed by their passions and humors.5
In the light of this written evidence, which spans the better part of a century, it
seems reasonable to assume that humoral/complexion theory had some influence
on Italian figure painting in the Cinquecento, even if it was not as effectively
handled by artists as Lomazzo wished. Vasari’s use of the word “melancholic” to
describe painted figures by Michelangelo, Perino del Vaga, and his own assistant
Doceno suggests that Italian artists both recognized and knew how to render at
least one of the humoral types. Yet, beyond the exegeses of a few obscure and
arcane works which seem to depict the four humors as a set, there has been no
serious scholarly attempt to explore the extent or range of ways that Italian or
Cisalpine painters of the sixteenth century drew on humoral theory in figural
The present essay is meant as a preliminary study of the ways that humoral
theory influenced figural art in the so-called Renaissance, focusing chiefly on
painting practice in Italy.7 The essay divides into three unequal sections. First, I
briefly compare passages by Leon Battista Alberti and Leonardo which suggest
ways in which artists may have relied on humoral theory in developing their
images. Next, I examine two categories of figure subjects which appear to be

Laurenza, De figura umana, 96–100. For a fuller discussion of the vicissitudes of these
medical principles, see Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl, Saturn and
Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion and Art (London:
Nelson, 1964), 55–66.
4 Paolo Pino, Dialogo della Pittura, in Trattati d’Arte del Cinquecento, ed. Paola
Barocchi, 3 vols (Bari: Laterza, 1960), vol. 1, 93–139: Pino variously addresses ideal
complexion of women (102), the complexion of different parts of the body (128), artists’
tendency to melancholy (97, 135–6), and the relationship between the variety of human
judgment and the diversity of complexions (132).
5 Giovan Paolo Lomazzo, Trattato dell’Arte de la Pittura, facsimile of the 1584 Pontio
edition (Hildesheim: Olms, 1968), 120: “ho detto che tutte le passioni dell’animo, onde
nascono i moti esteriori, ne i corpi, tanto più, & meno operano in loro, quanto hanno
minore, è magior conformità con i quattro humori di ciascuno d’essi, che si dimandono
anco elementi.”
6 The role of humoral theory in the art of the later cinquecento and the seicento on both
sides of the Alps is vigorously explored in Zirka Zaremba Filipczak, Hot Dry Men, Cold
Wet Women: The Theory of Humors in Western European Art, 1575–1700 (New York: The
American Federation of the Arts, 1997).
7 The richest cultural–historical study of humoral theory and its impact on Renaissance
art is still Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy.

consistently and decorously dependent on the prescriptions of humoral theory.

Finally, I consider a small number of images which seem to show the four
humoral/temperamental types as a complete “set.” By way of a conclusion, I argue
that Leonardo da Vinci played a pivotal role in stimulating interest in the humors
– and more particularly in the virtuoso rendering of groups which collectively
embody complexional diversity.
It is important to emphasize that my concern here is not with “The Four
Humors” as a primary subject in painting, but with the ways in which humoral
theory influenced practice, and also with the contexts in which the humoral types
were evoked. Unsurprisingly, there are virtually no published texts from the
period which directly attest such uses.8 In the devotional commissions which were
most artists’ bread and butter, patrons were generally laissez-faire about the way
that figures within the image were represented.9 Instructions to evoke the four
humoral types would be unlikely to appear unless their presence was necessary to
the overt meaning of an image. Documentation for one such case does exist: the
humors are mentioned in notes on the decorative program for the Studiolo of
Francesco de’ Medici in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Vasari’s Zibaldone
preserves a lengthy disquisition by the inventor of the room’s complex program,
Vincenzo Borghini, which unequivocally records that the humors, like the four
elements and qualities, were to be personified on the chamber’s ceiling.10 Yet even
here it should be observed that Borghini ostentatiously deferred to Vasari’s
superior knowledge of how best to depict the four types.11 This willingness to cede
control strongly suggests that the theory of the humors had a less than recherché
status among cinquecento artists and iconographers.

A Humoral Template for “The Motions of the Mind”: Alberti and Leonardo

Indirect forms of textual evidence for popular dependence on humoral theory are
copious and pervasive. Martin Kemp scarcely exaggerated when he observed that
humoral theory was “ubiquitous” in the early modern period.12 It appears in a
variety of learned and quasi-popular texts from the Italy of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, from Saint Antoninus’ Summa to a Florentine carnival

8 It is my hope in due course to augment the material in the present essay with archival
9 Charles Hope, “Altarpieces and the Requirements of Patrons,” in Christianity and the
Renaissance: Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento, ed. Timothy Verdon
and John Henderson (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1990), 541–3.
10 Giorgio Vasari, Lo Zibaldone, ed. Alessandro del Vita (Rome: Instituto Nazionale di
Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte, 1938), 52–60.
11 Vasari, Zibaldone, 57: “le quali quattro complessioni come si abbiamo a dipignere
voi lo sapete meglio di me … .”
12 Martin Kemp, Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man
(London: Dent, 1981), 158.

song.13 Moreover, Leonardo’s allusions to humoral theory in his art-related

writings are not without precedent, albeit in the form of oblique rather than overt
reference. Lack of directness does not necessarily tell against the credibility of
these seeming allusions. If humoral theory was ubiquitous, writers on the craft and
principles of painting could well have invoked its principles in a fairly automatic
way, as we today might unreflectively allude to the introvert/extrovert binary.
The polymath Leon Battista Alberti, active a generation before Leonardo, is
arguably the most important art theorist to touch implicitly on the subject of the
humors. His Della pittura, completed in July 1436, contains a celebrated account
of human moti mentali, providing a plethora of observations and hints on how
aptly to apply them.14 In the course of this discussion, Alberti lists four states of
mind, together with their physical signs, which correspond closely with the
emotional conditions proper to the humoral types. Those of a sanguine
temperament could decorously be characterized by Alberti’s words merry and
jocose (“li huomini lieti et giocosi”); the impatient and quarrelsome choleric is
obviously related to the angry man (“chi sia irato”); the mood of the melancholy
(“chi sia malinconicho”) is by definition linked with humoral influence; and the
phlegmatic conventionally shared symptoms with Alberti’s fourth category, the
sorrowful (“un atristito”).15
What is chiefly interesting about Alberti’s use of the fourfold arrangement is
the mere fact that he did use it, suggesting that the contemporary mind readily
turned to the tetrad when considering behavioral matters. Alberti’s description of
the bodily effects produced by his four emotional states does not incorporate any
of the permanent symptoms of the humoral types, such as skin color; nor should

13 A rich array of late medieval and early modern texts including the carnival song is
discussed, and often cited at length, in Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy, 97–123.
For San Antonino’s treatment of the four humors, see Saint Antoninus, Summa theologica
(1740; reprint, Graz: Akademische Druck- u Verlagsanstalt, 1959), fols 49/50.
14 See Martin Kemp’s introduction to Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, trans. Cecil
Grayson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), 18. Alberti had first written the text in Latin,
completing it almost a year earlier in August 1435 (17) but, as Kemp reminds us, “the
Italian text is not a straight translation” (20), being aimed at practitioners rather than other
humanist scholars.
15 Leon Battista Alberti, Della Pittura, ed. Luigi Mallè (Florence: Sansoni, 1950), 93.
Alberti’s phrase evoking the deportment of the atristito, “stanno con sue forze et sentimenti
quasi balordi,” resonates with conventional characterizations of the phlegmatic: see, for
example, the stanza on the type in the poem La Sfera, attributed to Leonardo Dati
(1408–72), where the phlegmatic is described as “Pesanti e lunghi d’ogni loro affare” (in
La Sfera Da Libro Quattro in Ottava Rima Da F. Leonardo di Stagio Dati … , ed. Gustavo
Camillo Galletti; Rome: Tipografia delle scienze matematiche e fisiche, 1863, 24); a
Florentine carnival song from the first quarter of the sixteenth century calls them “pigri
humidi e lenti,/ placidi inetti” (Il Trionfo delle Quattro Complessioni, printed in Ernst
Steinmann, Das Geheimnis der Medicigraeber Michelangelos; Leipzig: K. W. Hiersemann,
1907, 78–9); and, closest of all to Alberti, Giovanni Tolosani, in another encyclopedic
poem entitled La Nuova Sfera, published in 1514, noted of the phlegmatic person that
“Nell’operar suo resta afflitto e lasso … È grave e tardo a muovere il suo passo” (in La
Sfera Da Libro Quattro, ed. Galletti, 164).

this surprise us. For the matter with which Alberti was chiefly concerned, which
was the construction of an effective narrative topos, permanent characteristics
were not necessarily of any importance. Because the narrative image (istoria)
distils nodal moments of drama from a narrative, the relevance of the characters’
apparent emotion to the events depicted overrides any question of inborn traits.16
A single example will illustrate this point – though not, as we will see, in any
exclusive and tidy fashion. Raphael’s prone and beleaguered Heliodorus, in the
Vatican fresco to which the ruffian has lent his name, shows all the characteristics
of ire listed in Della pittura.17 Because anger incites the soul, Alberti observes, it
causes the eyes and face to bulge, and produces a fiery color in both face and
members. Frustrated in his act of rapine, Heliodorus’ eyes and facial muscles
protrude to a monstrous extent, and his skin color is a much more hectic red than
that of his lissome archangelic attacker. What is primarily significant here – or at
least what would have been significant to Alberti in his role as didact – is that
Heliodorus’ facial and bodily expression are consonant both with the grossness of
his violence and his anguished fury at the punishment.
On the other hand, if the viewer cared to reflect on Heliodorus’ brutish persona,
it might seem entirely logical that the blasphemous attack on the temple was not
an isolated incident; that his aggression was probably habitual and that he could
thereby properly be identified as egregiously choleric. Reference to another art-
related text might encourage such an interpretation of the image. Amidst
Leonardo’s notes is a paragraph on the way in which men’s moral characters are
etched on their faces. Here Leonardo points out that faces which have
exaggeratedly pronounced contours (“di gran’ rilevo e’ profondità”) are proper to
bestial, wrathful men who exhibit little capacity for reason (“huomini bestiali et
iracondi con pocha raggione”).18 Raphael’s Heliodorus fits nicely into this
What distinguishes Leonardo’s passage on facial features from Alberti’s on the
exhibition of moti mentali is that Leonardo was concerned with permanent traits
rather than fleeting emotions. It was a cornerstone of popular humoral theory that
a person’s predominant humor would have a lasting influence on behavior.
Leonardo’s paragraph, in which he directly stated that people’s complexions can
be read in their faces, is a logical extrapolation from the theory: repeated actions
eventually leave indelible marks, in the form of wrinkles and uneven muscular

16 Alberti, Della Pittura, 93: “Poi moverà l’istoria l’animo quando li huomini ivi dipinti
molto porgeranno suo movimento d’animo.”
17 There is circumstantial evidence which strongly suggests that Raphael knew Della
Pittura; see Charles M. Rosenberg, “Raphael and the Florentine Istoria,” in Raphael Before
Rome, ed. James Beck (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1986), 175–87. For a
detail of Heliodorus and the angelic horseman, see Pierluigi De Vecchi, Raphael (New
York: Abbeville, 2002), 173.
18 Leonardo da Vinci, Treatise On Painting (Codex Urbinas Latinus 1270), trans. A.
Philip McMahon, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956), vol. 2, fol. 109
recto–verso: “De fisonomia e’ chiromanzia.”

massing, on the landscape of the visage. Thus men full of regrets (melancholics)
will have horizontal lines on their brows; marked lines around the upper lip and
the corners of the eyes will connote lively, laughing people (sanguines); while
those who are given to cogitation (wise counsel was sometimes ascribed to
phlegmatics) will have smooth features, since their faces are not disturbed by
It is possible that Leonardo saw better indices of a person’s humoral type in
these gradually developing facial features than in skin tint. However, it is unsafe
to infer this simply because there are no other substantial remarks on the
symptoms of the four complexions among his writings. Leonardo did not realize
his stated intention to represent in four images the “four universal states of man”
– by which he surely meant the emotional states which parallel the permanent
psychic conditions of the humoral types.20 Nor, apparently, did he ever write his
full-blown tract on the physical properties of the full-grown man and woman,
characterizing the relative natures of their “complexion, color and
physiognomy.”21 Had he done so, his approach to humoral theory as a tool for the
painter would almost certainly have been elucidated. As it is, his surviving (or
partially surviving) paintings furnish the only information from which we can
make safe conjecture.

Melancholic Seers in Quattrocento and Cinquecento Art

Leonardo’s remarks attest that he was interested in representing the habitual

behaviors associated with the four humors – interested, that is to say, in
representing fixed pathologies and not just fleeting emotional states. In this he was
not alone. The work of other artists, from Florence and beyond, reveals clear
patterns in the way that given humors are associated with particular social roles or
vocations. The most immediately striking is the connection between melancholy
and visionary cognition or deep reflection. The traditional pose of the
melancholic, the introspective “sufferer” seated with head resting on hand, is best
known today from Dürer’s exquisite print Melencolia I, but was commonly given

19 The connection between the phlegmatic temperament and the capacity for good
counsel (which presupposes some measure of wisdom and reflection) is made in a slightly
later Florentine text, Giovanni Tolosani’s La Nuova Sfera of 1514: “Consiglia bene, e non
vuole un disagio” (Galletti ed., La Sfera, 164).
20 For a full citation of the passage, see n. 1 above. A humor-based interpretation of this
passage is also offered in Michael Kwakkelstein, Leonardo as a Physiognomist: Theory
and Drawing Practise (Leiden: Primavera Pers, 1994), 57–8. For a different approach,
stressing that Leonardo’s concern here was with “accident” rather than (essential) “nature,”
see Laurenza, De figura umana, XVII–XVIII. Laurenza’s view is not incompatible with
mine, for I believe that Leonardo’s taxonomy of conditions (casi) was influenced by the
fourfold system of humors, not identical with it.
21 See note 1 above.

to contemplatives and prophets in quattrocento and cinquecento art both in Italy

and in Northern Europe.22
With a few exceptions, images of melancholic contemplatives in the period appear
in an expressly Christian context. The characters most frequently shown in such a
guise are seers of the Old and New Testaments. It is important to stress that it was the
mere fact of their prescience which marked them as melancholics, not the particular
content of their dreams or visions.23 Those who foresaw devastation, such as Jeremiah,
Saint John the Evangelist, and Saint Joseph, were obvious candidates to be portrayed
as melancholy in the modern, restrictive sense of the word. However, following a well-
disseminated Aristotelian claim, a range of others, from Elijah and Isaiah to Saint Paul,
could be identified as melancholic, simply by virtue of having had direct experience
of the spiritual world. By extension, hermits who sought such intimate knowledge of
the divine might share this humor: Saint Jerome, pondering in his study or mortifying
the flesh in a desert dwelling, here furnishes the locus classicus.24
During the later quattrocento, Lorenzo de’ Medici and his resident physician-
cum-Platonic-scholar, Marsilio Ficino, cultivated a fascination with melancholia
among Florentine cognoscenti. The first of Ficino’s Three Books on Life,
published in 1489, is almost entirely concerned with the influences of black bile,
both good and bad, on scholars.25 This preoccupation may in part account for the
plethora of images by Florentine artists featuring melancholic figures, though
some predate Ficino’s association with the Medici. A bronze relief sculpture of
Saint John the Evangelist by Lorenzo Ghiberti, one of the panels adorning the
grandiose north doors of Florence’s Baptistery, was conceived around 1412, and
is to my knowledge the earliest extant representation of a melancholic seer in
Florence. It is also the most public, and probably the most influential.26 Ghiberti’s

22 Widely reproduced, but printed with particular clarity in The Complete Engravings,
Etchings and Drypoints of Albrecht Dürer, ed. Walter L. Strauss (New York: Dover, 1973),
167, pl. 79.
23 The association between melancholy and prophetic dreams was clearly established in
Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics: see Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy, 36. For a clear
summary of ideas on attitudes to melancholy, sleep and dreams in the Renaissance, see
Maria Ruvoldt, The Italian Renaissance Imagery of Inspiration: Metaphors of Sex, Sleep,
and Dreams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 11–15.
24 On melancholia as a condition proper to hermits, see Allen J. Grieco, “Les plantes,
les régimes végétariens et la mélancolie à la fin du Moyen Age et au début de la
Renaissance italienne,” in Le Monde végétal (XIIe–XVIIe siècles): Savoirs et usages
sociaux, ed. Allen J. Grieco, Odile Redon, and Lucia Tongiorgi Tomasi (Saint-Denis:
Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 1993), 11–29, esp. 17–22. On St Jerome as a
melancholic thinker in Renaissance art, see Laurinda S. Dixon, “An Occupational Hazard:
Saint Jerome, Melancholia, and the Scholarly Life,” in In Detail: New Studies of Northern
Renaissance Art in Honor of Walter S. Gibson, ed. Laurinda S. Dixon (Turnhout: Brepols,
1998), 69–82.
25 Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. and trans. Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark
(Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies in conjunction with the
Renaissance Society of America, 1989), 21–4, 113–49.
26 On the influence of Ghiberti’s Saint John and the other evangelist panels on the

younger contemporary, Donatello, was clearly thinking of it when, in the later

1430s, he made his own relief of Saint John high up on the altar wall in the Old
Sacristy of San Lorenzo.27 A yet more famous Florentine, Michelangelo, obviously
also remembered Ghiberti’s Saint John when he painted his figure of Jeremiah in
the easternmost bay of the Sistine Chapel vault around 1511: both slump forward
to the extent that their crowns are almost frontal, and both shroud their mouths and
upper lips with their hands.28
An early and sustained association with the Medici family probably
stimulated Michelangelo’s interest in melancholia, both in relation to his own
emotional life and subjects for art. Working in the ambit of his maecenas,
Lorenzo il Magnifico, he may well have had access to Luca Signorelli’s now-
destroyed all’antica image The Realm of Pan, painted around 1490, one of whose
enigmatic subjects is a melancholy nymph.29 There were also plenty of sacred
exemplars. Apart from the Ghiberti and Donatello reliefs of Saint John,
Michelangelo surely knew the fresco of a melancholic Saint Jerome in his study
by his master Domenico Ghirlandaio, executed in the church of Ognissanti
around 1480 (Fig. 7.1). He may also have been familiar with Fra Filippo Lippi’s
Adoration panel, commissioned for the convent of Annalena in 1455, now in the
Uffizi, which prominently features a figure of Joseph in the classic melancholic
Michelangelo himself was to produce one of Florence’s most dense and multi-
faceted expressions of melancholy in a large-scale Medicean project, the chapel
known as the “New Sacristy” in the family’s parish church, San Lorenzo. This
pendant to the chapel in which Donatello had made his relief of Saint John had a
melancholy purpose: it was the grandiose mausoleum primarily meant to house
the remains of the first ennobled Medici, Giuliano, duke of Nemours and Lorenzo,
Duke of Urbino, who were also the last legitimate heirs of the line of Cosimo il
Vecchio. These two contrasted capitani, as Michelangelo called them, are seated,
and the one on the shadowy side of the chapel, representing Duke Lorenzo, is a
refined version of the melancholic thinker, head poised rather than pressed against
a delicately extended digit. Vasari explicitly describes the figure of Dawn from the
same funerary monument as melancholy, and her pose reflects this: she reclines

Baptistery Doors, see Aldo Galli, “Sur les traces de Ghiberti,” in Ateliers de la
Renaissance, ed. Roberto Cassanelli (Saint-Léger-Vauban: Zodiaque, 1998), 94 and for a
good photograph of the Saint John, see color plate 29 in the same volume.
27 Charles Avery notes the figure’s melancholy, in Donatello: An Introduction (London:
John Murray, 1994), 53, but neither he nor other commentators remark on the
correspondence of mood between this and Ghiberti’s figure. For good overall and detail
reproductions, see John Pope-Hennessy, Donatello (New York: Abbeville, 1993), 178–9.
28 For an excellent reproduction of this famous image, see Carlo Pietrangeli et al., The
Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration (New York: H. N. Abrams, 1994), 159.
29 André Chastel, “Melancholia in the Sonnets of Lorenzo de’ Medici,” Journal of the
Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 8 (1945): 61–7, esp. 64–6.
30 Ruvoldt, The Italian Renaissance Imagery of Inspiration, 11–13.

7.1 Domenico Ghirlandaio. St Jerome in his Study. Fresco, 184 x 119 cm.
1480. Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence. Photo courtesy of Scala/Art
Resource, NY

like a Roman river god, but has one arm lifted towards her head.31 Her mournful
expression, with bulbously ridged brow and heavy-lidded eyes, is reminiscent of
Donatello’s anguished Saint John. (Vasari did not comment on the mood or
complexion of the figure of Night, who corresponds with Dawn on the opposite
tomb, though she, too, has the lowered head and supportive, crooked arm of the
traditional melancholic pose.)32
By the time that he was working on the New Sacristy, Michelangelo had
already made one profoundly melancholic portrayal of a biblical seer, albeit not in
Florence. The Jeremiah in the Sistine Chapel, with his dark, shadowed face and
inclined head, was probably the most imitated image of the melancholic in the
cinquecento. The figure’s pose and even his physiognomy were reinterpreted more
or less freely not only by artists who worked in Rome, such as Raphael, Perino del
Vaga, and perhaps Leonardo, but also by north Italians such as L’Ortolano.33
A number of other works from both the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries speak
to the fact that representations of melancholy contemplatives and seers did not
emanate solely from Florence. For example, the Flemish Jan van Eyck (or a
follower such as Petrus Christus) produced a panel of a somberly musing Saint
Jerome in melancholic pose in the early 1440s, now in the Detroit Institute of Arts;
interestingly enough, this made its way into the possession of Lorenzo de’
Medici.34 According to the 1492 inventory of his collection, this image hung in his

31 Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori scultori e architettori, ed. Rosanna
Bettarini, 6 vols (Florence: Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1966–87), vol. 6, 57–8: “Ma che
dirò io dell’Aurora, femina ignuda e da fare uscire il maninconico dell’animo e smarire lo
stile alla scultura?”
32 For reproductions of these figures, see Umberto Baldini, The Sculpture of
Michelangelo (New York: Rizzoli, 1981), plates 107 (Dawn), 118 and 122 (the capitani),
and 125 (Night).
33 Raphael’s first and most famous adaptation of Michelangelo’s Jeremiah was the
Heraclitus in The School of Athens, dating from around 1511–12, which is still sometimes
regarded (in my view erroneously) as a portrait of Michelangelo: see, for example, Rona
Goffen, Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2002), 220–6. Another is discussed in the text of this essay. Perino painted
a melancholic Isaiah on the entrance arch to the Pucci Chapel in Trinità dei Monti, Rome;
reproduced in S. J. Freedberg, Painting in Italy 1500–1600, 3rd edn (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1993), 215; on this image and Vasari’s response to it, see my “‘Mio
malinchonico, o vero … mio pazzo’: Michelangelo, Vasari, and the Problem of Artists’
Melancholy in Sixteenth-Century Italy,” Sixteenth Century Journal 34 (2003): 659. It is
unclear why the figure of Saint Demetrius in L’Ortolano’s altarpiece of Saints Roch,
Sebastian and Demetrius – NG669, reproduced in Jill Dunkerton, Susan Foister, and
Nicholas Penny, Dürer to Veronese: Sixteenth-Century Painting in the National Gallery
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 41 – is portrayed as melancholic; and it was
perhaps opaque to contemporaries, too. For some reason Ortolano felt obliged to include a
“name tag” for the saint, in the form of the inscribed sheet of paper at his feet. Ortolano’s
figure fuses characteristics of the Jeremiah with the standing variant on the melancholic
pose apparently devised by Raphael in the Saint Cecilia Altarpiece, which Ortolano
probably saw in situ in San Giovanni Evangelista, the church for which it was made in
Bologna (see text below).
34 The image is reproduced, and the question of its acquisition and role in Medici

scrittoio, and its influence on Ghirlandaio’s fresco of the same subject for
Ognissanti is palpable (Fig. 7.1).
Andrea Mantegna, while working during the 1440s in one of Europe’s greatest
centers of medical learning, his native Padua, produced a small devotional panel
of a melancholic Saint Mark, now in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.35 In
this bust-length representation, the sill of the window through which we confront
the evangelist provides him with a ledge on which to rest the head-supporting
right arm, emphasizing the device. It is a pity that the ruined state of the canvas
makes it hard to assess Mantegna’s use of color in any meaningful way; but the
extreme swarthiness of the evangelist, even allowing for extensive darkening and
decay, may reflect a deliberate attempt to evoke the “atrabilious” pathology of the
A panel of Elijah fed by the Raven by the Brescian painter Giovanni Girolamo
Savoldo, now in Washington’s National Gallery, also seems to be a studied
attempt to combine the traditional pose with the swarthy coloring proper to the
type.37 Savoldo’s painting is probably contemporary with Michelangelo’s Sistine
Jeremiah, stressing the fact that the head-in-hand melancholic pose was
independently understood in north Italy in the early cinquecento. Correggio, too,
produced a half-length devotional image of a swarthy Saint Jerome,
contemplating a skull in the classic melancholic posture, which shows no obvious
debt to central Italian models. In fact, Correggio’s panel almost certainly pre-dates
any journey that the artist made to Rome, having been painted around 1517.38
North of the Alps, it is the art of the celebrated Nuremberg engraver and
painter, Albrecht Dürer, that furnishes the richest vein of melancholic imagery.
Apart from the famous Melencolia I, there is a panel now in Lisbon of a half-
length Saint Jerome at his desk, dourly contemplating a skull, painted in 1521
while Dürer was visiting the Netherlands. The figure of the saint proved as
influential in the Low Countries as Michelangelo’s Jeremiah – to whom this
stocky, long-bearded old man is curiously similar – in Italy.39 The image can also
inform our interpretation of another portrayal of Saint Jerome by Dürer. The
Nuremberger sometimes gave away his 1514 engravings Melencolia I and Saint
Jerome in His Study as a pair. Frances Yates therefore suggested that the Jerome

patronage considered, in Dale Kent, Cosimo de’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance:
The Patron’s Oeuvre (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 262.
35 Reproduced in Andrea Mantegna, ed. Jane Martineau (London: Thames and Hudson,
1992), 120.
36 On the dark skin of the melancholic, see Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy, 59,
114–15, and 290.
37 For a good color reproduction, see John Walker, National Gallery of Art, Washington,
rev. edn (New York: H. N. Abrams, 1984), 223, no. 274.
38 David Ekserdjian, Correggio (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 59–61 (and
on Correggio’s possible visit to Rome ca. 1520 see 72–3). The image is reproduced on p. 61.
39 Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945), vol.
1, 212–13 and vol. 2, 12. The Lisbon painting and two works based on it are reproduced in
Dixon, “An Occupational Hazard,” 74 and 77 (figs 11, 15, and 16).

print was meant to exhibit a more elevated form of melancholic contemplation

than that of the distrait flightless genius in the Melencolia I.40 While the Saint
Jerome in the engraving does not adopt a melancholic pose, Yates’s contention is
indirectly supported by the Lisbon painting, which confirms that Dürer identified
Jerome as a melancholic contemplative.41
Frances Yates’s argument raises an important problem. So far in the present
essay, pose has been treated as the main indicator of the melancholic type. There
is no doubt that this provides the clearest signifier for the modern viewer, largely
due to Panofsky’s efforts. Recent interpreters’ dependence on this device is also
sanctioned by Vasari’s writings: three of the four figures he specifically called
melancholic (Michelangelo’s Jeremiah and Dawn, and Perino’s Isaiah) all exhibit
some version of the pose.42 Yet it may be that other traits evoked melancholy just
as strongly for a culture steeped in the lore of the black humor. In short, if this
temperament was thought of as the condition proper to eremitical contemplatives
– a condition which, as Allen Grieco has indicated, contemporaries believed to be
induced by the frugal, herb-based diet of religious solitaries – then viewers from
the period may have been predisposed to think of Saint Jerome, for example, as a
melancholic person even without the visual “cue” of the head-in-hand pose.43
Plenty of images could be adduced in support of the last suggestion; I will
mention only three, two of which are by artists whose familiarity with the visual
attributes of melancholia has already been discussed. Around 1448, Mantegna
painted a panel showing Saint Jerome in his desert grotto, now in the Museo de
Arte, São Paulo.44 The hermit saint is lean and swarthy, as melancholics were
usually said to be; and although he lacks the leaning pose, his hangdog visage and
lugubrious downward gaze strongly suggest a state of melancholia. A very similar
picture of the hermit saint by Giovanni Bellini, made perhaps 40 years later, and
now in the Uffizi in Florence, is almost as telling in its evocation of melancholic
earnestness.45 Since dwelling beyond the pale of civilization and adopting a

40 Frances Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (London: Routledge,
1979), 57–9. For a good reproduction, see The Complete Engravings, Etchings, and
Drypoints, ed. Strauss, 163, pl. 77.
41 For interesting views on the physiological theories which may have informed
nuances of the melancholic portrayals in the Lisbon painting’s progeny, see Dixon, “An
Occupational Hazard,” 75–9.
42 The fourth is a figure of the archetypally melancholic Saturn by Vasari’s assistant
Doceno (Cristofano Gherardi), made after Vasari’s drawings, for the now-lost façade
frescoes of Duke Cosimo’s coppiere, Sforza Almeni. The image is mentioned in Vasari’s
biography of Doceno; see Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e
architettori: nelle redazioni di 1550 e 1568, ed. Rosanna Bettarini and comm. Paola
Barocchi, 5 vols (Florence: Sansoni, 1966–), vol. 5, 299.
43 Grieco, “Les plantes, les régimes végétariens et la mélancolie,” 17–22.
44 This image, sometimes attributed to Zoppo, is reproduced in color and discussed by
Keith Christiansen in Mantegna, ed. Martineau, 115–17.
45 This is the Saint Jerome in the Desert (CB25), reproduced in Anchise Tempestini,
Giovanni Bellini (New York: Abbeville, 1999), 117.

concomitantly spare vegetarian diet were believed to promote melancholy, the

addition of the head-in-hand posture for the hermit saint may have seemed
gratuitous to Mantegna and Bellini.
No less palpably melancholic than either of these figures is the dark-haired,
dark-skinned Saint Joseph, barely emerging from the shadows behind the Virgin
in Raphael’s Madonna di Loreto, now in the Musée Condé in Chantilly.46 Again,
Joseph’s status both as a dreamer of prophetic dreams and as a man usually
thought to be in the autumn of his years was probably enough to render Raphael’s
characterization transparent, without the addition of the hand-cupped head.

The Phlegmatic Norm/Ideal for Women: Bronzino’s Eleonora

Melancholic seers and contemplatives represent a select band, if an important one,

in art of the early modern period in Italy. Still more powerful evidence of the
widespread influence of humoral theory is provided by a much larger group of
figures. The vast majority of idealizing images of women in Italy, the Low
Countries and the German-speaking countries made between 1450 and 1750 show
them as phlegmatic.47
According to essentially Aristotelian claims, which were literary
commonplaces by 1400, females as a sex are physiologically colder and moister
than males.48 Phlegm was the humor which corresponded with this pairing of
qualities, and imaginary or idealizing images of women almost invariably showed
them with the defining phlegmatic traits – fleshiness, pallor, and docility. So
widespread are images representing this norm-cum-ideal that it seems almost
redundant to cite any in particular. The women of Robert Campin and Fra
Angelico, Dürer and Lucas Cranach, Raphael and Titian, Rubens and Rembrandt,
Antoine Watteau and Domenico Tiepolo almost invariably embody the
temperament, and its persistence over such a long period is remarkable. There
were occasional disruptions, but in Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries the
ample, phlegmatic body type resolutely outlasted the fads for a more gamine
slenderness, seen for example in the work of Ghirlandaio and Botticelli in the late
quattrocento and some of the paintings of Rosso Fiorentino and Parmigianino in
the mid cinquecento. Nor did competing models of feminine beauty suppress the
ideal of pallor. Writers like Agnolo Firenzuola, who attributed a more sanguine
ruddiness to feminine perfection, seem to have affected the work of some painters:

46 Reproduced in Jones and Penny, Raphael, 86.

47 For a wide-ranging survey of humorally oriented images of both men and women in
northern European art during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Filipczak’s Hot
Dry Men, Cold Wet Women.
48 On this idea, and the passage from Aristotle’s Historia animalium in which it is most
infamously stated, see Ian Maclean, The Renaissance Notion of Woman: A Study in the
Fortunes of Scholasticism and Medical Science in European Intellectual Life (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1980), 33–5 and 41–2.

Parmigianino and Rosso were again prime exponents of this trend towards the
rubicund.49 Yet overall very little warmth of tone thaws out the snowy expanse of
luxuriantly adipose flesh in Renaissance and Baroque art.
While generically phlegmatic images of invented female figures – Madonnas,
saints, goddesses and so on – need not be discussed here on an individual basis,
phlegmatic traits among portraits of female sitters do warrant some attention. Rote
workshop practice, unthinkingly passed from one generation to another, might
account for the high incidence of phlegmatic traits among wholly synthesized
figures. The same is not true in the case of supposed likenesses. In the sphere of
portraiture, recourse to humoral models implies that complexion theory really was
a conceptual tool which painters – and presumably others – used to make sense of
what they saw.
As might be expected in a genre which ostensibly concerned itself with
verisimilitude rather than adherence to paradigms, the data provided by portraits
are not stable or unified; but this does not mean that they are not suggestive. An
extremely high proportion of female sitters in Italian portraits made after 1500
tend to roundedness and pallor, as well as to the settled passivity which phlegm
produced and decorum required in gentlewomen. By the middle of the
seventeenth century, the fleshy type was endemic to female portraiture throughout
Europe. Proponents of Ockham’s Razor might suggest that this was simply a
reflection of the physical condition of women in the leisured, well-nourished (and
gouty) economic groups which could afford portraiture. There is, of course, no
objective evidence to prove the point either way. Yet a couple of images seem
deliberately to underscore, through secondary attributes, the fact that the
phlegmatic condition was linked with normative ideas of femininity.
Leonardo’s so-called Mona Lisa, probably begun in about 1505, is a painting
in which the line between likeness and invention is more than usually blurred. If
the image really did start out as a representation of one Lisa del Giocondo, as
Vasari reports, it is highly probable that her features were embellished and
exaggerated during the two decades that Leonardo kept the painting with him.50
Vasari’s ornate ecphrasis of the portrait, certainly not based on actual knowledge
of the image, serves to demonstrate that it had become a paradigm of feminine
beauty in Florence by the mid cinquecento.51 His conventionalized praise of her

49 See Elizabeth Cropper’s seminal article dealing Firenzuola’s text and its influence
on, inter alia, Parmigianino: “On Beautiful Women, Parmigianino, Petrarchismo, and the
Vernacular Style,” Art Bulletin 58 (1976): 374–94.
50 The most judicious attempt to reconstruct the genesis and long gestation of the Mona
Lisa is provided in Kemp, Leonardo, 269–70. Kemp’s monochrome reproduction (264) is
a great deal clearer than many printed images of this lamentably dirty picture, but for a
good color plate, see Marcia Hall, Color and Meaning: Practice and Theory in Renaissance
Painting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 116 or David Franklin, Painting
in Renaissance Florence, 1500–1550 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 31.
51 Patricia Rubin, “What Men Saw: Vasari’s Life of Leonardo da Vinci and the Image
of the Renaissance Artist,” Art History 13 (1990): 42.

loveliness is probably also an accurate reflection of the extent to which Leonardo

meant his lady to embody “pure” feminine attributes.
Vasari’s written homage to Leonardo’s portrait of a lady is matched by a
number of paintings which pay visual homage, mostly produced in Florence. Of
these, Vasari’s fellow court artist, Agnolo Bronzino, created the one most relevant
to the concerns of this essay. This is his 1545 portrait of Eleonora di Toledo,
consort to the incumbent Medici duke, Cosimo I (Fig. 7.2). The image of Eleonora
expands on Leonardo’s use of external referents to bolster the near-hyperbolic
phlegmatic femininity of the sitter. Like Leonardo, and arguably with better
reason, Bronzino meant to portray the duchess as the epitome of decorous
womanhood, and brought together both literal and symbolic signifiers in pursuit
of this aim.
Apart from their sleekness and pallor, the most striking similarity between
Leonardo’s lady and Bronzino’s Eleonora is that both are seated on a high balcony
overlooking a landscape. The device may have been mediated to Bronzino
through Raphael’s portrait of Maddalena Doni, now in the Palazzo Pitti, and
executed when the artist was intermittently based in Florence in 1506–8.52 The
images of Maddalena and Eleonora share an anodyne and relatively unobtrusive
landscape background. This actually sets them apart from Leonardo’s lady, who is
backed not with gently rolling hills, but with an awe-inspiring array of crags and
precipices, the horizon bisecting the panel raggedly more or less at her eye level.
There is, however, an important common landscape element in all three
images – a large body of water. Bronzino, like Leonardo, was at pains to
emphasize this, though he did so by rather different means. The mountains in
Leonardo’s picture do not only provide visual interest in themselves, but also
describe and delimit the watery element, both still and moving. There is a lake in
the middle ground to the lady’s left, as we see her, and another in the far
background to the right. A river, whose presence is stressed by a many-arched
bridge, flows down beside her shoulder on the right side. In Bronzino’s panel, a
lake is the only readily discernible landscape element, since the painting is a
nocturne. Bronzino actually uses the darkness to increase the prominence of this
lake: we are almost bound to notice it because it reflects the light of the moon,
whose orb is carefully obscured from us by the duchess’s head. This concealment
creates another effect which was clearly not inadvertent: the moon’s glow gives
Duchess Eleonora a nimbus.53
Water is the element linked in ancient and medieval science with the

52 Reproduced (after conservation) in De Vecchi, Raphael, 219.

53 The halo effect is also noted in Lorne Campbell, Renaissance Portraits: European
Portrait-Painting in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1990), 25; but Campbell does not associate the luminescence with the moon. For a very
different reading of the treatment of light in this image, see Gabrielle Langdon, “A Laura
for Cosimo: Bronzino’s Eleonora di Toledo with her son Giovanni,” in The Cultural World
of Eleonora di Toledo, Duchess of Florence and Siena, ed. Konrad Eisenbichler (Aldershot:
Ashgate, 2004), 56–61.

7.2 Agnolo Bronzino. Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni de’ Medici.
Oil on panel, 115 x 96 cm. 1544–5. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Photo
courtesy of Scala/Art Resource, NY

phlegmatic humor.54 During the Middle Ages a relationship between the humors
and four of the planets was also codified, and phlegm became associated with the
moon.55 Both water and moon are also connected with the menstrual cycle. All this
is suggestive in relation to a topic which was clearly of the greatest importance for
Bronzino and his princely patrons, namely the duchess’s fertility. Duchess
Eleonora is not only shown with one of the fruits of her own waters, in the form
of the strapping young Giovanni de’ Medici, but also wears a robe decorated with
a conventionalized pomegranate motif, which could be understood as an emblem
of fecundity.56 These associations may even extend to her jewelry. True, the
assortment of pearls with which she is copiously decked could simply be a
reflection of her personal predilection for these gems, which is recorded by the
goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini.57 On the other hand, it should be noted
in this context that they are jewels with a watery origin, and also proper to
Margaret of Antioch, a saint closely associated with childbirth.58
Bronzino clearly thought carefully about how to maximize the viewer’s sense
that Eleonora was a paragon of femininity. Her Madonna-like posture and the
“attribute” of her son are reciprocal with the lunar halo around her head, and
contemporary viewers will surely have noticed these Marian overtones.59 Yet it
must be emphasized that all these objectified “badges” of Eleonora’s excellence
as a woman are only adjuncts to her physiognomic traits. Like Leonardo’s Mona
Lisa, Bronzino’s duchess is well fleshed with heavy-lidded almond eyes and a
pacific expression, all of which suggest the settled and unemotional phlegmatic
state of proper femininity. In short, her accessories – son, moon, lake, and
pomegranate motif – underscore the gender norm that Bronzino evoked primarily
through physiognomy.

54 On the correlations between humors and elements, see Klibansky et al., Saturn and
Melancholy, 10–11; see also J. Burrow, The Ages of Man: A Study in Medieval Writing and
Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 12–15 and Elizabeth Sears, The Ages of
Man: Medieval Interpretations of the Life Cycle (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1986), 12–18.
55 Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy, 129–30.
56 Janet Cox-Rearick, Bronzino’s Chapel of Eleonora in the Palazzo Vecchio (Berkeley
and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 37.
57 See Benvenuto Cellini, La vita, in Opere di Benvenuto Cellini, ed. Giuseppe Guido
Ferrero (Turin: Unione Tipografico-editrice Torinese, 1971), 531–5, and Anna Maria
Massinelli and Filippo Tuena, Treasures of the Medici (London: Thames and Hudson,
1992), 61.
58 Louis Réau, Iconographie de l’Art Chrétien, 3 vols (Paris: Presses Universitaires de
France, 1955–59), vol. 3, 880.
59 Compare the image with, inter alia, Michelangelo’s Tondo Pitti (Florence, Bargello),
and also the Madonna del Prato (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) and The Madonna of
the Goldfinch (Florence, Uffizi) by Raphael, in all of which a relatively mature Christ-child
stands at his mother’s side. For the Michelangelo tondo, see Umberto Baldini, The
Sculpture of Michelangelo (New York: Rizzoli, 1981), plate 52; and for the Raphael
images, see De Vecchi, Raphael, 93 and 94.

The Four Humors as a “Set”: Dürer, Pontormo, Luini (and Leonardo?)

In the images I have considered so far in this essay, the evocation of a particular
humoral type was a function of decorum. Characterizations stemmed from the
subjects’ status within the prevailing worldview rather than being imposed as an
arbitrary aesthetic choice. The ascription of phlegmatic qualities to a Madonna or
female saint, or the depiction of Saints Jerome and Joseph as melancholic, was
probably a virtual reflex for well-informed painters. The same could be argued for
the choleric characterizations in monuments to princes and condottieri, and the
portrayal of young lovers as sanguine in images of dalliance. This pattern of over-
determined use is patently not applicable to images in which all four humoral
types appear together as a unit. Here, an element of calculation is almost certain
to have entered in: the odds do not favor representatives of each type happening
to converge in, say, the quartet of saints flanking the Virgin in a sacra
Yet there are paintings and graphic images from the period that seem clearly to
evoke the whole humoral fourfold system, and disparate though these images are,
certain patterns of intent and ideation do readily emerge. The common conceptual
thread which runs through all portrayals of the four humors together is that the
group seems meant to represent humanity at large, in a more or less favorable light
depending on the context. Often, though not invariably, the humoral types as a
collective synecdoche for humanity are juxtaposed with an embodiment of the
divine, usually Christ.
Images of the humoral tetrad divide into two basic categories: paintings which
merely deploy the humoral schema, my main concern here; and representations,
generally in books, which are inherently schematic. The four humors are
represented as figures or nodal points on a diagram in an assortment of texts from
the later quattrocento and cinquecento, most of them in some way cosmological
or medical. The only Italian painting of the subject which could be called
primarily schematic is Vasari’s portrayal of the four humors within the decoration
of the Studiolo of Francesco de’ Medici, in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.60 The
closest precedents for the Studiolo’s program, which is a densely woven tissue of
allegorical imagery relating to the minerals and other treasures in Francesco’s
Wunderkammer, are illustrations from volumes of natural science and arcana.
Book or broadsheet illustrations of the four humors in their cosmological
context seem to inform paintings in certain clear ways. For example, figures
representing the four humors in book illustration sometimes double up as ages of
life, elements, or other quaternaries. A good example is Dürer’s frontispiece for
the 1502 Quatuor libri amorum by Conrad Celtis. In this woodcut, the four winds
surrounding the central figure of Philosophia are labeled to indicate that they

60 For reproductions, see Marco Dezzi Bardeschi, Lo Stanzino del principe in Palazzo
Vecchio: I concetti, le immagini, il desiderio (Florence: Le Lettere, 1980).

simultaneously represent the four elements and humors. As well as disgorging

appropriate climatic or seasonal attributes – thus Eurus/Ignis/Colericus spits
lightning and Zephirus/Aer/Sanguineus flowers – all of these have nicely
characterized physiognomies: Auster/Aqua/Flecmaticus, for example, is corpulent
and flaccid, while Boreas/Terra/Melancolicus is lean and bony.61
As a rider, it should be noted that Dürer’s woodcut shares an important feature
with other, near-contemporary illustrations which may have informed painting
practice during the early cinquecento. This is the presence of a central figure
around which the four humors “revolve.” In Dürer’s illustration for Celtis’s book,
this figure is an enthroned Philosophia; in Simon Vostre’s frontispiece to a
Parisian Book of Hours, dated to the same year, it is a skeleton; and in the Guild-
book of the Barber-Surgeons of the City of York, it is the head of Christ.62 In each
case, then, the humors are related to an archetype or a principle which defines the
human condition.
Some of the cosmological overtones of these illustrations are implied in two
painted images which palpably show the four humors – though both these
representations are far removed in formal terms from any print image or
illumination. One is a set of portraits of the Four Evangelists by Jacopo Pontormo
and his then-assistant Bronzino, in individual tondi executed around 1525–6 for
the pendentives of the Capponi Chapel in Saint Felicità, Florence. They are,
respectively, a sanguine Matthew, a choleric Luke, a melancholic Mark, and a
phlegmatic John.63 The other is Michelangelo’s quartet of “oversize” seers –
Daniel (choleric), Libica (sanguine), Jeremiah (melancholic), and Persicha
(phlegmatic) – in the easternmost bays of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.64
The fact that Michelangelo’s four seers surround images from Genesis of God
creating the world seems to provide a basic explanation of the humoral conceit. As
the Celtis frontispiece and a host of other prints, non-figurative diagrams, and
texts show, the four humors were firmly associated with the four elements
believed to constitute all universal matter. The reciprocity of the images is
therefore clear: the four humoral types resonate with God’s creative deed, while
God functions like the lynchpin figure of Philosophia in the Celtis illustration or
the head of Christ in the Barber-Surgeons’ Guild-book.
Pontormo’s evangelists also originally clustered around an image of the deity
in the vault of the Capponi chapel.65 By virtue of their association with the

61 On this image see Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy, 279–80. For a
reproduction, see The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, ed. Willi Kurth (New York:
Dover, 1963), plate 146.
62 On the Simon de Vostre Book of Hours and the Guild-book of the York Barber-
Surgeons see Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy, 296 and 368, and relevant plates.
63 For reproductions, see John Shearman, Pontormo’s Altarpiece in S. Felicita
(Newcastle upon Tyne: University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1971), 23.
64 For a good reproduction of the four seers in context, see Pietrangeli et al., The Sistine
Chapel, 42–3 (foldout).
65 Shearman, Pontormo’s Altarpiece, 17–20.

“apocalyptic beasts” (shown by Pontormo and Bronzino in two of the four tondi),
the evangelists also had cosmological connotations. As attested by at least one text
of the early sixteenth century, the Occulta philosophia of Heinrich Cornelius
Agrippa, which was first circulated in manuscript around 1510, they could be
related to the various other fourfold systems.66 In a chapel whose decoration is so
heavily concerned with the incarnate God and the redemptive power of his body,
the thoroughgoing insistence on the somatic, encompassing the evangelists, is
perfectly logical.67
Michelangelo and Pontormo were emphatic in evoking the traits and
associations of each humoral type. Their aim, presumably, was to make sure that
the system revealed itself to the viewer, in spite of the fact that its components
were physically dislocated from one another. Both painters used some of the
standard associations: for example, they mapped the humoral types clearly on to
the four stages of life. Pose could also help to evoke temperament: we have
already seen that Michelangelo’s Jeremiah has the classic pose of the melancholic;
and the prophet’s saturnine weight is counterbalanced by the levity of his sanguine
opposite number, the blond and smiling Libyan sibyl (sanguinity being connected
in the medieval worldview with air and spring).68
Light and shade and physiognomic expression were also used to telling effect
by each painter. The shadow which shrouds the haunted, deep-set eyes of
Pontormo’s melancholic Saint Mark is especially evocative; and the bulging neck
muscles and eyes of his choleric Saint Luke, as he turns up his eyes fervently to
the divine light of the Godhead, are no less telling. Michelangelo even co-opted
the wingless putti who accompany his seers to underscore their temperaments, the
dynamic vigor of the choleric Daniel, for example, being matched by the straining
attendant spirit who holds up one of his books.69
Not all representations of the four humors were so clear-cut, or so strongly
pinpointed within a larger conceptual framework. For example, Dürer’s diptych of
Four Apostles, dated 1526 and now in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, might well
have gone unnoticed as a depiction of the four types, were it not for important
near-contemporary testimony. In a biography of Dürer by Johann Neudörffer, the
calligrapher who provided inscriptions for the apostles at the time that the panels
were made, it is clearly stated that the diptych represents the four humors. Erwin
Panofsky was surely right in saying that we should take this seriously, given the
calligrapher’s professional involvement with the painting in question. Using the
indices of age and complexion, Panofsky came up with a perfectly reasonable
allocation of the humors among Dürer’s apostles: he identified the blond, youthful
John and the bulky, aged Peter on the left panel as, respectively, sanguine and

66 Samuel K. Heninger, Jr, Touches of Sweet Harmony: Pythagorean Cosmology and

Renaissance Poetics (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1974), 154–5.
67 Shearman, Pontormo’s Altarpiece, 22.
68 See Pietrangeli et al., The Sistine Chapel, 155.
69 Pietrangeli et al., The Sistine Chapel, 149.

phlegmatic; and he recognized the choleric and the melancholic in the fiery Mark
and the shadowy-faced Paul on the right panel.70
It is worth emphasizing that, apart from the choleric Mark, with his “gnashing
teeth and rolling eyes,” none of the apostles in Dürer’s diptych exhibits the
behavioral traits clearly associated with his temperament.71 For example, if
Dürer’s Saint John possesses the gaiety of the sanguine person, he has put it aside
here for the purpose of earnestly discoursing on sacred text with his companion,
Saint Peter. Similarly, Saint Paul embodies intensity and gravitas rather than the
introspective gloom of the traditional melancholic. That Dürer should have
overridden the decorum of pathology with the decorum of spirituality ought to
come as no great surprise. His restrained characterizations certainly do not
constitute enough of an anomaly to cast doubt on Neudörffer’s (or Panofsky’s)
claims. On the contrary, the flexibility of Dürer’s approach to the four humors
should encourage a similarly fluid response on the part of the modern exegete.
This approach is helpful when one comes to examine Raphael’s Saint Cecilia
Altarpiece (Fig. 7.3). Here too, the four humoral types seem unequivocally evoked
through physiognomic traits and some ancillary devices, but their moods are not
always obviously consistent with physical characteristics. The two framing saints
are the most emphatically defined. Although the meditative Paul is upright rather
than sitting, his melancholia is beyond question. Mary Magdalene, who balances
him on the right side of the image, is, unsurprisingly, phlegmatic. Apart from her
placid demeanor and rounded face, Raphael found other means to evoke Mary’s
temperament. In discussing Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Martin Kemp noted the
“watery” quality to the lady’s hair and even to her clothing: in his nice
formulation, they are “animated by myriad motions of ripple and flow.”72 The
notion of visually affirming the water – phlegm – woman axis through dress seems
to have occurred to Raphael, too. The Magdalen wears an ostensibly silver-grey
garment, actually of subtle, shimmering color, which falls in aqueous ripples
about her gently moving form.73 Since she is a saint with a liquid attribute, namely
the jar of spikenard oil that she holds up in this image, the visual pun of fluid
drapery is doubly apt.
The other two saints in the altarpiece, partially obscured by their fellows, show
somewhat modified temperamental characteristics. Saint John has both the pink-
blond complexion and youth proper to the sanguine, as in Dürer’s diptych; and the
mature Augustine has the tawny skin tone and craggy features of the choleric.
Furthermore, these two “active” temperaments are differentiated from the two

70 Panofsky, Dürer, 234–5. For a particularly large, clear reproduction, including

Neudörffer’s inscriptions, see The Age of the Renaissance, ed. Denys Hay (London:
Thames and Hudson, 1967), 299.
71 Panofsky, Dürer, 235.
72 Kemp, Leonardo, 265.
73 On Raphael’s localized use of “color change” or cangiante color for the Magdalen’s
dress in this image, see Hall, Color and Meaning, 113.

7.3 Raphael. St Cecilia with Sts Paul, John Evangelist, Augustine, and Mary
Magdalene. Oil on canvas (transferred from panel), 238 x 150 cm.
Ca. 1513–16. Pinacoteca, Bologna. Photo courtesy of Scala/Art Resource,

“passive” ones by their vigorous dialogue, which contrasts with Saint Paul’s
introspection and Mary’s calm stare at the viewer. Yet their mode of discourse
does not wholly confirm the behavioral traits proper to their respective humors:
Augustine is, to modern eyes, an unusually relaxed choleric, and his Saint John is
a correspondingly intense sanguine. It would seem that Raphael, like Dürer,
thought it better to balance out some of the more problematic aspects of the
temperaments – in this case, the excesses of sanguine frivolity and choleric
The fact that Raphael’s saints exhibit no extremes of temperamental behavior
could specifically relate to one of the overt themes of his image, namely harmony
and the ineffable perfection of heavenly music.74 The centrality of these ideas may
quite naturally have led to Raphael’s invention of the humoral conceit. The four
types are brought into balance by the same force that causes St Cecilia to abandon
the organs of earthly music in favor of spiritual. In his De concordantia catholica,
written for the Council of Basel in the early 1430s, Nicholas Cusanus had used the
metaphor of the king as a lute player who must bring the humors into consort with
one another in the body politic.75 This obvious metaphor need not have been
confined to the rarefied circles within which Nicholas moved.
There is another point to be made apropos the behavior modification of
Raphael’s and Dürer’s saints: it highlights a dichotomy within the popular theory
of the humors. On the one hand, possession of one of the four temperamental
conditions was believed natural to all human beings; but on the other, this natural
state was de facto seen as a deviation from the perfectly healthy ideal. There is a
corollary to this. Two physiognomic texts of the period, Michele da Savonarola’s
Speculum phisionomiae, written in Padua ca. 1442, and Pomponio Gaurico’s
chapter on physiognomy in his De sculptura, which was published in 1504,
claimed that only Christ (and perhaps also the Madonna) partook of human
perfection, uncontaminated by any moral or humoral excess.76 Again, I think we
may assume that this was a widely understood view. The presence of Christ or
God the Father in several of the images discussed here should almost certainly be
understood as providing a balanced point of convergence between the four
extremes, the perfect quintessence of humanity.
In practice, group representations of the humoral types vary a good deal in
tone, and deviancy was richly evoked in images where humanity’s capacity for
frailty or vice was an important part of the subject. One such is the Christ Mocked
in London’s National Gallery by the Flemish painter Jerome Bosch, currently

74 The theme of music in Raphael’s image is exhaustively discussed in Thomas

Connolly, Mourning into Joy: Music, Raphael, and Saint Cecilia (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1994).
75 Klibansky et al., Saturn and Melancholy, 119–20.
76 See Anne Denieul-Cormier, “La Très Ancienne Physiognomonie et Michel
Savonarole,” La Biologie Médicale, Hors Série (April 1956), 74; and L. Defradas, “De la
physiognomonie,” in Pomponius Gauricus, De Sculptura, ed. and trans. André Chastel and
Robert Klein (Geneva: Droz, 1969), 122.

dated to around 1495.77 Here the four humors are damningly portrayed as his
torturers. The choleric at upper right, a lean, cruel-faced soldier, presses the crown
of thorns on Christ’s head. The phlegmatic at lower left and melancholic at lower
right are also brutalizing figures, reaching up to violate him. Even the superficial
bonhomie of the suave sanguine figure at top right is sinister, offset as it is by his
spiked dog collar.78 The other clear-cut example of negative portrayal of the
humors, Leonardo’s caricatural image of the Five Grotesque Heads at Windsor, is
still more extreme. Here the central figure is not Christ but a pitiful old man being
tempted or tormented by monstrous amplifications of each humoral extreme – a
sanguine procuress at left propels him towards a bovine phlegmatic woman at
right, while the choleric and melancholic, in the rear, deride him, respectively,
with screaming hilarity and a sly sneer.79
The Christ Teaching of around 1520 by the Milanese painter Bernardino Luini,
now in the National Gallery, London, is more ambiguous than the Leonardo or the
Bosch, even though the central figure of Christ is strongly contrasted with his
companions (Fig. 7.4). In compositional terms, Luini’s image is similar to the Five
Grotesque Heads: its five protagonists are shown half-length, and, therefore,
attention is focused on their faces and hand gestures. Luini exploited these to create
variety – his evocation of the various skin tones of the humoral types is near
hyperbolical. The pale phlegmatic at extreme right is offset by the grim, ultra-swarthy
melancholic, emerging from the shadows, and the vigorously gesturing choleric, at
extreme left, by the roseate sanguine. The sanguine figure’s pink clothing may be
meant to underscore his humoral type. The same could be true also for the orange-
hooded choleric on the left, since choler was variously called yellow and red bile, and
perhaps even for the melancholic figure to the right of Christ, with his murky,
greenish garb. If so, Luini obviously felt that contrast rather than congruence was
effective for the phlegmatic: the scarlet apparel certainly heightens his ghastly pallor.
Part of the reason for his emphatic treatment of skin color is, perhaps, that Luini
was unable to vary his figures much in terms of age, and they are all one sex. These

77 Reproduced in Jill Dunkerton, Susan Foister, Dillian Gordon, and Nicholas Penny,
Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in The National Gallery (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1991), 349.
78 The idea that Christ’s tormentors are embodiments of the four humors was first
suggested in Richard Foster and Pamela Tudor-Craig, The Secret Life of Paintings
(Woodbridge: Boydell, 1986), 64–8; the identification of the types proposed by Foster and
Tudor-Craig seems to me sensible, and I follow it here.
79 The drawing is widely reproduced: see, for example, Martin Kemp and Marina
Wallace, Leonardo da Vinci: Hayward Gallery, London: 26 January to 16 April, 1989
(London: South Bank Centre, 1989), 165, cat. 60 with discursive text, 164. I have more
fully discussed this image and its relationship with Leonardo’s stated ideas on complexion
and physiognomy in “The Signs of Faces: Leonardo on Physiognomic Science and the
‘Four Universal States of Man,’” Renaissance Studies 16 (2002): 143–62. For another
interpretation drawing on humoral theory, see Gloria Vallese, “Leonardo’s Malinchonia,”
Achademia Leonardi Vinci: Journal of Leonardo Studies and Bibliography of Vinciana 5
(1992): 44–51.

7.4 Bernardino Luini. Christ Teaching [generally called Christ Among the
Doctors]. Oil on panel, 72.4 x 85.7 cm. Ca. 1515–30. National Gallery,
London. Photo courtesy of the National Gallery Picture Library

men are usually identified as doctors of the Temple in Jerusalem, and are clearly
elders of some kind, for all are either middle-aged or venerable.80 Yet their moral
status is not altogether easy to determine. They are less exaggeratedly pernicious
than the ghouls in Leonardo’s burlesque drawing of Five Grotesque Heads or
Bosch’s Christ Mocked, but they are also far from beatific. How we understand
Luini’s invocation of the four humors will in large measure be determined by how
we understand the overall theme of his image. This is problematic. For all its strong
similarities to Cima da Conegliano’s Christ among the Doctors of about 1505, now
in the National Museum, Warsaw, Luini’s painting is implausible as a portrayal of
this subject, because of the treatment of the central figure.81 While Cima’s Christ is
appropriately juvenile, Luini’s is not: he is unquestionably a grown man.

80 The National Gallery Illustrated General Catalogue, 2nd edn (London: National
Gallery, 1986), 338.
81 Peter Humfrey, Cima da Conegliano (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1983), 164–5.

There seems no good basis for supposing that Luini botched or arbitrarily
modified his representation of the youthful Christ: we know from other images
that he was perfectly well aware of the conventions for showing Jesus as a child
or adolescent. In 1525, Luini represented the miraculous discourse with the
doctors in a fresco at Saronno, with an appropriately stocky and cherubic child
Jesus.82 At some stage he also produced a panel showing a bust-length Young
Christ, again plausibly pre-pubescent, which is now in the Ambrosiana, Milan.83
One other visual detail seems to tell against the idea that the London picture
represents the twelve-year-old Christ, namely his crossed stole or orarium. This is
an attribute never shown, to my knowledge, in representations of Christ’s youthful
disputation with the doctors of the Temple. In the rites of the Roman Church, the
stole was worn only by the priest, being donned for the administration of the
sacraments and in some localities for preaching.84 Within Luini’s picture this latter
function may be paramount: his stole establishes Christ as a bona fide preacher.
Since he is adult but clearly not as mature as in most representations of the events
leading up to the Passion (that is, he lacks a full beard), a logical inference is that
the painting shows one of Christ’s early encounters with the hostile ecclesiastical
authorities in the synagogues of Galilee, described in Luke: 4:14–44.85
If his protagonists are scribes or Pharisees rather than Temple elders, Luini’s
use of the humoral conceit is almost certainly negative. That his figures are
retrograde, even atavistic, is further suggested by the fact that they are physically
placed behind the Savior. The “pedestrian” arrangement has been explained in
terms of Luini’s want of compositional flair, but this style-based assessment is
surely wide of the mark.86 Luini clearly meant the Pharisees to form a discrete,
isolated group, for they talk among themselves and ignore the preaching Christ.
John Shearman once pointed out the “transitive” properties of the Christ Teaching,
noting that the onlooker is notionally included in the group of Christ’s listeners.87
This observation can be further refined. Luini designates us, the spectators, as the
only attentive listeners to the Word. The Pharisees’ oblivion and posterior location
in the picture space might be said to emphasize their role as representatives of the
Old Dispensation, whereas the spectator is implicitly embraced by the New.
Whether they are doctors or Pharisees, the notion almost certainly holds good

82 Luini’s Disputa nel tempio fresco in Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Saronno, is
reproduced as cat. 146 in Angela Ottino della Chiesa, Bernardino Luini (Novara: Istituto
Geografico de Agostini, 1956).
83 Reproduced in G. C. Williamson, Bernardino Luini (London: Bell, 1900), 39.
84 William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold, Catholic Dictionary (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1960), 774–5.
85 For the idea that Luini’s theme was Christ disputing with the Pharisees, see
Williamson, Bernardino Luini, 39–40 and also the Illustrated General Catalogue (London:
National Gallery, 1973), 338.
86 Panofsky, Dürer, 115.
87 John Shearman, Only Connect … Art and the Spectator in the Italian Renaissance
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 36.

that Luini’s quartet represents a humanity that is in need of healing by Christ: his
role as redeemer will always have been self-evident to spectators, whatever the
context. Nor is it inexplicit in this image. The Jesus of the London painting recalls
copies of Leonardo’s now-lost Salvator Mundi, and the similarity, which extends
to dress, is unlikely to be coincidence.88 This raises an important question: what
was the nature and extent of Luini’s debt to Leonardo in this work, which was
once attributed to the latter?
We know from more than one other work that Luini developed or adapted
Leonardo’s designs in his own paintings. For example, his Saint Mary Magdalene
in the National Gallery, Washington, palpably depends on drawings by
Leonardo,89 and the Holy Family with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist in the
Ambrosiana, Milan, is derived from the Leonardo cartoon of the same subject
(sans Joseph) in the National Gallery, London.90 It has also been suggested that
Luini’s Young Christ in the Ambrosiana reflects Leonardo’s intentions for an
image of Jesus “at the age at which he disputed in the Temple,” demanded by the
tirelessly importunate Isabella d’Este between 1504 and 1506.91 The London
Christ Teaching has also been proposed as a realization of Leonardo’s design for
the apparently uncompleted Este commission.92 Whatever the truth, the chances
that Leonardo is in some sense the éminence grise of the design seem strong,
especially given his avowed interest in representing the different human
In conclusion, I should like to address the possibility that Luini was not the
only artist mentioned in this essay whose work was touched by Leonardo’s
enthusiasm for humoral/complexion theory. Given the small number of group
portrayals of the four humors which can be assembled, it seems a remarkable
coincidence that all but one of their makers knew Leonardo: Michelangelo,
Raphael, Pontormo, and Luini all worked alongside him or in his sphere of
influence at one time or another, and Dürer may conceivably have encountered
Of course, the proposition that Leonardo’s fascination was solely responsible

88 On this image see L. Heydenreich, “Leonardo’s «Salvator Mundi»,” Raccolta

Vinciana 20 (1964): 83–109.
89 For a discussion of the image and the Leonardo drawing from which it is derived, see
Shearman, Only Connect, 36–7; and for a good color reproduction, see John Walker,
National Gallery of Art, Washington (New York: H. N. Abrams, 1984), 227 (no. 282).
90 I know of no printed reproduction of this image (Inv 92), which was part of the
collection of Federico Borromeo.
91 Kemp, Leonardo, 218.
92 Kenneth Clark, Leonardo da Vinci (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1989), 187–8.
93 For the possibility of an interchange of ideas between Dürer and Leonardo, relating
specifically to the former’s Christ among the Doctors in the Thyssen–Bornemisza
Collection, Lugano, see I. Lübbeke, The Thyssen–Bornemisza Collection: Early German
Painting 1350–1550 (London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1991), 232–8; see also, J.
Bialostocki, “‘Opus Quinque Dierum’: Dürer’s “Christ among the Doctors” and its
sources,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 22 (1979): 17–34, esp. 26–31.

for sparking off a comparable interest in certain colleagues is far from

unassailable. For one thing, the fact that Leonardo’s writings record an
engagement with humoral theory clearly does not mean that he was the source of
all such engagement among early-sixteenth-century painters. The possibility that
Leonardo merely set down in writing a concern that was widespread among artists
during his lifetime must be acknowledged.
There is another objection, which addresses a larger problem than Leonardo’s
influence. More than once in this essay I have noted that representations of the
humors may not necessarily be self-evident today. It should not be forgotten that
the authors of the richly evocative portrayals of the fourfold system discussed
above were exceedingly able and astute professionals; the fact that most of them
assiduously courted celebrity during their own lifetimes has undoubtedly played a
major part in their being enshrined by art history in the European mainstream.
Other evocations of the four humors, by artists whose visual idiom is not so
tractable to latter-day interpretation (or at least my interpretation), may be hiding
in full view.
Nevertheless, it is appealing on several counts to think that Leonardo indirectly
spawned a short series of virtuoso renderings of the four humors by his acolytes
and rivals. He seems to have been one of the great enthusiasts of cinquecento art,
as well as being one of its most flamboyant self-promoters. One cannot help but
be struck by the number of images by Raphael and Luini alone that seem to testify
to his generosity in allowing younger artists access to his drawings and
uncompleted works. Surely he was just as free in verbally airing the ideas that
were at one stage or another codified in his notes. The fact that all the group
representations of the humors mentioned in this essay date from the period of
Leonardo’s maturity and international fame seems telling. To be more specific
still, it is suggestive that Michelangelo, Raphael and Luini made their group
portrayals of the four humors within a very few of years of, or during, a period in
which they lived in close proximity to Leonardo.
In her important book Leonardo and Central Italian Art, 1515–1550, Kathleen
Weil-Garris Brandt argued that Leonardo’s impact on formal and expressive
aspects of cinquecento art in Florence and Rome, including Michelangelo’s, was
much greater than has generally been supposed.94 The widespread influence of his
physiognomic observations and experiments in Milan, Venice, and north of the
Alps has never been doubted. Why, then, should we not believe that Leonardo put
a new complexion on the representation of small figure groups?

94 Kathleen Weil-Garris Posner, Leonardo and Central Italian Art, 1515–1550 (New
York: New York University Press, 1974).
Chapter 8

Leonardo da Vinci and Botanical

Illustration: Nature Prints, Drawings,
and Woodcuts ca. 1500
Karen M. Reeds*

Scanning the contents of the precious volumes known collectively as the Codex
Atlanticus, the eye stops short at the image of a single sage leaf (Fig. 8.1). The
leaf’s stem, midrib, veins, and curved edge stand out as dense black lines against
the paler ink of the surrounding manuscript text and the paper itself.1 That crisp

* I gratefully acknowledge helpful comments from those who heard pieces of this
research over the past decade as well as stimulating conversations with Cynthia Pyle,
Sandra Raphael, Diane Voss, and the late Phyllis Bober. Special thanks are also due to those
colleagues who so generously offered their time, resources, and expertise, especially
Beatrice Koll, Bruce Bradley, Giulia Bartrum, Roderick Cave, Martin Clayton, J. V. Field,
Jean Givens, Cathleen Hoeniger, Renata Sadlova, Sergio Toresella, Crystal Hall, and Alain
Touwaide. I am deeply grateful to Professor Margaret Schleissner for the extended loan of
a microfilm of the Prague manuscript and to Mr Lawrence J. Schoenberg for generously
permitting me to examine the Schoenberg herbal and to reproduce its images here.
1 Unless otherwise cited, texts and translations from Leonardo’s notebooks are from
Jean Paul Richter, ed., The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, Compiled and Edited from
the Original Manuscripts, 2nd edn, enlarged and rev. by Jean Paul Richter and Irma A.
Richter, 2 vols (London: Oxford University Press, 1939), hereafter cited solely by Richter’s
numbering system (as R. #). I also use the Richter numbering in citing Carlo Pedretti’s
indispensable commentary on Richter: Carlo Pedretti, The Literary Works of Leonardo da
Vinci, Compiled and Edited from the Original Manuscripts by Jean Paul Richter; comm.
by Carlo Pedretti, 2 vols (Oxford: Phaidon, 1977) – hereafter Pedretti, Richter
Commentary. References to Leonardo’s manuscripts follow the bibliography in Leonardo
da Vinci, Master Draftsman, ed. Carmen Bambach (New York: Metropolitan Museum of
Art, 2003), 723. For Leonardo’s notebook sheets collected into the 12-volume manuscript
known as the Codex Atlanticus (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Codex Atlanticus) –
hereafter, Leonardo da Vinci, C.A. – I first give the chronological foliation used in Il
Codice atlantico della Biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano, ed. Augusto Marinoni and intro.
Carlo Pedretti, 3 vols (Firenze: Giunti, 2000; hereafter Marinoni, Il Codice atlantico), the
reduced-format version of the 12-volume facsimile/edition: Leonardo da Vinci, Il Codice
atlantico della Biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano, ed. Augusto Marinoni (Florence: Giunti-
Barbèra, 1975–80); I also give the foliation formerly used in the Leonardo literature. For
the Codex Urbinas, Libro di Pittura, or Trattato della pittura (Vatican City, Biblioteca
Apostolica, MS Codex Urbinas Latinus 1270, hereafter C. Urb.), which Leonardo’s heir,
Francesco Melzi, compiled and transcribed after Leonardo’s death from a number of
Leonardo’s manuscripts with the aim of fulfilling Leonardo’s own plan of a treatise on


8.1 Leonardo da Vinci and Francesco Melzi. Salvia (sage). Nature print and
notes (in hypothesized original orientation). Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana,
Codex Atlanticus, fol. 197v, formerly fol. 72v–a. After 1507. Photo
copyright Biblioteca Ambrosiana-Auth. No. F 82/05

contrast – so characteristic of a printed page – signals the uniqueness of this

image. Moreover, as a print, it is unusual: it is not a woodcut or intaglio, but a
nature print, made from the leaf of a sage plant, inked and stamped onto the page.2
The text framing the nature print has its unusual features as well. Written in two
languages in two different hands, it comments on at least three unrelated topics.
An elegant humanist italic hand has inscribed two Latin headings immediately
above and below the nature print, and then two more lines of Latin just below the
second heading. But most of the text is in Italian. Located to the left and right of
the nature print and filling the bottom half of the page, the text forms short blocks
of notes, written back to front in a distinctive, mirror hand.
If we had not suspected it already, the script reveals at once that the page comes
from one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks – our first clue that there are several
very good reasons for us to give this page our full attention. First of all, there is
the interest of the technique itself. Beyond that, this singular image raises a set of
issues that range from its connections with other forms of printing and book
illustration to its place in Leonardo’s thinking about art and science.
For obvious reasons, scholars have frequently attributed this nature print to the
hand of Leonardo himself; but, as this essay will show, that attribution is
problematic. Nor can claims for the uniqueness of the image and Leonardo’s
invention of the technique be sustained. As we shall see, this is neither the first nor
the only nature print in this period. That, in fact, makes it all the more interesting.
By putting the Codex Atlanticus sage leaf alongside other examples of nature
prints as well as other kinds of plant illustrations, a richer story emerges, one that
permits us to use the very obscurity of nature printing as a tool for understanding
the functions of plant images more generally.3

painting, see Leonardo on Painting, ed. Martin Kemp, with Margaret Walker (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1989). See also: Leonardo da Vinci, Treatise on Painting (Codex
Urbinas Latinus 1270), trans. and annot. A. Philip McMahon, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1956); and Leonardo da Vinci, Libro di pittura: edizione in facsimile del
Codice Urbinate lat. 1270 nella Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, ed. Carlo Pedretti and
Carlo Vecce, 2 vols (Florence: Giunti, 1995). I use the Windsor number (W. #) to refer to
the Royal Library collection of Leonardo drawings and texts unless a source uses the
alternative abbreviation RL – the numbers are identical.
2 For the sage leaf and text, see: Leonardo da Vinci, C.A., fol. 197v, formerly fol. 72v–a;
Marinoni, Il Codice atlantico, vol. 3, 272, 274; R. 616; translation and notes in Pedretti,
Richter Commentary, R. 616. The notebook page is partially reproduced in William A.
Emboden, Leonardo da Vinci on Plants and Gardens (Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press,
1987), 155, fig. 90, with a slightly inaccurate transcription; and in full in Roderick Cave
and Geoffrey Wakeman, Typographia naturalis, pl. 1. The contrast of inks is particularly
striking in the Giunti edition photographs, Marinoni, Il Codice atlantico, vol. 3, 273, foglio
3 Pedretti alludes to “another experiment with an actual leaf, foiled by smudged
fingerprints (Leonardo’s?) … on the newly revealed verso of the Codice atlantico fol.
114v–a [i.e. fol. 317v], a sheet of architectural studies from the French period, c. 1518”:
Pedretti, “Icarus at Fiesole,” Achademia Leonardi Vinci (ALV Journal) 5 (1992): 178, n. 1.
In Il Codice atlantico, Marinoni does not reproduce the otherwise blank fol. 317v, formerly

The Codex Atlanticus Nature Print

Up to now, nature printing has been at best a marginal part of the discussion of
fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century approaches to the representation of the plant
world. In part, that is because so few examples of this technique of plant
representation survive from the fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries – although
even that handful is more than previously recognized.4 In part, it is because the
process is literally so artless. Making a nature print is child’s play: a leaf (or less
commonly, a flower or whole plant) is inked on its underside and pressed directly
onto the page to illustrate itself. Its imprint preserves the specimen’s individual
irregularities of outline, surface texture, and venation. Unlike illuminating a
manuscript or cutting a woodblock, making a nature print takes no special
training, talent, or equipment – only a certain deftness of hand.
There is no way to ascertain the beginnings of a technique so easily invented
and re-invented. The imprinted materials and stamping tools preserved today in
the collection of the Musée Cluny, Paris, show us that, well before Gutenberg,
medieval artisans were pressing designs and words into coins, wax seals, tiles,
book-bindings, and Eucharist wafers. Other methods for transcribing or projecting
a complex shape onto a flat surface could have prompted early experiments in
nature printing: the use of stencils, for example, is taken for granted by the
fifteenth-century writer, Cennino Cennini.5 Or the idea could have stemmed from
observations of nature itself: fossil imprints, say, or the mark of a leaf leached onto
a flat stone. In the same vein, to teach the art of tracking deer – Gaston III of Foix
(Gaston Phoebus) urged in his Livre de la chasse – the master huntsman should

fol. 114v–a, and dismisses it as having no drawings or writing. From the reproduction in
Carlo Pedretti, The Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo da Vinci: A Catalogue of its Newly
Restored Sheets: Part One and Two (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), I
believe this image was produced by stenciling; that is, a grape leaf (rather than the maple
leaf Pedretti proposes) was placed on the page and brushed or pounced with black pigment,
yielding a white leaf against a dark background, entirely lacking a nature print’s
characteristic details.
4 For nature printing see Cave and Wakeman, Typographia naturalis (Wymondham:
Brewhouse Press, 1967); Elizabeth Harris, The Art of the Nature Print (Washington, DC:
Smithsonian Institution, 1989); F. G. Hochberg, “Impressions of Nature,” Terra 23 (1984):
21–9; Armin Geus, ed., Natur im Druck: Eine Ausstellung zur Geschichte und Technik des
Naturselbstdrucks (Marburg an der Lahn: Basilisken-Presse, 1995); Geus, “Nature Self-
Prints as a Methodical Instrument in the History of Botany,” in Natura-Cultura:
L’interpretazione del mondo fisico nei testi e nelle immagini, ed. Giuseppe Olmi, Lucia
Tongiorgi Tomasi, and Attilio Zanca (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2000), 245–53; Gill
Saunders, Picturing Plants: An Analytical History of Botanical Illustration (Berkeley and
Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995); Sergio Toresella and Marisa Battini,
“Gli erbari a impressione e l’origine del disegno scientifico,” Le Scienze (Italian edition of
Scientific American) 41 (1988): 64–78.
5 On stencils and linens block-printed with leaves and animals, see Cennino D’Andrea
Cennini, The Craftsman’s Handbook: The Italian “Il Libro Dell’ Arte,” trans. Daniel V.
Thompson, Jr (1933; reprint, New York: Dover, 1954), 65, 115.

create impressions with a stag’s hoof in soft earth.6 And the fourteenth-century
bibliophile Richard de Bury condemned the practice of pressing flowers in books:
“Then the scholar we are speaking of, a neglecter rather than an inspecter [sic] of
books, will stuff his volume with violets, and primroses, with roses and
Otto Pächt and Felix Andreas Baumann remark on the flattened appearance of
the plants in some drawings in the innovative herbals of the late fourteenth and
early fifteenth century – the Tractatis de herbis (London, British Library, Egerton
MS 747) and the Carrara Herbal (London, British Library, Egerton MS 2020).
Baumann notes Pandolfo Collenuccio’s gift of dried plants to his fellow humanist,
Angelo Poliziano, at the end of the fifteenth century (a transaction that hints at a
very early hortus siccus or herbarium, that is, a collection of plant specimens
preserved for study by pressing, drying, and attaching them to labeled paper
sheets). From such pressed plants, it would have been a small step to the notion of
nature printing.8
The arrangement of the Codex Atlanticus print and the writing on the page
suggests that the sage leaf print at the top of the sheet was made first. It was
printed slightly to the right of the page’s vertical midline, as if to allow a
left-hand gutter for binding. The Latin labels in the humanist hand were then
written above and just below the print: SALVIA (sage) at the top, and Caput
CCCCXXXIII: (Chapter 433) beneath.9 Below that, stretching across the width of
the page, a brief account in Latin, again in the humanist italics, provided the
habitat and medicinal properties of this familiar herb: “It grows in harsh places. A
drink of a decoction from its leaves [and] twigs provokes urine and expels the
menstrua and [unborn] infants. It darkens the hair.”10 The lower half of the page
was originally left blank, perhaps to leave room for another nature print and its
accompanying herbal text.

6 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 616, fol. 56 verso. See The Hunting
Book of Gaston Phébus, intro. Marcel Thomas and François Avril, comm. by Wilhelm
Schlag (London: Harvey Miller, 1998), fols 56 verso and 57 recto, and p. 41.
7 Richard de Bury, The Philobiblon of Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, Treasurer
and Chancellor of Edward III, ed. and trans. Ernest C. Thomas (London: K. Paul, Trench
and Co., 1888), ch. 17.
8 Otto Pächt, “Early Italian Nature Studies and the Early Calendar Landscape,” Journal
of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 13 (1950): 13–47, esp. 29–30; Felix Andreas
Baumann, Das Erbario Carrarese und Die Bildtradition des Tractatus de herbis (Bern:
Benteli Verlag, 1974), 21–2, 91–2, and Taf. 6, 10, 16, 35, 36, 41, 42, 51. See Fig. 5.3 in Jean
Givens’s essay (Chapter 5) in this volume, “Reading and Writing the Illustrated Tractatus
de herbis, 1280–1526,” for the Tractatus de herbis manuscript discussed by Pächt.
9 Marinoni’s transcription (Il Codice atlantico, vol. 1, 272) reads “Caput CCCCXXXII”
(i.e. Chapter 432); a glance at the facsimile page, p. 273, shows that number must be a
typographical error. Pedretti’s citation reads “Capite” rather than “Caput CCCCXXXIII,”
Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 360, R. 616.
10 Leonardo, C.A. fol. 197v, formerly fol. 72 v–a, Marinoni, Il Codice atlantico, vol. 1, 272;
Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 360, R. 616: Nascitur in locis asperis: huius decoctum
cum folijs ramulis vrinam provocat potum/ Menstrua et infantes euellit Crines demorat [.]
Emboden, Leonardo on Plants, 32, incorrectly gives denigrat for the final demorat.

Carlo Pedretti identifies the italic hand of the Latin passages as that of
Francesco Melzi (1491/93–ca. 1570), Leonard’s student, friend, heir, and a
talented artist in his own right.11 Melzi and Leonardo met in 1507 in Milan, and
Melzi probably joined Leonardo’s household the following year.12 Melzi’s own
interest in plants is conspicuous in the floral themes in his surviving paintings;
several drawings of plants now attributed to Melzi are skillful enough to have
once been ascribed to Leonardo.13
Immediately to the top left of the nature print, Leonardo wrote a short note of
his own, proposing a variation on the process of nature printing:

This paper should be painted over with candle soot tempered with thin glue, then smear
the leaf thinly with white lead, in oil, as is done to the letters in printing, and then print
in the ordinary way. Thus the leaf will appear shaded in the hollows and lighted on the
parts in relief; which however comes out here just the contrary.14

Still later, Leonardo turned the page around (so that the print, Melzi’s Latin
inscriptions, and his own comment on the print were all upside-down) and filled
up both sides of the sheet with conjectures about an entirely different subject: the
relative weights of the four elements.
To sum up this proposed reconstruction of Codex Atlanticus, fol. 197v,
formerly 72v–a: Melzi was responsible for the sage leaf print, which he made in
the course of compiling a book of herbal remedies which was to be illustrated by
nature prints. Judging by the chapter number for Salvia, the book would have been
sizeable – more than 400 plants – and may have been arranged alphabetically.15
The sage leaf print was for some reason put aside – perhaps because Melzi’s note
crossed into the implied margin, perhaps because the leaf had been too heavily
inked. Leonardo’s attention was caught by the print; a method for reversing the

11 See reproductions of Melzi’s handwriting in Leonardo, Libro de pittura, figs 13–15

and cat. 120, 640–2, in Bambach, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman.
12 Bambach, “Documented Chronology of Leonardo’s Life and Work,” Leonardo da
Vinci, Master Draftsman, 236–7, n. 7.
13 Martin Kemp, “Leonardo and the Idea of Naturalism: Leonardo’s Hypernaturalism,”
in Andrea Bayer, ed., Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in
Lombardy (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), 64–73. Melzi’s Flora and
Pomona and Vertumnus were painted during Leonardo’s last years, perhaps using his
compositions: see Peter Hohenstatt, Leonardo da Vinci: 1452–1519, trans. Fiona Hulse
(Cologne: Könemann, 1998), 122–5, pls 127–9. Clark and Pedretti ascribe a drawing of
columbine, Aquilegia (formerly, Windsor; now lost) to Melzi; Clark, A Catalogue of the
Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor
Castle, rev. 2nd edn; with Carlo Pedretti, 3 vols (London: Phaidon, 1968), vol. 1, 188–9
(unnumbered drawing).
14 Marioni, Il Codici atlantico, vol. 1, 273–4: “Questa carta si debbe tignere di fumo di
candela temperato con colla dolce, e poi imbrattare sottilmente la foglia di biacca a olio,
come si fa alle lettere in istampa, e poi stampire nel modo commune. E così tal foglia parrà
aombrata ne’ cavi e alluminata nelli rilievi. Il che interv <i>ene qui il contrario.” R. 616.
Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 360, R. 616.
15 Melzi’s precise Latin source has not been identified.

blacks and whites of nature prints occurred to him; and he added the note about it.
Leonardo then recycled the page for other notes.16

Nature Printing in Three Fifteenth-Century Manuscripts

The sage leaf in the Codex Atlanticus has often been described as the first nature print
on record, and, in turn, Leonardo (1452–1519) often has been credited with both the
idea and earliest account of the process. Emboden’s 1987 monograph, Leonardo da
Vinci on Plants and Gardens, for example, speaks of “this invention of Leonardo.”17
Cave and Wakeman’s history of nature printing, Typographia Naturalis, comments:
“It is appropriate that the earliest description of the original technique of nature
printing and the oldest extant nature print should both be by Leonardo da Vinci.”18
However tempting it is to ascribe yet another technological discovery and
remarkable image to Leonardo, the evidence of the page about the nature print’s
maker is ambiguous at best and points to Melzi rather than Leonardo. It therefore
seems prudent to call it the “Codex Atlanticus nature print.” In any case, the claim
of priority is moot: neither Leonardo nor Melzi was the first to employ the
technique. Nature prints show up in at least three manuscripts that predate the
Codex Atlanticus nature print:19

16 Robert Zwijnenberg, The Writings and Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci: Order and
Chaos in Early Modern Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), ch. 4.
17 Emboden, Leonardo da Vinci on Plants, 155 and the more cautious caption to fig. 90:
“Nature printing may have been invented by Leonardo … .”
18 Cave and Wakeman, Typographia Naturalis, 2 and pl. 1. (A revised and updated
edition, in progress, will correct this point; Cave, personal communication.) Others who
give or imply Leonardo’s priority for the process include: Ludwig Goldschneider,
“Foreword,” Leonardo da Vinci, Landscapes and Plants (London: Phaidon, 1952), 6;
Saunders, Picturing Plants, 144; Giambattista de Toni, Le piante e gli animali in Leonardo
da Vinci (Bologna: N. Zanichelli, 1922), 24; and the catalogue record for fol. 99v of the
manuscript, Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 419
(hereafter, the Schoenberg herbal), on the website of the Schoenberg Center for Electronic
Text and Image, University of Pennsylvania. A Leonardo drawing in red chalk of a leaf
(identified as mulberry, Morus, by Emboden, Leonardo da Vinci on Plants, 209) has been
described incorrectly as a nature print in André Chastel, ed., The Genius of Leonardo da
Vinci, trans. Ellen Callmann (New York: Orion Press, 1961), 173, no. 296. That drawing
appears in Leonardo’s “Codex on the flight of birds” (Turin, Biblioteca reale di Torino, MS
Cod. Varia 95, fol. 15 verso); see Augusto Marinoni, ed., Il codice sul volo degli uccelli:
nella Biblioteca reale di Torino (Firenze: Giunti-Barbèra, 1976).
19 Sergio Toresella (personal communication) kindly shared with me his discovery of nature
prints of a poplar leaf in an Italian illustrated herbal without text that pre-dates all of these:
Matthaeus Platearius, Compendium Salernitanum, 1350–75 (New York, Pierpont Morgan
Library, MS M. 873, fols 75 verso and 76 recto.) The leaf prints were deliberately put alongside
the late-fourteenth-century drawing of the poplar tree, populus, on fol. 75 verso. However, the
faint prints cannot be dated, and their ink seems to match the much later French plant labels (cf.
the Morgan Library’s notes on the manuscript). Some of the nature prints in Toresella and
Battini, “Gli erbari a impressione,” may well have been done in the fifteenth century.

1. Salzburg, University Library Salzburg, MS M I 36: a medical–astrological

miscellany in German and Latin on parchment and paper (1425?) (Fig. 8.2).20
2. Prague, Národni knihova, MS XXIII F 129. A late-fifteenth-century miscellany
of astrology, magic, and medicine, in German and Latin, compiled by Wenzeslaus
Brack, a physician who was rector of the school at Constance (Fig. 8.3).21
3. Paris, Bibliothèque du Muséum d’Histoire naturelle, MS 326, Italian,
completed 19 April 1487.22 An incomplete herbal with nature prints, pen
drawings, and watercolors, by several hands, mostly in Italian, partly in Latin.

The best known of the three, the Salzburg manuscript, has 84 nature prints of
leaves, flowers, or whole plants, representing 81 different kinds of plants. The
prints are, with one exception, grouped together on 14 paper folios. There is no
obvious principle of organization, but occasionally leaves with similar shapes
have been set next to each other – for example, virga pastorum and the two sage
leaves (elifagus and pilifagus i[d est] salvia) on fol. 155r (Fig. 8.2). The prints, in
a dark brown-green ink or tempera (one in red), are laid out quite deliberately onto
paper pages, which have also been lightly tinted green.23 Nearly all are labeled

20 The nature prints are on fol. 145 verso and on fols 154 verso through 177 verso.
Hermann Fischer, Mittelalterliche Pflanzenkunde (1929; reprint, Hildesheim: Georg Olms,
1967), 125–6 and pl. XIX, reproducing the four leaf-prints on fol. 173 recto (with a
typographical error in the old shelfmark, V. I. H. 166). See also John E. Murdoch, Album
of Science: Antiquity and the Middle Ages (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1984), 221,
no. 197 and note on p. 382. Fischer, “Naturselbstdrucke von Pflanzen aus dem 15.
Jahrhundert,” Bericht der Oberhessischen Gesellschaft für Natur- und Heilkunde zu
Giessen (Neue Folge: Naturwissenschaftliche Abteilung), 13 (1930): 27–30, transcribes the
plant names and identifies most of them. I have followed identifications for the leaf prints
in Fig. 8.2. The manuscript itself identifies pilifagus and salvia (sage) as synonyms; for
elifagus as a synonym for salvia, see Tony Hunt, Plant Names of Medieval England
(Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1989), 331. For color photographs, see Toresella and Battini,
“Gli erbari a impressione” (three prints on fol. 170 verso). Anna Jungreithmayr, ed., Die
Deutschen Handschriften des Mittelalters der Universitätsbibliothek Salzburg (Vienna:
Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1988), 8–19.
21 Hartmut Beckers describes the manuscript, but not the nature prints in “Eine
Spätmittelalterliche Deutsche Anleitung zur Teufelsbeschwörung mit Runen-
schriftverwendung,” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertums 1132 (1984): 136–5. Margaret
Rose Schleissner, “Pseudo-Albertus Magnus, Secreta Mulierum Cum Commento: Deutsch,
Critical Text and Commentary” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1987), 97, n. 22. See
also Nina Pleuger, Der Vocabularius rerum von Wenzeslaus Brack: Untersuchung und
Edition eines spätmittelalterlichen Kompendiums (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2005). The
Prague manuscript under discussion here should be added to Pleuger’s list of seven
surviving manuscripts once owned by Brack.
22 The manuscript is described for the first time in Elisabeth Antoine, ed., Sur la terre
comme au ciel: Jardins d’occident à la fin du moyen âge (Paris: Editions de la Réunion des
musées nationaux, 2002), cat. 101, Sauge, 225; entry by Antoine, 228–9. I have not seen
the manuscript nor any other images from it.
23 I have only seen the black-and-white microfilm lent by Professor Schleissner and the
color digital images provided by the University Library, Salzburg, through the kindness of
Beatrix Koll.

8.2 Attributed to Konrad von Butzenbach. Elifagus (sage), pilifagus i[d est]
salvia (sage), herba virga pastorum (teasel), siriaca i[d est] malva
(mallow) [identified from top left]. Nature prints and mantic text. German
and Latin medical–astrological miscellany. Salzburg, University Library
Salzburg MS M I 36, fol. 155 recto. 1425 or later. Photo courtesy of the
University Library, Salzburg

8.3 Wenzeslaus Brack. Celidonia? (celandine?). German and Latin miscellany

of magic, astrology, and medicine. Nature print and line-drawing. Prague,
Národni knihova, MS XXIII F 129, fol. 213 verso. Late fifteenth century.
Photo courtesy of the National Library of the Czech Republic

neatly in black ink with Latin, Italian and, occasionally, German names. Some
pages also have medicinal recipes, but not obviously tied to the plants portrayed;
on two folios, a mantic text is written over the prints (see Fig. 8.2). The identity
of the prints’ maker is uncertain – perhaps the physician who signed and dated the
opening parchment segment of the miscellany: Ego Conradus de Boutzenbach
medicus … Anno Domini 1425. The manuscript was later owned by Konrad von
Butzenbach’s patron, Johann Graf zu Solms (d. 1457), and in 1470 by an
astrologer, Johannes Lichtenberger.24
The one published page of the Paris manuscript (fol. 19 [53]) reveals a taste for
trompe l’oeil effects on the part of its nature-printer. The maker of the prints
carefully swabbed four sage branches, bearing nearly 20 leaves in all, with gray-
green ink and arranged them gracefully on the page. Two leaves rested between
the paper and the stems of the neighboring sprig. The overlapping of leaf and stem
counteracts the flatness that usually characterizes nature prints. After making the
prints, the maker delicately brushed in the stems, petioles, terminal buds, and
added darker veins on young leaves that happened to print uniformly gray-green.
As a final touch, the maker added a set of vestigial roots.
The Prague miscellany (whose nature prints are described for the first time
here) seems to have incorporated the prints much more spontaneously. The four
nature prints amid the collection of German herbal remedies look like spur-of-the-
moment efforts. The compilation’s hasty handwriting, the occasional grotesque
faces in initials, the handful of small diagrammatic drawings of plants and body
parts, and the extensive use of runes as a substitution cipher in charms to conjure
up the devil suggest a set of medical, astronomical, and magical notes assembled
for Wenzeslaus Brack’s private use.
These blotchy impressions are probably the result of a water-based ink or paint
that did not adhere well to the waxy surface of the leaf or to the paper. Brack
clearly felt that the prints left something to be desired and so drew in the missing

24 On the basis of an owner’s signature and date at the start of the miscellany’s opening
section written on parchment, Hermann Fischer, Mittelalterliche Pflanzenkunde, wrote that
the prints were made in 1425 by the scribe/compiler, a self-described physician, Konrad
von Butzenbach (or Butzbach). Fischer argued that, because some plant names are
Northern Italian, the German doctor had traveled to the northern Adriatic and used nature
prints to create a permanent memorandum of plants he encountered. Several later studies
(such as: Geus, ed., Natur im Druck; Hochberg, “Impressions of Nature”; and Murdoch,
Album of Science) adopted 1425 as the date of the earliest extant nature prints and Konrad
von Butzenbach as their maker. However, in “Naturselbstdrucke von Pflanzen,” Fischer
acknowledged that the nature prints are printed on paper in a separate section of the
miscellany, that the paper’s watermark required a later – but undetermined – date, and that
Butzenbach could not be reliably identified as the maker of the prints. However, Sergio
Toresella and Marisa Battini, “Gli erbari a impressione,” 75, 78 (color photograph of fol.
70 verso on 76), believe that the watermark is indeed contemporary with the 1425 owner’s
inscription and that the spelling of plant names reflects a German’s rendering of north
Italian dialect. For other owners and possible dates, see Jungreithmayr, ed., Die Deutschen
Handschriften, 8.

parts of the plants. Beneath a text about the virtues of the juice of celidonia, the
unlabeled print of a single palmate leaf (possibly celandine, celidonia) has been
finished off with lines connecting the ends of the printed veins to a drawn leaf-
stalk (fol. 213 verso; Fig. 8.3). For the two full-page images labeled figwurtz (fol.
63 recto) and guaney [?] (fol. 63 verso), prints of leaves from a single plant have
been arranged in the same positions they would have on the living plant. For
guaney, pen-lines roughly indicate stem, root, and a daisy-like flower; for
figwurtz, stem and roots have been drawn in. A fourth print of an unlabeled leaf
has been squeezed sideways below a recipe at the bottom of fol. 31 recto, and a
stalk, two tiny flowers on long stems, and a round root added by pen.
Even this small set of fifteenth-century nature prints reveals marked differences
in skill and motivation. While both the Prague and Salzburg manuscripts were
compiled by German physicians apparently for their own use, the Prague
manuscript’s nature prints (like its drawings of plants) look like quick, informal
memoranda, clumsily executed as if the maker were trying out the method for the
first time, using whatever materials were to hand. The Salzburg manuscript’s
prints, by contrast, manifest considerable previous experimentation and skill with
inking and printing the leaves; the large number of plants and their tidy
arrangement on the Salzburg pages bespeak a deliberate, systematic approach to
collecting and studying medicinal plants. The elegant, illusionistic combination of
nature print and watercolor in the Paris manuscript suggests that the artist (or
commissioner) of the page valued aesthetics at least as much as medical content –
comparable in intent to the Tacuinum sanitatis illustrations discussed by Cathleen
Hoeniger in this volume (Chapter 3).

Nature Printing and the “Book of Secrets” Tradition

The three examples of fifteenth-century nature prints demonstrate that the

technique was known in both Italy and German-speaking lands well before the
Codex Atlanticus sage print was made, but it is not clear whether they represent
cases of independent invention or of a shared craft tradition. For the Codex
Atlanticus print, however, we do have documentary evidence that, for Leonardo
and Melzi, instructions for nature printing were close at hand.
Leonardo’s friend and mathematics teacher, Fra Luca Pacioli (1445–1517?),
described the technique in his De viribus quantitatis – “On the Forces of
Quantity” or “On the Powers of Number.” For all Pacioli’s renown as a
mathematician, he was also a man who loved a joke. Masquerading behind the
serious Latin title is a book written in Italian, bursting with entertaining problems
in practical and recreational mathematics, word-games, proverbs, anecdotes,
magic tricks, useful recipes (for removing spots from paper, for making clothes
smell good), and simple science experiments, many with food – perhaps to amuse
fellow banqueters between courses. In the section on “Documents and Proverbs

Useful to Merchants,” we find this (somewhat incoherent) account of nature


How to represent any leaf, particularly those that are veined: That is, ones that have ribs,
such as leaves of violets, figs, grapevine, sage, borage, ox-tongue, roses and whole
violets etc.
Take finely ground charcoal, or the lampblack with which books are printed, which
will be much better. And mix it in well with ordinary oil to make a liquid; then with a
sponge or brush, spread it rather thickly onto a very clean tablet. Then you take your
leaf, very clean, and lay it ribbed-side-down onto the said paper [i.e. the inked surface],
flattening it [i.e. the leaf] out carefully, and on top of the said leaf you shall put a piece
of clean white paper to hold it in place. And then with your hand or fingers you rub the
said paper, not too heavily, so that the leaf is not damaged. Then, when it has taken up
the black, you put it [the leaf] onto another piece of perfectly white paper, in such a way
that it does not move out of place. Then, in the same way, you put another piece of white
paper on top of it, rubbing as you did before. The black will remain on the page as you
wished; it will work very well but only the lines will be shown. Then you may shade it
in with verdigris or another green, as watercolor, and it will appear very natural, as you
will see.25

Pacioli probably compiled his collection of pastimes in 1496, but internal

references to people and events show that he continued to add material to the
manuscript at least until 1509. In 1508 he applied for an official privilege to print
the book, but the project fell through (although his De divina proportione did
appear in Venice in 1509, with woodcuts of geometric solids from Leonardo’s
In the only surviving manuscript of De viribus quantitatis – copied by a scribe
with a beautiful hand and careless eye – the two paragraphs about nature printing
are inserted as an unnumbered chapter between chapter LXXXVI and LXXXII of

25 “A sapere retrare ogni foglia, maxime quelle che sonno nerbose. Cioé che hanno
coste, comme sonno foglie de viole, ficara, panpane de vitte, salvia, borraci, lengua bovina,
rose et viole etc., in tutte. Recipe carbone [n. 748: MS: carpone] pesto sotilmente, o vero
nero de fume con che se stampa libri et sia molto meglio. Et quello stempera bene
incorporando con oglio comune liquidamente, poi con la spogna, o vero penello, stendelo
in s’una taula ben netta alquanto grossamente. Et poi habbi la tua foglia ben netta et
quella, dal canto de soi nerbi, destendi in su ditta carta tenta con dextrezza, et sopra ditta
foglia porrai una carta bianca ben netta, che sia ferma. Et tu poi con mano, o ver dete,
fregarai ditta carta non troppo gravando, che la foglia non se guastasse; poi preso che
l’arà el negro, porrala in un’altra carta bianchissima, in modo che non si mova de luogo.
Et poi medesimamente porrali sopra ditta carta bianca, strucinando comme prima festi:
restarà el nero sul foglio che volevi. Starà benissimo, ma se vederà solo li profili; et tu poi
con verderame, o vero altro verde a modo aquarella, l’ombrarai et pararà naturalissima,
como vederai etc.” Luca Pacioli, De viribus quantitatis, Trascrizione di Maria Garlaschi
Peirani dal Codice N. 250 della Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna, ed. Augusto Marinoni
(Milano: Ente Raccolta Vinciana, 1997), 368–9 (fol. 259 verso). See the digitized facsimile
at the website, Matematica ricreativa; for this chapter, see JPGs 547 and 548.
26 See Marinoni’s introduction to Pacioli, De viribus quantitatis, v–xxxiii; Marinoni,
“De viribus quantitatis,” Raccolta Vinciana 22 (1987): 115–36; and Carlo Pedretti, “Il De
viribus quantitatis di Luca Pacioli,” Studi Vinciani (Geneva: Droz, 1957), 43–53.

part 2.27 The manuscript’s table of contents also omits the topic in its list of
chapters. These two points suggest that the chapter was a late addition. If so, the
date would mesh conveniently with Melzi’s first years with Leonardo.
Considering the long give-and-take between Pacioli and Leonardo, it is of course
possible that Pacioli learned nature printing from Leonardo. However, the odds
are good Pacioli would have said so since he names Leonardo twice elsewhere in
the manuscript and underscores his friendship with Leonardo in De divina
Pacioli’s chapter on nature printing pre-dates the earliest printed account by
roughly half a century. Secreti del Reverendo Alessio Piemontese, published in
Venice in 1555, is usually regarded as the beginning of the popular printed genre
of “the book of secrets.”29 Where Pacioli presents the nature print as a pleasant
diversion for polite company, Alessio Piemontese (generally regarded as a
pseudonym for Girolamo Ruscelli, who was something of a hack writer) turns it
into a home-decorating project:

To counterfeite all maner of greene leaves which shall seeme naturall.

Take greene leaves of what sort you will, and skrape or bruse the biggest strekes that
be like ribbes upon the leafe the contrarie waie, with a knife. Take common oile or oil
of line [i.e. linseed], or other licours that make smoke and burne them in a lampe, and
sette over them a yot [sic, for pot] for all the smoke will stick and cleave round about
it: This done gather togither the same smoke, and temper in a dishe with a little oile or
Vernishe, and incorporate it well togither. Then with the saide colour you shall blacke
the leafe on the side where you have brused and skraped the great ribbes with a linen
cloth or cotton, and turne the leafe upon the Paper double and with your hande or with
a piece of Clothe press doune somewhat lightly the saide leafe, untill you be assured that
it hath least [sic] the colour upon the Paper. Then take it of handsomely, and you shall
finde all the print and devise of the saide leafe to bee as it were natural, yea, and even
unto the least vaine or ribbe, so that you shall think it faire, and with all the naturall
signes and markes, and if you will make it greene according to his nature: take Vinaigre
very strong, verdegrise, gomme arabick, bladder past, called in French panne de verre,
and put all together and seeth it, and it will be greene as we have before saide, and with
the said water you maie make al these leaves greene, and it will be faire to see, for to
make a painting frysed or rough about your chamber, ye specially in winter time.30

27 Pacioli, De viribus quantitatis, 325: Documenti et proverbii mercanteschi utilissimi.

28 See the dedication to an unnamed nobleman; part 2, ch. XI, for references to “nostro
Leonardo da Vinci” and his habit of writing backwards with his left hand: Pacioli, De
viribus quantitatis. (The chapter follows an unnumbered chapter which – like the chapter
on nature printing – does not appear in the table of contents.) See also Pedretti, “Il De
viribus quantitatis.” Pedretti notes a later record in Melzi’s hand (ca. 1517) of a botanical
riddle found in De viribus quantitatis, see Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 361, R. 616; and
vol. 2, section XX, 260.
29 For Alessio Piemontese and this genre, see William Eamon, Science and the Secrets
of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1994), esp. ch. 4. Eamon does not discuss Leonardo or nature printing and
he had not known about Pacioli’s De viribus quantitatis (personal communication).
30 Within five years, the work appeared in French and English. The English of The
seconde part of the Secretes of Master Alexis of Piemont, by him collected out of divers
excellent aucthours, and newely translated out of Frenche into Englishe … by William

The natural appearance of the leaf prints is clearly an essential part of their
appeal to both Pacioli and Alessio Piemontese. That naturalness lay, first, in the
print’s exact imitation – a “counterfeite” – of the leaf’s “devise” formed by its
shape, ribs, veins, “signes and markes.”31 Even more important to achieving a
“very natural” effect, however, was the extra step of making the leaf print
green, “according to [the leaf’s] nature” – accomplished by adding a green
wash over the black print. In this, they were either re-inventing or consciously
adapting the practice of using colored inks seen in the Salzburg and Paris

Leonardo’s Drawing of Rushes and his Treatise on Plants for Painters

Although Leonardo scholars have noted many parallel passages in Leonardo’s

notebooks and Pacioli’s De viribus quantitatis, and although they have long linked
the Codex Atlanticus nature print to Alessio Piemontese and the printed books of
secrets, historians of books of secrets have not yet mapped out the place of
Leonardo and Pacioli in the early history of that genre.32 I would argue, however,
that Leonardo’s reaction to the Codex Atlanticus nature print seems to belong
more to the genre of artists’ handbooks. Artists’ handbooks are closely related to
books of secrets, to be sure, but they do not promise to reveal arcane methods for

Ward (London: Jhon [sic] Kyngston, for Nicholas England, 1560), fols 102–3, is a very
close translation of the earliest Italian edition I have seen: La secunda parte de’ secreti del
reuerendo donno Alessio Piemontese (Pesaro: Heirs of Bartolomeo Cesano, 1562), Libro
sesto, 216 [i.e. 226]–227: “A contrafar d’ogni sorte frondi verdi che pareranno naturali.
Piglia foglie verdi di qualunque sorte ti piace, & dal riuerso gli ammacherai le costole piu
grosse con un legnetto, poi farai questa tinta. Piglia oglio commune ouer di linosa, ouero
altri liquori che [p. 227] facciano fumo, & falli bruciare nella lucerna, & metti sopra una
pignatta, che tutto il fumo vi si attacci intorno, poi raccogli quel fumo, & distemperalo in
una scodella con un poco d’oglio, o vernice, & incorpora bene, poi con la detta tinta
imbratterai la foglia da quel lato doue hai ammaccate le costole con vna pezzetta, ouero
bambagio, poi riuoltela sopra la carta doppia sopra alla foglia, & con la tua mano, ouero
con vna pezza in mano va calcando sopra la detta foglia leggiermente tanto c’habbia
lasciato la tinta su la carta, poi leuala con destrezza, & trouerai tutto il disegno naturale
della detta foglia per insino alla minima venarella, di sorte tale che ti parerà bella, & con
tutti i segni naturali, & se tu la vorrai far verde secondo la sua natura, piglia aceto forte,
verderame, gomma arabica, pasta di vesica, metti insieme, & falla bollire, al fuoco, & sara
verde come s’è detto nel suo capitolo, & con la detta acquarella farai verdi tutte quelle
foglie, & faratti un bel vedere, per farne un fregio intorno alla camera, anco nel tempo dell’
inverno.” (For a somewhat different English rendering a century later, see Cave and
Wakeman, Typographia Naturalis, 4.)
31 The word “counterfeit,” contrafactum, originally signified “portrayal, imitation.” See
David Landau and Peter Parshall, The Renaissance Print: 1470–1550 (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1994), 237–59; and Parshall, “Imago Contrafacta: Images and Facts in the
Northern Renaissance,” Art History 16 (1993): 554–79.
32 See Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 360, R. 616; Pedretti, “Il De viribus
quantitatis,” 47.

producing supernatural marvels. Instead, their ultimate aim is, as Cennini wrote a
century before Leonardo, “copying and imitating things from nature.”33
The words nature and natural reverberate throughout Leonardo’s writings,
from his early inventory of his own work which included molti fiori ritratti al
naturale, “many flowers portrayed from nature,” to the late drafts for a treatise on
the principles of painting.34 To observe and render correctly all the complex effects
of light falling onto or passing through objects in nature and capture thereby the
illusion of relief was, Leonardo believed, the painter’s highest art.35 Although
Leonardo’s comment in Codex Atlanticus about the sage leaf print does not invoke
the words nature or natural, his proposal to reverse lights and darks in the printed
image falls in line with his much larger program to teach painters how to achieve
the imitation of nature.
When Leonardo looked at the sage leaf print, he would have immediately
thought that the black central rib and the burst of white alongside its thickest point
were far from natural. In nature, when the underside of a strongly ribbed leaf is
turned uppermost, its edges, raised ribs, and veins catch the light. An accurate
image would present these lines as brighter – not darker – than the rest of the leaf’s
surface or the background. By the same token, the pockets in the angles of the ribs
should be deep shadows: “Thus the leaf will appear shaded in the hollows and
lighted on the parts in relief.”36
A red-chalk drawing of a mulberry leaf in the notebook containing Leonardo’s
treatise on the flight of birds captures this effect of relief with great subtlety.37

33 Cennini, The Craftsman’s Handbook, 123. Cennini uses this phrase in introducing the
process of making life-casts of human bodies – the three-dimensional equivalent of nature
prints. See Pamela H. Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific
Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 97–8.
34 Leonardo’s inventory (ca. 1483–5) appears in C.A., fol. 888r, formerly 324r. R. 680.
In a tally of the eighty-odd passages, mostly from C. Urb., arranged by Kemp under the
heading, “The Science of Art” (Leonardo on Painting, 14–46, nn. 9–93), I noted at least
fifty uses of nature and natural.
35 Martin Kemp, “Leonardo and the Idea of Naturalism,” 70, discusses Leonardo’s
“uncompromising, even obsessive” preoccupation with most minute effects of light and
shadow and their particular manifestations in plants. See also Leonardo on Painting, ed.
Kemp, 15, translation of Leonardo, C. Urb., fol. 133 recto–verso.
36 Pedretti, Richter Commentary, R. 616. Pedretti, in his brief note “Icarus at Fiesole,”
177–8, offers an alternative reading of Leonardo’s account of the “physiotypic process of
… having the actual leaf used as a rubber stamp”: “the ‘rubber-stamp leaf’ is wet with white
lead to remove its own impression from the black-prepared surface of a sheet – an unusual
experiment.” Pedretti seems to envision the white lead on the leaf as picking up the soot
from the page and leaving the white surface of the paper as the leaf’s “impression” – much
as an artist working in charcoal might use a lump of kneaded bread or eraser to lift off the
charcoal to create white highlights. This interpretation ignores Leonardo’s explicit
comparison of the process to inking and printing type. Pedretti’s example was, I believe,
produced by using a leaf as a stencil (see note 3 above).
37 Leonardo da Vinci, Il codice sul volo degli uccelli, fol. 15 verso (and a smaller
outlined leaf, fol. 11 verso). Emboden, Leonardo da Vinci on Plants, Appendix IV, 209,
identifies both as Morus nigra. Pedretti (who gives alternative identifications) believes that

Indeed, perhaps through a black-and-white reproduction, it seems to have misled

one expert on Leonardo into describing it as another nature print.38
The concern with light and shadow expressed in Leonardo’s note about the
sage leaf print accords with his general plans to write a set of treatises that would
encompass everything that a painter needed to know, and in particular with his
plan to write a book for painters about plants.39 In both subject and chronology, the
comment connects particularly closely to a dozen notes on painting the effects of
light and shade falling on and through leaves, in his Manuscript G (Paris, Institut
de France), dated by Pedretti ca. 1510–11.40 These notes, coupled with nearly a
hundred other passages and drawings about trees and landscapes in various
notebooks, were preparatory to a book for painters about plants.41 Leonardo’s
plans for such a treatise emerge from these fragments, from his outlines for a
parallel work on anatomy for painters, and from the heading for one section:
“Discourse on herbs, some of which have the first blossom placed at the upper end
of the stem, others have it in the lower part.” 42
Putting these together, we can conclude that Leonardo would have discussed
the plant growth from seedling to fruition, distinctive patterns of branching and
flowering, the way light lands on and passes through branches and leaves, plants
associated with particular habitats, seasonal changes in the appearance of plants
and landscapes, and the differences – both obvious and subtle – among similar
kinds of plants.43
One tantalizing page from Leonardo’s notebooks reveals what part of that
treatise might have looked like. The Windsor Castle sheet (W. 12427) labeled by

Melzi heightened the outlines of the larger leaf; see Leonardo da Vinci, Nature Studies from
the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, Carlo Pedretti and Kenneth Clark ([New York?]:
Johnson Reprint Corp., 1980), cat. entry 17 for RL 12421, p. 37.
38 See Chastel, The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci, 173, n. 296, and notes 25 and 48
39 For attempts to reconstruct Leonardo’s treatise on painting, see Pedretti’s
introduction to Leonardo, Libro di Pittura. Carlo Pedretti, Leonardo da Vinci on Painting:
A Lost Book (Libro A), Reassembled from the Codex Vaticanus Urbinas 1270 and from the
Codex Leicester (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1964), 151–4,
summarizes the extant sources for C. Urb., Part 6, on trees and verdure; he dates Leonardo’s
most intensive work on this as 1510–15.
40 R. 421–34; Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 300–1, R. 421–34; Pedretti,
Leonardo da Vinci on Painting, 151–4.
41 See Richter, Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, vol. 1, ch. viii, “Botany for
Painters and Elements of Landscape Painting,” R. 393–481A; Pedretti, Richter
Commentary, vol. 1, 291–323, R. 393–481A.
42 The passage on W. 9121a (dated by Pedretti as ca. 1510) immediately follows a note
for a treatise on rendering drapery. Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 287–8, R. 392: “e
in pittura fa djsscorso de panni e altre vestige – djscorso dellerbe delle quali alcune anno
il primo fiore posto nella somma alteza del fussto alcunj lanno nella piu bassa parte.”
43 Francis Ames-Lewis, “Leonardo’s Botanical Drawings,” Achademia Leonardo da
Vinci (ALV Journal) 10 (1997), 117–24; reprinted in Claire J. Farago, ed., Leonardo da
Vinci: Selected Scholarship, 5 vols – vol. 5, Leonardo’s Science and Technology (New
York: Garland, 1999), 275–82.

Clark and Pedretti as “Heads of two different types of rushes” depicts the
flowering heads of two plants commonly found in marshy places (Fig. 8.4). The
text accompanying these pen-and-ink drawings distinguishes between the flowers
of two kinds of common rushes:

This is the flower of the fourth species of the rush and is the principal of the kind
because it may grow about three to four braccia high, and near the ground it is one finger
thick. It is of clean and simple roundness and beautifully green and its flowers are
somewhat fawn-coloured. Such a rush grows in marshes, etc. and the small flowers
which hang out of its seeds are yellow.
This is the flower of the third kind, that is, species of the rush, and its height is about
one braccio and its thickness is one third of a finger. But such thickness is triangular,
with equal angles, and the colour of the plant and the flowers is the same as in the rush

Leonardo’s descriptions address the host of details that a truly skilled painter,
striving “to imitate with [his] art every kind of natural form,” would need to know
for each kind of plant.45 How big is it – where will it fit into the composition?
Where does it grow, and when does it bloom – will its presence emphasize the
setting of the painting? What are its natural colors – how will they accord with
other colors planned for the painting?46 What are the proportions of the various
parts of the plant? What aspects of the plant’s form make it recognizable to the
eye? What sets it apart from similar plants?
Despite some points of overlap (size, color, habitat), this set of questions is
fundamentally different from those a contemporary physician or pharmacist
would have asked. In the extant observations of plants, Leonardo says nothing

44 Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 1, 321–2, R. 481: “Quesstossto [sic] e il fiore

della 4a delgiuncho e decquel chettiene il principato della loro alteza la quale ecciede la
lungheza dj 3 in 4 .br. ella grossezza dundjto nella nel suo nasscimento ede djpulita
essenplijcie. retondjta de dj bello colore verde ellj sua fiori participano dj colore leonjno .
e quessto tale giuncho nasscie ne padulj ecc ellj picholi fiori che pendano fori della sua
semenza sono giallj. Quessto e il fiore della 3a sorte overo spetie dj giunchi . ella sua alteza
e circha vno . br. [emezo] ella sua grosseza he vno terzo djdjto . malla detta grosseza e
trianghulare cone quali angholj e il cholore del giuncho e de fiori essimjle al giuncho dj
sopra.” Clark, Catalogue of Drawings, vol. 1, 68, RL 12427. Emboden, Leonardo da Vinci
on Plants, 148, identifies the first rush as Scirpus lacustri. Emboden and Clark repeat de
Toni’s typographical error in identifying the second rush as Cyperus sertonius [sic], that is,
C. serotinus. In “The Plant Illustrations of Leonardo da Vinci,” Burlington Magazine 121
(1979): 553–62, Brian Morley identifies it as Cyperus rotundus.
45 R. 506: “Adunque cosnosciendo tu pittore non potere esser bono se non sei
vniversale maestro d contrafare colla tua arte tutte le qualità delle forme che produce la
natura.” Leonardo on Painting, ed. Kemp, 202, n. 524, Paris, Manuscript A (2172, 2185),
(formerly Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS It. 2038), fol. 2 recto; also
transcribed in Leonardo, C. Urb., fol. 32r–v. Quoted by Kemp, “Leonardo and the Idea of
Naturalism,” 65.
46 Cf. Leonardo’s shortcut for “duplicating the true colors of leaves” by using a leaf
both as color swatch and palette, in C. Urb. 268r. Leonardo, Libro de pittura, Part Six, No.
981, 325.

8.4 Leonardo da Vinci. Two “rushes”: Scirpus (top) and Cyperus. Pen and ink
over traces of black chalk. Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, W. 12427.
ca. 1510–14. Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection © 2005, Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

about the roots of plants and nothing about smells or juices (except as ingredients
in artists’ materials or food); he ignores medicinal properties, times of gathering,
modes of preparation, and humoral qualities. He is also silent about the symbolic
or religious associations of the plants.
The art historian James S. Ackerman regards Leonardo’s two rushes as “the
first attempts to initiate a botanical taxonomy” with the “triangular section [of the
bottom drawing] graphically exaggerated as it would not be in one of the non-
scientific drawings.”47 Similarly, the botanist William Emboden takes the view
that Leonardo’s impulse “was to characterize plants in the manner of a botanist,
that is, to reveal their qualities to no specific end.”48 Even so, Leonardo’s notes and
drawings on this sheet omit major morphological features that a botanist would
have taken pains to set down: the form of the roots and fruit, the whole stalk, and

The Schoenberg Herbal and Nature Print

The “graphically exaggerated” detail of the triangular stem cross-section

unmistakably flags Leonardo’s second kind of “rush” as a member of the genus
Cyperus and quite distinct from the round-stemmed Scirpus in the upper drawing.
Leonardo’s description and drawing both highlight it so neatly that it is tempting
to credit him as the first person to notice this key character for distinguishing the
two groups in the field.
However, a late-fifteenth-century Italian artist – although not at all in
Leonardo’s league – seems to convey the distinctively angled stem through a
sharp contrast of bright green and dark green in a watercolor of Ciperj (Fig. 8.5).49
The artist’s standard technique is to outline stems, roots, and leaves in a narrow
gray-brown line, add a colored wash rather roughly, and then model stems and
roots with single confident brushstrokes of a darker tone or hue. For Ciperj, the
contrast is particularly crisp, as if the first light-green wash had been allowed time
to dry on the paper and the brush had then been heavily loaded with the dark green
pigment so as to lay down a very dark edge down the center of the stem. Indeed,
this watercolor portrays the characteristic tripartite structure of the whole plant
more forcefully than Leonardo’s drawing by showing six flower-heads, three
leaves, and three roots.
The manuscript (Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, MS
LJS 419, hereafter the Schoenberg herbal) in which the Ciperj watercolor appears
is a remarkable record of several generations of users augmenting their knowledge

47 James S. Ackerman, “The Involvement of Artists in Renaissance Science,” in Science

and the Arts in the Renaissance, ed. John W. Shirley and F. David Hoeniger (Washington,
DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1985), 110–1.
48 Emboden, Leonardo da Vinci on Plants, 148.
49 Schoenberg herbal, fol. 33 verso.

8.5 Ciperj (Cyperus). Erbario [Herbal containing 192 drawings of plants].

Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 419, fol.
33 verso. Late-fifteenth-century drawing. Photo courtesy of the Lawrence
J. Schoenberg Collection

of herbs.50 From the early fifteenth century well into the sixteenth, several hands
added new labels, text, watercolors of more plants, pen-and-ink embellishments,
corrections – and a nature print.
The manuscript started out as a set of about 70 brightly colored paintings of
plants on the rectos only. These illustrations – captioned with Italian names – are
outlined in ink, and highly stylized and strongly symmetrical. Many incorporate
patterns, faces, and fantastic animals that reflect the pictorial traditions of the
Pseudo-Apuleius herbal and alchemical herbals.51 The figure of angales is a good
example of these early-fifteenth-century images (Fig. 8.6).
Late in the fifteenth century, the bound manuscript of 100 folios was, in effect,
interleaved: watercolors of still more plants were painted on many of the versos
and on both sides of the folios previously left blank. At the same time, labels and
some herbal texts in Italian, written mostly in sepia ink, were added. In technique,
in descriptive detail, and choice of colors, these watercolor illustrations contrast
strongly with the Pseudo-Apuleius figures on the facing rectos, as the
juxtaposition of Ciperj (33 verso) and angales (34 recto) demonstrates (Fig. 8.5
and Fig. 8.6).
This second set of images includes several that are markedly more naturalistic
than the rest, even though the brushwork and colors in the artist’s palette look the
same throughout the “versos.” This subset gives the impression of reproducing
drawings done directly from living plants or from very good illustrations.52
The Schoenberg herbal ends with the nature print: a single leaf labeled Salvia
salvaticha, on the verso of the last folio (Fig. 8.7). A brief note in the same hand
as the label explains the process: “dal roverso acognoscerla | hoc modo: – est,” “It
is understood to be from the reverse [i.e. of the leaf]; in this fashion.”53 The hand
matches the late-fifteenth-century “verso” labels and herbal texts. The
crenate–dentate border and roughly triangular shape of the printed leaf
immediately set it apart from the simple elongated oval leaf of common sage,

50 I am grateful to Mr Schoenberg for putting digital scans of the entire manuscript on

line in association with the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image (SCETI),
University of Pennsylvania Libraries. I have relied heavily on the detailed description,
dating, and plant identifications in the catalogue record at the SCETI website: however, I
read: ciperj [i.e. cyperus] for its cipari, and angales [i.e. anagallis] for abgeles (fol. 34
recto, Fig. 8.6) and angeles (fol. 44 recto). The names “Refael Gomes” and “Semuel
[illegible]”–possibly of Spanish or Portuguese Converso origin–appear as a paste-down on
fol. 1 recto.
51 The Schoenberg herbal warrants close comparison with other contemporary herbals:
for example, Fermo, Biblioteca Comunale, Fondo manoscritti, codice n. 18, ed. Salvatore
Pezzella, Un erbario inedito (sec. XV) dell’ Italia centrale svela i segreti delle piante
medicinali (Perugia: Orior, 2000). Many figures in the first part of the Fermo manuscript
(including herba Angales, fol. 20 recto; color illustration, p. 79) are very similar to the
Schoenberg herbal’s opening rectos.
52 Examples of this group (identifications from catalogue record) include: fols 4 verso,
Paralesis (Primula vulgaris); 21 verso, Ciclamenes panporcini (Cyclamen neapolitanum);
24 verso, Peonia (Paeonia officinalis); 92 verso, Cauda equina (Equisetum arvense).
53 Schoenberg herbal, 99 verso, my translation.

8.6 Angales (anagallis, pimpernel). Erbario [Herbal containing 192 drawings

of plants]. Drawing. Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Schoenberg
Collection, MS LJS 419, fol. 34 recto. Early-fifteenth-century drawing.
Photo courtesy of the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection

8.7 Salvia salvaticha (clary, catnip?). Erbario [Herbal containing 192

drawings of plants]. Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Schoenberg
Collection, MS LJS 419, fol. 99 verso. Late-fifteenth-century nature print.
Photo courtesy of the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection

Salvia officinalis L., used in the nature prints of the Paris manuscript and Codex
It is possible to imagine the late-fifteenth-century annotator of the Schoenberg
herbal as an activist editor in the midst of revising and updating a standard
reference work: by increasing the number of entries, checking data, relying on
more sources, commissioning more and better pictures – and trying to decide
whether to incorporate a new eye-catching kind of image. That kind of activity
and the scientific curiosity it engendered, Cynthia Pyle has recently argued, was
the hallmark of the work of fifteenth-century Renaissance humanists in fields as
diverse as architecture, ancient history, and zoology.55 As William M. Ivins, Jr
observed, the prologue of the printed herbal, Gart der Gesundheit (Mainz: Peter
Schöffer, 1485) describes such an editorial process; he regarded its “handsome
and well-drawn illustrations” as “epoch-making in the history of prints as a
medium for the conveyance of information in invariant form.”56
However, only a subset of the Gart’s illustrations deserves Ivins’s praise; by
and large, the Gart’s illustrations do not live up to its Prologue’s claim to portray
the “true … form” of plants.57 Whether or not the Schoenberg herbal represents
such a concerted editorial plan (I am inclined to doubt it), it does suggest a way to
make sense of the inconsistencies evident in the illustrations of the Gart der
Gesundheit and many other medieval herbals. The printed herbal might be the
end-result of taking a composite manuscript like the Schoenberg herbal and
carefully reproducing all of its accumulated “upgrades” without benefit of the
critical methods being worked out by Renaissance humanists in the very same

54 Cf. Herbolario volgare (Venice: Alessandro de Bindoni, 1522), Cap. XX, fol. c iiii
recto, Salvia salvatica ouer Ambrosiana, ed. Erminio Caprotti and W. T. Stearn, Herbarium
Apulei/Herbolario volgare, 2 vols (Milan: Edizioni Il Polifilio), vol. 2. Stearn identified the
plant in the stylized woodcut as Salvia pratense L., salvia dei prati, meadow clary (Tavola,
p. xc–xci). Catnip, Nepeta cataria L., is another possibility. The catalogue record for the
Schoenberg herbal tentatively identifies two other plants as kinds of Salvia: fol. 10 verso:
Erba follo, “possibly Salvia sclarea, clary,” in a late rough pen sketch, and fol. 62 recto,
Salva [sic] stela overo Sanguisorbula (“Salvia horminum?”).
55 Cynthia Pyle, “The Renaissance Rediscovery of the Classical Approaches to the
World: Reflections on History and Science, Then and Now,” in Building the
Past/Konstruktion der eigenen Vergangenheit, ed. R. Suntrup and J. R. Veenstra, Medieval
to Early Modern Culture/Kultureller Wandel vom Mittelalter zur Frühen Neuzeit, 7
(Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2006), 3–31. See also my “Renaissance Humanism and
Botany,” Annals of Science 33 (1976): 519–42.
56 William M. Ivins, Jr, Prints and Visual Communication (Cambridge: MIT Press,
1953), 34–6. Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change:
Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe, 2 vols
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), vol. 1, 265–6.
57 Gart der Gesundheit [also known as Hortus sanitatis zu Deutsch and the German
Herbarius] (Mainz: Peter Schöffer, 1485), fol. a ii verso: “in irer rechten farwe und

Nature Prints ca. 1500: Assessing the Process

From even this small assemblage of nature prints and comments about them,
several quite different, albeit overlapping, motives for using the technique emerge
in the period between 1450 and 1550. At the very least, the nature prints in the
Codex Atlanticus, and in the Prague, Salzburg, Paris, and Schoenberg manuscripts
testify to the desire to record hands-on experience with the plants.
As collectors of “secrets,” Pacioli and Alessio Piemontese delighted in the
ingenuity of the technique itself; and the Schoenberg herbal’s comment may also
hint at greater interest in the process than in the image or in the plant itself. Pacioli,
Alessio Piemontese, and the artist of the Paris herbal also took pleasure in the
unexpectedly lifelike images obtained by nature printing and enhanced the
“counterfeit” effect by adding color, painting in stems and roots, and printing
leaves on walls. For the compilers of the Prague, Salzburg, Paris, and Schoenberg
manuscripts, and the Codex Atlanticus sheet, nature prints provided an alternative
or auxiliary to traditional drawings of medicinal plants. The maker of the
Schoenberg nature print may have seen it as an improvement on the hand-drawn
images in the manuscript.
The variety of motives is reflected in the variety of practitioners: this is a group
that cuts across the social divisions of late-fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century
Europe. Among the people whose names or positions can be linked to these nature
prints, we can count: a German physician/schoolmaster; two Germans with an
interest in medicine, magic, and astrology; two Italian owners of herbals; Melzi, a
young nobleman and artist with an interest in medicinal plants; Leonardo, the
artist/engineer with a deep curiosity about everything he saw; Fra Pacioli, the
merchant turned Franciscan and mathematician; and the courtly and bourgeois
wonder-loving audiences of Pacioli’s entertainments and Alessio Piemontese’s
book of secrets.
Part of nature printing’s appeal lay in its simplicity. Unlike other forms of plant
illustration, it required no special equipment, materials, intermediaries, or
assistants. The plant’s collector could be its illustrator, independently and directly
translating firsthand experience into a durable record. By contrast, to illustrate an
herbal with colored drawings of plants assumed the availability of at least one
person who knew the tedious procedures of grinding, mixing, and applying the
colors. As the famous trio of portraits at the end of Leonhart Fuchs’s De historia
stirpium (Basel: Michael Isingrin, 1542) reminds us, the naturalistic woodcuts of
plants in that herbal depended on the talents of three expert craftsmen, working
under the close supervision of the botanist–author, as well as the printer’s skills
and workshop (Fig. 9.1).58
Nature prints appealed to the eye in many of the same ways plants themselves

58 See Brigitte Baumann, Helmut Baumann and S. Baumann-Schleihauf, Die

Kräuterbuchhandschrift des Leonhart Fuchs (Stuttgart: Verlag Eugen Ulmer, 2001), esp.
chs 10–13. See also Claudia Swan’s comments in this volume Chapter 9.

did: through the decorative shapes, symmetries, and surface textures captured with
exquisite detail. Above all, the nature print carried an authority not shared by
drawings, woodcuts, or engravings. Like a seal stamped into wax, the nature print
authenticated itself. Although the word “counterfeit” had suffered connotations of
fraud and deceit for a century or more by the time Alessio Piemontese used it to
describe nature prints, in this context the counterfeit was the closest possible
representation of truth. It was a life-size map that faithfully captured idiosyncratic
details of the individual specimen. Only ink intervened between it and the real
For Leonardo, however, the print was an unsatisfactory representation of an
object in the world. Fond though he was of ingenious tricks, to him the Codex
Atlanticus print served primarily as a demonstration of an irritating flaw in the
process. Typically, having seen the problem, he immediately saw the solution:
print with white pigment onto a black background. Like so many of the drawings
in his notebooks, his improvement on the technique at once posed a “visual
hypothesis” and acted as a “graphic experiment.”59 But, even so, it was at best a
simple-minded model of one small aspect of the complex play of light and dark
on leaves that he detected, described, and strove to portray.60
As my reconstruction of the Codex Atlanticus sage leaf implies, I doubt that
Leonardo made the nature print. Apart from the evidence of the sheet itself, there
are good reasons to believe that Leonardo would have had strong reservations
about the value of nature printing as an effective method for portraying plants.
As a purely practical matter, he would have recognized drawbacks to nature
printing that went beyond the disconcerting reversal of lights and darks. Prints are
life-size, so the process does not work for very big or very small plants. Many
parts of plants (fruits, nuts, thick roots, delicate flowers) cannot be printed
effectively. Leaves by themselves have too few unambiguous characteristics to
make identification certain. All coloring is lost. Flattening the plant distorts or
destroys the distinctive “drape” of a living plant – so hard to describe in words, so
hard to capture in lines, yet so essential to a naturalistic portrayal.61 At best, only
a few prints can be made from a single specimen. The generically important
features of the plant risk being overwhelmed by the features peculiar to the
individual specimen.
If Leonardo even momentarily considered using nature printing to illustrate his

59 For “visual hypothesis,” see Kim H. Veltman, with Kenneth D. Keele, Linear
Perspective and the Visual Dimensions of Science and Art (Munich: Deutscher
Kunstverlag, 1986), chs 2 and 4, esp. 226. For “graphic experiment,” see Martin Kemp,
Leonardo (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 50, 172.
60 For examples and analysis of Leonardo’s use of light and shade, see Veltman and
Keele, Linear Perspective, 344–5; figs 19.1, 2; 20.1–5; 21.1–5.
61 On the importance of both real and metaphorical flattening of reality to the
development of modern scientific culture, see Bruno Latour, “Drawing Things Together,”
in Scientific Practice, ed. Michael Lynch and Steve Woolgar (Cambridge: MIT Press,
1990), 19–68, esp. 39–58.

treatise on plants, any one of these inconveniences would have ruled out the
notion immediately.

Leonardo and Printing

At a deeper level, the deficiencies of nature prints would have reinforced

Leonardo’s own ambivalence about the new technology of printing.62 Leonardo
had no objection to printed books in general. His reminders to himself show how
energetically he sought out books, no matter whether they were manuscript or
print, no matter who owned them. As Monica Azzolini’s essay in this volume
notes (Chapter 6), his connections in the Milanese medical community can be
tracked through his lists of books he wanted to see (including a “fine herbal,” bello
erbolaro, owned by Master Giuliano da Marliani).63 Indeed, his quick reminders
to himself about who owned a particular title also show that both he and the book-
owners took it for granted that books were community property. Most of the
authors and titles on Leonardo’s booklists were available in print, often in several
editions. Reti and others have assumed that the erbolaio grande that Leonardo
listed among his books ca. 1503–4 was a printed herbal and offer the 1491 Italian
herbal, the Tractatus de uirtutibus herbarum [Herbarius latinus], as one
possibility.64 It would not have taken much Latin to read that herbal’s confirmation
of what he already knew: “Ciperus … is a triangular herb” (Fig. 8.8).65
Leonardo’s disdain for the multiple casts produced by sculptors and the replication
of printed books is famous. By producing “infinite offspring” through copying, such
works sacrificed the nobility that belonged to the unique and irreproducible original
(in this he shows his bias as a painter).66 Nonetheless, it is also clear that he wanted
his own treatises to be printed. As a tangible sign of this intention, he calculated the
total number of characters in a book of 160 pages (50 letters per line, 52 lines per
page) – the indispensable preliminary to estimating typesetting costs.67

62 Zwijnenberg, Writings and Drawings, ch. 4.

63 R. 1386; Pedretti, Richter Commentary, vol. 2, 328, R. 1386. Monica Azzolini,
“Leonardo da Vinci’s Anatomical Studies in Milan: A Re-examination of Sites and
Sources,” 170–3.
64 Ladislao Reti, “The Two Unpublished Manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci in the
Biblioteca Nacional of Madrid – II,” Burlington Magazine 110 (1968): 81–9, esp. 82, item
15; and Carlo Maccagni, “Leonardo’s List of Books,” Burlington Magazine 110 (1968):
406 + 409–10, item 15. Reti and Maccagni are perhaps too quick to assume that the
erbolaio grande mentioned in Leonardo’s booklist (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 8936,
Codex Madrid II, fol. 2 verso) was a printed herbal. As far as I can determine, all the
illustrated herbals that had been printed in Italy as of 1503–4 were octavos.
65 Tractatus de uirtutibus herbarum (Vicenza: Leonardus (Achates) de Basilea and
Gulielmus de Papia, 1491), C. XLIII.
66 Leonardo on Painting, ed. Kemp, 19; Leonardo, C. Urb. 2v–3v.
67 Carlo Pedretti, “L’arte della stampa in Leonardo da Vinci,” esp. 111–12, citing
Leonardo, C.A., 259v–a in the former foliation. As an editor at scholarly presses, I recall
doing such calculations by hand well into the 1980s.

8.8 Ciperus (Cyperus). Tractatus de uirtutibus herbarum [Herbarius Latinus].

Vicenza: Leonardus (Achates) de Basilea and Gulielmus de Papia, 1491,
C. XLIII. Photo courtesy of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

While Leonardo’s most formally composed pages of clearly written, carefully

aligned columnar blocks of text and drawings – like the sheet of two rushes – seem
to represent layouts for a printed book, it also is likely that Leonardo envisioned
them as printed from full-page engraved plates rather than from type and
woodblocks.68 We have independent contemporary testimony for his plans for
publishing his anatomical drawings as copperplate engravings.69 Although printers
were better prepared to deal with Leonardo’s right-to-left script than most people,
the potential for confusion was great. If Tractatus de uirtutibus herbarum, with its
simple layout, could be published with an upside-down woodcut (see Cicorea,
Fig. 8.9), who knew what disasters awaited Leonardo’s intricate combination of
words and pictures? But, for writing directly onto the metal plate, Leonardo’s
mirror-writing would have been ideal.
On the sheet of two rushes, the top drawing of Scirpus could have translated
easily into a rectangular woodcut with only a minor distortion of the lowest head
of flowers. But not so the drawing of Cyperus. The exuberant sweep of its leaf up
from the stem and arching over the words breaks into the space that would have
been reserved for type. Conceived as a graphic and intellectual whole, the page
was impossible to translate into print except as a single, large engraving.
Leonardo did not oppose woodcuts on principle: his stunning diagrams for
Pacioli’s books and for his own mysterious Achademia were created with
woodcuts in mind. However, these were images of solid geometry and elaborate
knots; for highly skilled craftsmen, the tasks of transferring their straight lines and
symmetric curves to the block and cutting them would have been challenging but
straightforward. When it came to plants or anatomy, though, Leonardo could only
have had scorn for the woodcut illustrations he saw in contemporary printed
books. Woodcuts could not begin to express the subtlety of his drawings or the
acuity of his observations: the Ciperus woodcut in Tractatus de uirtutibus
herbarum did not even show the triangularity remarked upon in the text (Fig. 8.8).
His passionate opposition to printing his anatomical illustrations as woodcuts
(even though woodcuts would be cheaper than engravings) applied equally well
to botany.70 What painters needed to know about plants, woodcuts could not show.
A short passage in the Codex Madrid II (Madrid, Biblioteca National, M 8936,
fol. 119 recto, ca. 1504) indicates that Leonardo had devised a method of
engraving that would wed the advantages of the woodcut and the engraving.71 The

68 Zwijnenberg, Writings and Drawings, 85.

69 Paolo Giovio, Leonardi Vincii Vita, first published in Tiraboschi, Storia della
Letteratura Italiana (Venice, 1796), vol. 7, 16412. See Azzolini, “Leonardo da Vinci’s
Anatomical Studies in Milan,” 155, n. 26.
70 On a sheet at the Royal Library, Windsor W. 19007v, Leonardo explicitly rejects
woodcuts as the medium for publishing his anatomical work. Pedretti, Richter
Commentary, vol. 2, 94. Martin Clayton, Leonardo da Vinci – The Anatomy of Man,
Drawings from the Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Houston: Museum of
Fine Arts, 1992), 22, 84 (cat. 13A, RL 19007 verso).
71 Ladislao Reti, The Madrid Codices, 5 vols (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974), vol. 2,

8.9 Cicorea (chicory). Woodcut [printed upside down]. Tractatus de uirtutibus

herbarum [Herbarius Latinus]. Vicenza: Leonardus (Achates) de Basilea
and Gulielmus de Papia, 1491, C. XXXII. Photo courtesy of the College
of Physicians of Philadelphia

process allowed him to write and draw directly onto the coated surface of the
metal plate and then, through a tricky series of resists, to protect those lines while
etching away everything else. The relief engravings could then (like woodblocks)
be printed together with typeset text using an ordinary printing press. He may have
had some relief engravings printed, but in practice this ingenious technique did not
enable him to publish the long series of treatises he had in mind.72
What is accomplished by adding nature prints to the assortment of plant images
generated in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries? They were at best a
minor form of illustration; and by themselves, nature prints cannot explain the gulf
between Leonardo’s Cyperus and the images of the same plant in the Schoenberg
herbal and Tractatus de uirtutibus herbarum. They can, however, make us look
more closely at the criterion by which those differences are chiefly judged: fidelity
to nature. What, after all, could imitate nature more faithfully than a nature print?
Without recourse to the tools of geometry and perspective, these carbon copies
reproduced the exact size, shape, and proportion of the natural objects they
Yet, even within this tiny sample of makers and users of nature prints, there is
no single standard of fidelity to nature. For Pacioli and Alessio Piemontese, all
that the prints lacked was a wash of verdigris to make them “seeme naturall.” Of
the two physicians using nature prints in their medical miscellanies, Brack was not
bothered by the sloppiness of his own technique, but he could not be happy until
he had sketched in stems, roots, and flowers. The maker of the Salzburg collection
arranged and inked the leaves with great care, but did not worry that the prints
represented only fragments of the whole plant. To the maker of the Paris album,
the appearance of nature depended as much on the gray-green coloring and the
disposition of the entire sage plant on the page as on the shapes and textures of
individual leaf prints. To the late-fifteenth-century annotator of the Schoenberg
herbal, the convenience of having as much information, old or new, as possible in
one book seems to have outweighed any desire for visual consistency. This range
of contexts for nature prints should warn us to set aside our preconceptions about
any kind of plant illustration – either about its usefulness or about its faithfulness
to the thing portrayed. For any given image, we have always to ask: utility to
whom? Fidelity to what end?
That leaves the Codex Atlanticus nature print. Melzi’s Latin passages put

facsim, fol. 119 recto; vol. 3, comm. Reti, ed., The Unknown Leonardo (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1974), 272.
72 Since the discovery of Leonardo’s passage about relief engraving (see note 71), two
engravings (long thought to be drawings) of horse heads in the Windsor collection, RL
12287–88, have been taken as examples. See, e.g., Martin Clayton, Leonardo da Vinci, The
Anatomy of Man, 22. In a personal communication about these images (24 March 2005),
Clayton was more cautious, feeling that the evidence from the page itself for relief
engraving, as opposed to intaglio, was by no means clear. Clelia Alberici, Leonardo e
l’incisione: Stampe derivate da Leonardo e Bramante dal XV al XIX secolo (Milan: Electa,
1984), 15–27.

Salvia in the familiar context of a large illustrated manuscript herbal. Yet

Leonardo ignores all that. His eye goes straight to “the parts in relief.” It is the
impossibility of the nature print imitating the natural highlights and shadows of an
upturned leaf that captures his attention. For us, this singular response should be
a reminder that, whenever we discuss Leonardo as a scientist, we must accept that
his first instincts are those of the artist.


“Bad,” malae – that is what the great eighteenth-century botanist Carolus

Linnaeus had to say about the woodcuts in the 1485 Gart der Gesundheit.73 Gill
Saunders tempers the language but speaks for three centuries of historians of art
and science in regarding the schematized images in manuscript and early printed
herbals ca. 1500 as “crude, generalized to the point of inaccuracy, decorative
qualities … emphasized over specifics of identity.”74 Such herbal illustrations and
their publishers’ seeming lack of concern for fidelity to nature suggest a further
point of comparison for the nature prints described here.
Anyone studying the images of plants in circulation in this period must be
struck by the range of visual solutions to the problem of how to picture plants –
from seemingly unidentifiable plants in the Gart der Gesundheit to the elegant
flower-strewn borders of Books of Hours, from the Schoenberg herbal’s Ciperj to
Leonardo’s beautiful “third kind … of rush”; from the Salzburg manuscript’s
nature prints to the Codex Atlanticus sage leaf print.75 If we are ever to have a full
account of the intersections of art, science, and medicine at the end of the Middle
Ages, then we must continue to ask why all these very different ways of
illustrating plants found takers.

73 Carolus Linnaeus, Philosophia Botanica (1751; reprint, London: Wheldon and

Wesley, 1966), 6, refers to the Gart der Gesundheit as “Cuba,” that is, the herbal ascribed
to Johann von Cube. See note 57.
74 Saunders, Picturing Plants, 18. Historians of botany agree that the systematic use of
naturalistic woodcut illustrations of plants commences with Otto Brunfels, Herbarum vivae
eicones (Strassburg: Joannes Schott, 1530).
75 See: James S. Ackerman, “Early Renaissance ‘Naturalism’ and Scientific
Illustration,” in his Distance Points: Essays in Theory and Renaissance Art and
Architecture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 185–207; Agnes Arber, Herbals, Their Origin
and Evolution: A Chapter in the History of Botany, 1470–1670, 3rd rev. edn, with intro. and
annot. by William T. Stearn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986; 1st edn 1912);
Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change; Celia Fisher, “The Development of
Flower Borders in Ghent–Bruges Manuscripts 1470–1490” (Ph.D. dissertation, University
of London, 1996); Jean A. Givens, Observation and Image-Making in Gothic Art
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Saunders, Picturing Plants; George
Sarton, Appreciation of Ancient and Medieval Science during the Renaissance (1450–1600)
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1955); Sarton, Six Wings (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1957), and Claudia Swan’s essay in this volume: “The Uses of
Realism in Early Modern Illustrated Botany” (Chapter 9).
Chapter 9

The Uses of Realism in Early Modern

Illustrated Botany
Claudia Swan

By way of providing an epilogue – both chronological and thematic – to this

volume, this essay tackles a single, deceptively simple question: why were early-
modern botanical treatises illustrated? This issue has been touched upon by
several of the chapters here, and the question in turn exposes larger issues related
to the products and processes that the editors of this volume call “visualizing
medicine and natural history.”
One of the hallmark features of early modern botanical culture is the
widespread production of copiously illustrated publications. The period that
stretches from the last decades of the fifteenth century and the introduction of the
movable-type press through to the middle of the seventeenth century was, in
northern and southern Europe alike, an era of illustrated natural history. Some of
its most familiar products are encyclopedic herbals—botanical publications laden
with pictures, generally in the form of woodcuts, among them, for example, the
ones in the Herbarius latinus and the Grete Herball pictured in this volume (Fig.
8.8, Fig. 8.9, and Fig. 5.8) and, later, engravings. Various historical narratives have
been developed to account for these pictorial encyclopedias. What is less
frequently asked – or explained – is why these publications were illustrated in the
first place.
Art history and the history of science have both, and in some cases together,
called attention to the profusion of herbals replete with staggering numbers of
illustrations – often in the hundreds. The early modern era has come to be
synonymous with the “Botanical Renaissance,” whose chronology and paternity
have been well charted.1 The prologue to the “Botanical Renaissance” dates to the
end of the fifteenth century, when a number of printed and illustrated works took
over from manuscript production; by the early sixteenth century the so-called

1 See, inter alia, Agnes Arber, Herbals, Their Origin and Evolution, A Chapter in the
History of Botany, 1470–1670, 3rd rev. edn, with intro. and annot. by William T. Stearn
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986; 1st edn 1912); William T. Stearn, The Art
of Botanical Illustration, An Illustrated History (New York: Antiquarian Society, 1994; 1st
edn 1950); and David Landau and Peter Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470–1550 (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), esp. “Printed Herbals and Descriptive Botany,”


“German Fathers of Botany” began producing printed herbals. Publications

authored by Otto Brunfels, Hieronymus Bock, and Leonhart Fuchs introduced a
new mode of botanical study characterized most markedly by its occasionally
defiant relation to classical authority and by an amplified naturalism in the
illustrations for which their books are renowned. After mid-century, the lineage
moved west and the three “Fathers of Netherlandish Botany”—Rembertus
Dodonaeus, Carolus Clusius, and Matthias Lobelius—assumed the mantle of what
by 1600 was a fully fledged tradition of illustrated botany.
To a significant degree, the “fathers of early modern botany” themselves
provided the cues according to which they have come to be studied and celebrated.
Consider the example of Leonhart Fuchs and the impact his own self-presentation
has had on accounts of his efforts. Fuchs published The History of Plants (De
historia stirpium) in 1542, and the following year a German edition – the New
Kreüterbuch – was brought out.2 In the first edition, Fuchs proudly announced to
his readers by way of a lengthy descriptive title that his book comprised
“Remarkable Commentaries on the History of Plants, produced at great expense
and with utmost vigilance, to which are added more than five hundred lifelike
images of plants, expressed as never before, imitated from the life and very
artfully rendered.” The title of the 1543 German edition also calls attention to its
illustrations: it reads, “New Herbal, in which not only the entire history, which is
to say the names, form, location, and schedule of growth, nature, power, and effect
of the better part of the plants that grow in Germany and in other lands is described
with the utmost effort, but also the roots, stalks, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, and
in summa the entire gestalt of all of these is specifically and artfully represented
and portrayed as well – such as has never before been seen or brought to light.”3
Many authors have followed Fuchs’s lead and estimated the value of such
herbals on the basis of the scope of their descriptions, both verbal and pictorial, of
the plant world. The Latin edition of Fuchs’s herbal comprised 896 pages and 512
woodcuts; while the German edition is less bulky – at 680 pages – it contains six
additional illustrations, for a total of 518 woodcuts. Both editions also, quite
famously, at least within the history of botanical illustration, contain four portraits:
of Leonhart Fuchs himself and of the three artists who produced the woodcuts

2 For Fuchs and his publications, see Frederick G. Meyer, Emily Emmart Trueblood,
and John L. Heller, eds, The Great Herbal of Leonhart Fuchs: De historia stirpium
commentarii insignes, 1542 (Notable Commentaries on the History of Plants), 2 vols
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), and Brigitte Baumann, Helmut Baumann, and
S. Baumann-Schleihauf, Die Kräuterbuchhandschrift des Leonhart Fuchs (Stuttgart:
Verlag Eugen Ulmer, 2001).
3 The title page reads: “New Kreüterbuch/ in welchem nit allein die gantz histori/ das
ist/ na men gestalt/ statt und zeit der wachsung/ natur/ krafft und würckung/ des meysten
theyls der Kreüter so in Teütschen unnd andern Landen wachsen … .” Fuchs’s personal
copy of New Kreüterbuch (today in the Municipal Library of Ulm) is reproduced in
Leonhart Fuchs, The New Herbal of 1543 (Cologne: Taschen, 2001).

(Fig. 9.1).4 Here too, scholars have tended to follow Fuchs’s lead and to study, or
at least cite, these portraits as Fuchs’s means of underscoring the importance of
the illustrations and honoring the skills of the craftsmen who produced them
(Füllmaurer the draftsman; Meyer the craftsman responsible for transferring the
forms of the drawing to a woodblock; and the blockcutter, Speckle).5 These three
men, busy forever in the service of the flowers preserved in the vase before them,
are representative of the professionalization of image production and, also, of the
division of labor according to which scientific efforts were authored by medical
professionals such as Fuchs and illustrated by artisans such as these three men. (A
separate, full-length portrait of Fuchs holding a botanical specimen also graced
these volumes.)
Such pictures and the tradition of their production are often discussed in light
of concerns about the epistemological and aesthetic divide between science and
art. But, as Sachiko Kusukawa has suggested, this offers a relatively limited
interpretive horizon.6 Scholars have tended to judge images and text separately.
Thus they generally conclude that – in keeping with broader art historical
developments – the images over the course of time shed the schematism
characteristic of the late-fifteenth-century woodcuts and manifest an increasing
naturalism and accuracy, while at the same time the texts are a mire (from the
perspective of Linnaean botany) of names and properties. In other words, the
images are judged according to the criteria of the fine arts and ranked by degrees
of naturalism (which is generally found to increase over time) while the texts are
viewed as scientific documents lacking in taxonomic drive. This disjunction
between the modernity – the naturalism – of the pictures and the archaism,
or conventionality, of the texts informs numerous accounts of early modern
illustrated botany.7 Texts such as Fuchs’s do not instantiate a systematic taxonomy;

4 In the Historia stirpium of 1542, Fuchs’s portrait “at the age of 42” is on the reverse
of the title page, and the illustrators are pictured at the end of the volume on the last leaf
following leaf 895. Both are reproduced in Meyer, Trueblood, and Heller, eds., De historia
stirpium, vol. 2, along with the colored plate in the New Kreüterbuch, pl. 1.
5 See Landau and Parshall, Renaissance Print, 253–5. James Ackerman suggests that
Fuchs “allowed or encouraged” the three illustrators to include their self-portraits “in
compensation” for restraining “the urge … to express themselves at the cost of accuracy”;
see his 1985 article, “Early Renaissance ‘Naturalism’ and Scientific Illustration,” 200,
reprinted in his Distance Points: Essays in Theory and Renaissance Art and Architecture
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 185–207. On the division of labor, see the essay by Karen
Reeds in this volume: “Leonardo da Vinci and Botanical Illustration: Nature Prints,
Drawings, and Woodcuts ca. 1500,” Chapter 8.
6 Sachiko Kusukawa, “Illustrating Nature,” in Marina Frasca-Spada and Nick Jardine,
eds, Books and the Sciences in History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000),
7 See, for example, Frank Anderson, An Illustrated History of the Herbals (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1977) 121–9, on Brunfels’s herbal. For a very frequently cited
argument based on the relative naturalism of medieval herbal illustrations as an indication
of scientific knowledge, see Charles Singer, “The Herbal in Antiquity and its Transmission
to Later Ages,” in Journal of Hellenic Studies 47 (1927): 1–52; and Otto Pächt, “Early

9.1 Self-portraits of the artists, Heinricus Füllmaurer and Albertus Meyer, and
of the blockcutter, Vitus Rodolph Speckle. Leonhart Fuchs, De historia
stirpium. Basel: Michael Isingrin, 1542 [897]. Photo courtesy of Octavo

Fuchs used the alphabet to arrange the contents of his herbals. To follow Fuchs’s
lead, however, and emphasize the production and presence of images in early
modern botanical publications may obscure an important point – a complicated
point, to be sure, and a point I can hardly hope to exhaust. That point is that these
treatises were illustrated in the first place.
That early modern botany was illustrated, and amply so, is generally taken to
be self-evident. Within the discipline of art history, a fairly consistent argument
has been made since Panofsky that “the rise of those particular branches of natural
science which may be called observational or descriptive – zoology, botany,
paleontology, several aspects of physics and, first and foremost, anatomy – was …
directly predicated upon the rise of the representational techniques … .”8 Later
authors, James Ackerman and Martin Kemp especially, have tendered subtle
analyses of the relations between artistic naturalism and scientific empiricism
according to which art enabled or assisted scientific discovery.9 The central line of
argument in such accounts holds that early modern botany benefited from
Renaissance techniques of and interest in naturalism. Another approach to this is
offered by, for example, William Ivins, who argued famously that print technology
buttressed scientific progress precisely because printed images are multiple and
identical. Multiple and identical pictures were disseminated, gathered, compared
– in ways that amounted to scientific disciplines. According to Ivins, virtually all
modern science and technology relies on the assumption that printed pictures,
maps, diagrams, and other images are “exactly repeatable.”10 So while Panofsky,
Ackerman, and Kemp, for example, tend to view early modern botanical
illustration as a close cousin of developments in the fine arts, Ivins offers a more
epistemologically and socially grounded model of how such pictures helped to
manufacture science.
But is it self-evident that early modern natural history – and botany in
particular – had to be illustrated? Why did the fathers of early modern botany go

Italian Nature Studies and the Early Calendar Landscape,” in Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes 13 (1950): 13–47. For a recent account of verbal and visual description
of plants, see Jean A. Givens, Observation and Image-Making in Gothic Art (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005), 82–105.
8 Erwin Panofsky, “Artist, Scientist, Genius: Notes on the Renaissance-Dämmerung,”
in The Renaissance: Six Essays by Wallace K. Ferguson [and others], rev. edn (New York:
Harper, 1962), 140.
9 See, for example, James Ackerman, “Early Renaissance ‘Naturalism’ and Scientific
Illustration,” and Martin Kemp, “‘The Mark of Truth’: Looking and Learning in Some
Anatomical Illustrations from the Renaissance and Eighteenth Century,” in W. F. Bynum
and Roy Porter, eds, Medicine and the Five Senses (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1993), 85–121.
10 William M. Ivins, Jr, Prints and Visual Communication (1953; reprint, Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1969), 3. Without prints, Ivins writes, “we should have very few of our modern
sciences, technologies, archaeologies, or ethnologies – for all of these are dependent, first
or last, upon information conveyed by exactly repeatable visual or pictorial statements.” Cf.
the section, “Printed Herbals and Descriptive Botany,” in Landau and Parshall,
Renaissance Print, 245–9.

to such lengths and expense to illustrate their published works? One way to
account for the centrality of images to these efforts is to emphasize their value to
users, that is, to give a functional account of these works. Where more-or-less
naturalistic images of plants were available, they closed the gap between textual
knowledge of nature and the experience of it. This functional account could be
applied to sixteenth-century botany in the following way: the century opens with
a few illustrated herbals available to readers: the Herbarius latinus of 1484 and
later editions; the Hortus sanitatis (Gart der Gesundheit) of 1485; and the
volumes printed in Kuilenberg in 1483, Louvain in 1484, and in Antwerp in 1500
and 1511 that are known as the Herbarius in Dyetsch, for example; within four
decades, Otto Brunfels’s and Leonhart Fuchs’s herbals appear. The difference
between the books produced in the 1480s and the 1530s is most readily evident in
the nature of the illustrations: as Fuchs’s titles imply, attention to morphological
detail becomes emphatic.
As scholars are quick to point out, and as I have already mentioned, the texts
lag behind the images at this stage insofar as they tend to depend on classical
authority rather than striking out and proposing new modes of describing the plant
world. They tend, that is, to repeat the qualities of plants long familiar to students
of Dioscorides, Galen, Theophrastus, and Pliny – the “classical Fathers of medical
botany.”11 To some extent, the lag here between text and image is a function of the
disciplinary rubric under which botany was studied: medicine. Medical
knowledge and practice tended, in the early sixteenth century especially, to lean
on classical precedent. Many of the plants described by Fuchs are analyzed in
relation to the Galenic conception of the humors. At the same time, however, the
actual practice of studying medicine came to depend increasingly on empirical
evidence, on eyewitness and firsthand experience of the natural world. As a
renowned doctor and a professor of medicine, Fuchs would have been keenly
aware of the shifts his discipline was undergoing.12
Karen Meier Reeds and Andrew Cunningham, writing about early modern
botany and anatomy, respectively, each describe the subtle interplay between the
humanist culture devoted to the revival of classical texts in the sixteenth century
and the new practices of observation and demonstration.13 In the realm of anatomy,
Andreas Vesalius represents the critical shift in mode of instruction. Formerly, it
had involved a triangulated practice, where a professor (who presided ex
cathedra), a demonstrator, and an ostensor together – or separately, really –
performed anatomical dissections; in Vesalius’s hands, these various functions

11 On this point, see Karen Meier Reeds, “Renaissance Humanism and Botany,” Annals
of Science 33 (1976): 519–42, reprinted in her Botany in Medieval and Renaissance
Universities (New York: Garland, 1991).
12 For a brief chronology of Fuchs’s career, see Arber, Herbals, 4.
13 Karen Meier Reeds, Botany in Medieval and Renaissance Universities, and Andrew
Cunningham, The Anatomical Renaissance: The Resurrection of the Anatomical Projects
of the Ancients (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1997).

were carried out by the demonstrator/anatomist alone. Teaching became a function

of observation. Similarly, botanical study came to involve direct and sensory study
of its objects. Simples (the makings of medicines) were gathered for and by
professors of medicine and their students, and were cultivated in the gardens
newly attached to universities; the plants and their properties were demonstrated
in the course of lectures. Given the new emphasis on direct sensory observation
(autopsia), the ample illustrations that figure in so many botanical and, indeed,
anatomical, publications in the early modern period could well be explained as the
result and the means of new functional demands within their respective
disciplines. Early modern illustrated botany could, that is, be said to respond to a
new interest in the visually apprehensible, to the immediately present forms of the
subjects of study.
This functional model – presented here very schematically indeed – works well
to explain a frequently overlooked by-product of early modern illustrated botany,
the field guide edition. Several great herbals originally published in folio format
– by Fuchs, Pierandreas Mattiolus, and the late-sixteenth-century Netherlandish
authors, for example – were also issued in reduced format.14 These editions feature
the images even more prominently than in the “originals” from which they are
derived: the woodcuts are accompanied by minimal identifying text, and the size
of the volumes would have permitted students of the plant world to carry them
outdoors when “botanizing,” or wandering around the fields.
Although historical accounts of early modern botany have favored treatises that
are illustrated, Euricius Cordus’s Botanologicon, a treatise that was not illustrated,
provides insight into the question of why such texts often were. Published in
Cologne in 1534, Cordus’s Botanologicon is a lovely and largely ignored source
of incisive commentary on how medical botany was practiced and what was at
stake in its practice. Much of the text is a description of a botanical expedition and
describes individual study of plants and the particular form of attention “good
botany” should cultivate. Throughout the text, Cordus is viciously critical both of
arrogant medical doctors and of unlearned medical practitioners. In addition, the
Botanologicon contains a number of references – both explicit and implicit – to
the role of images in the practice of botany.15 Cordus’s text is composed as a
colloquy between the author and four fellow medical students. It is distinct in
structure and voice from Brunfels, Fuchs et al., but it was produced in their
immediate context and addresses their projects both by name and in subtler ways
as well.
The colloquy begins at Cordus’s home and, after some general discussion, the

14 For the long reach, geographically and chronologically, of Fuchs in smaller formats,
see the bibliography in Meyer, Trueblood, and Heller, eds., Great Herbal of Leonhart
Fuchs. For later herbals in smaller formats, see Arber, Herbals, chs 4 and 7. See also note
2, above, for more recent bibliography.
15 Peter Dilg, Das Botanologicon des Euricius Cordus; ein Beitrag zur botanischen
Literatur des Humanismus (Marburg: Erich Mauersberger, 1969).

team of friends sets out to “botanize.” Cordus encourages them outdoors, noting
that he

will follow my usual practice, just as if none of you were here, and take along a book
or two. I take great pleasure in going into the countryside, and in comparing all sorts of
herbs and plants that grow in various locales and about which I have read at home, with
the images stored in my memory and observing them; and sometimes I am able to ask
their properties or their names from the old wives I meet along the way. On this basis –
after comparing all of them with their descriptions – I am the better able to judge them
clearly and come to as accurate a conclusion as possible about them.16

“Botanizing” or “herborizing” – was crucial for sixteenth-century naturalists. It

came to be practiced in botanical gardens and in the presence of herbaria (dried
collections of plants) as well. At its heart lay the autoptic experience of nature, and
the process of learning it by collating one’s experience with one’s prior knowledge
– and images – of the plants at hand. Cordus offers one account of the techniques.
In this case, the books he refers to would likely have been versions of classical
texts on the plant world; these texts were juxtaposed with fresh herbs, images of
plants, and information gleaned from those who plied their trade in the woods and
fields (herb women, shepherds and so on). By assimilating and processing this
information, the assiduous botanist worked to identify the specimens he
The ends of such identification were first and foremost medical, which is to say
pharmaceutical. One needed, in his view as in the views of many of his
contemporaries, to know the makings of medicine in order to practice it. Cordus
is not alone in railing against apothecaries – in some cases the critique is directed
at doctors – who, quite literally, do not know their stuff.18 In the pursuit of
knowledge of the natural world and the ability to distinguish its elements and their
properties, images such as were featured in so many publications of the time
would have played a crucial role, to which Cordus alludes. Indeed, Cordus and his
friends take along a “Dioscorides minor” and two volumes of Brunfels – which
must be the first two volumes of Otto Brunfels’s Herbarum vivae eicones,
published in Strasbourg in 1530–36.19

16 Cordus 1534, 26–7; adapted from Dilg, Das Botanologicon, 147; cf. Edward Lee
Greene, Landmarks of Botanical History, 2 vols (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1983), vol. 1, 366–7.
17 For further discussion of learning botany from books and botanizing, see Reeds,
Botany in Medieval and Renaissance Universities, especially ch. 4.
18 Euricius Cordus’s son, Valerius, may have provided a model of a medical student for
the colloquy. A precocious botanist who died tragically young, Valerius used the new
botanical learning to produce the first official city pharmacopoeia: Nuremberg’s
Pharmacorum … Dispensatorium (1546). See Arber, Herbals, 75–6.
19 Brunfels, Herbarum vivae eicones ad naturae imitationem, summa cum diligentia et
artificio effigiatae, ana cum effectibus earundem, in gratiam veteris illius, & jamjam renascentis
herbariae medicinae. Quibus adjecta ad calcem, Appendix isagogica de usu & administratione
simplicium (Strassburg: Joannes Schott, 1532–36), 3 vols sometimes bound as one.

Cordus’s description provides yet another way of accounting for the vast
numbers of pictures in early modern botanical publications and early modern
botany in general. Alongside the functional explanation for why this science was
illustrated in the first place, we might consider a cognitive explanation. Cordus
refers to actual illustrated books in his description of botanizing; but he also
speaks of images stored mnemonically and refers to their role in the process of
identification. He says, “I take great pleasure in going into the countryside, and in
comparing all sorts of herbs and plants that grow in various locales and about
which I have read at home, with the images stored in my memory … .”20 Reading
Cordus closely, it becomes clear that the cognitive dimensions of early modern
natural history and of empiricism were evident even to its practitioners.
The role of images within cognition, as construed by Aristotle and his
scholastic followers in particular, may well have informed the use of images in
early modern botany. In a recent article on the Spanish chronicler Gonzalo
Fernández Oviedo’s travels to the New World and the rhetorical structure of his
accounts thereof, art historian Jesus Carrillo has called attention to the role of
metaphorical imagery and of actual printed images in early modern natural
history. The author of such illustrated accounts as the Historia General y Natural
de las Indias (1535–49) mediates, Carrillo argues, the reader’s cognition of what
is described by presenting, in text and image, the particulars that fuel Aristotelian
cognition. That is, according to Aristotelian theories of how the thinking mind
operates, nothing can be understood unless presented to the mind as an image.
These images, which enable cognition, are built of the particulars of sense
impression. This is not the place to provide a detailed account; suffice to say that
well into the early modern period, natural historians, artists, poets, and others
held, as Aristotle had put it, that “the soul never thinks without an image
(phantasm).”21 Such images, which were food for the internal senses of
intellection, cognition, judgment, and memory, were processed out of the data
received by the external senses. As Carrillo points out, the rhetorical dependence
on close description of particulars, especially by way of images, corresponds well
to the notion that the internal senses, indeed the whole process of cognition,
remained dependent on a “sustained relationship with the phenomenal world …
the kind of knowledge they provided required continuous experience and the
participation of memory.”22 When Cordus speaks of images stored in his memory
and illustrated texts, both of which he adduces during the process of experiencing
and identifying new plants, he is effectively working both ends of the Aristotelian
stick. The mediation of cognition by way of images – images filtered out of
sensory data, for the purposes of cognition (Aristotle’s “phantasms”) – offers, I

20 Dilg, Botanologicon, 147.

21 Aristotle, De anima, 3.7, in Jonathan Barnes, ed., The Complete Works of Aristotle,
2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 685, col. 431.
22 Jesus Carrillo, “Taming the Visible: Word and Image in Oviedo’s Historia General y
Natural de las Indias,” Viator 31 (2000): 399–431.

believe, a useful model for understanding the presence of so many images in

early modern botany – and, more generally, natural history.
Did early modern botany have to be illustrated? The simple answer is, no. As
numerous authors have pointed out, it cost a small fortune to do so.23 And some
authors – Brunfels and Bock among them – were not personally inclined to
include pictures in their publications, but were impelled to do so by publishers
eager to participate in what was evidently a lucrative trend.24 Disputes were
frequent and fiery, even, on the necessity and role of pictures. Fuchs goes to some
length in the prefaces to his books to defend his use of images – and to criticize
other authors’ images as well. He writes, for example, in the preface to the De
historia stirpium, that: “Those things that are presented to the eyes and depicted
on panels or paper become fixed more firmly in the mind than those that are
described in bare words.”25 Here, he invokes Horace, of course, who so famously
wrote in the Ars poetica that: “The mind is less vividly stirred by what finds
entrance through the ears than by what is brought before the trusty eyes, and what
the spectator can see for himself.”26
Fuchs cites Horace in defense of the use of images for didactic ends. Did he
need to defend it? Yes, actually, as it was a practice both Pliny and Galen had
condemned on the grounds that nature was too mutable to fix in images and in the
conviction that images were less reliable than text in any case.27 The essential
mutability of plants as they grow, flower, bear fruit, seed, and wither with the
seasons posed a pressing challenge to representational description. But, as
Brunfels points out in his preface, print technology was well suited to meet this
challenge, provided that the images so reproduced were drawn from the life in the
first place.28
Brunfels and Fuchs adduce respectively convenient arguments; as I mentioned
earlier, Brunfels was not the instigator of the illustrations for which his books have
23 See Baumann et al., Kräuterbuchhandschrift des Leonhart Fuchs, 112.
24 See Landau and Parshall, Renaissance Print, 252–5.
25 Fuchs 1542, fols x–xi.
26 Horace, Satires, Epistles, and Ars Poetica, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, Loeb
Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), 464–5. Pliny refers to the
use of illustrations in natural historical accounts as “a most attractive method, though one
which makes clear little else except the difficulty of employing it … not only is a picture
misleading when the colours are so many, particularly as the aim is to copy Nature, but
besides this, much imperfection arises from the manifold hazards in the accuracy of
copyists. In addition, it is not enough for each plant to be painted at one period only of its
life, since it alters its appearance with the fourfold changes of the year.” Pliny, Natural
History (Books 24–27), ed. and trans. W. H. S. Jones, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1992), 25.8, pp. 140–1. To the first two of Pliny’s complaints,
woodcuts and engravings offered a remedy. Cf. David Freedberg, “The Failure of Colour,”
in John Onians, ed., Sight and Insight: Essays on Art and Culture in Honour of E. H.
Gombrich at 85 (London: Phaidon, 1994), esp. 245–8.
27 Galen, De simplicibus medicamentorum temperamentis et facultatibus, VI:
proemium; vol. 11 (1826), 796-7, in Claudii Galeni Opera omnia, 20 vols, ed. Karl Gottlob
Kühn (Leipzig: Knobloch, 1821-33). See also Reeds, “Renaissance Humanism and
Botany,” 530–31.
28 See Freedberg, “Failure of Colour,” 246–7.

become so renowned.29 Of course, much remains to be said about the specific

conditions under which individual products of early modern botany came to be
illustrated. Kusukawa has untangled the complex history of Fuchs’s debate with
his contemporary Montuus on the use of pictures; likewise, the history of the
Schott–Egenolff lawsuit regarding copyright in pictures of nature offers vital
information regarding the market value of such images – another crucial
motivation for including them.30 The market value of illustrated natural history
may indeed prove to have been as great a motivating factor in its production as its
cultural capital. In this latter connection, it should be recalled that Fuchs was not
just a medical doctor, but a court doctor, and that the expense and format of many
of the books cited here would have made them virtually inaccessible to those
without disposable income. These are considerations for further study. As, of
course, is my suggestion that the cognitive role of images be explored, if we are
to continue to ask and answer the question of why early modern botanical treatises
were illustrated.

29 See T. A. Sprague, “The Herbal of Otto Brunfels,” Journal of the Linnean Society.
Botany 48 (1928): 79–124.
30 Sachiko Kusukawa, “Leonhart Fuchs on the Importance of Pictures,” Journal of the
History of Ideas 58 (1997): 403–27; and Kusukawa, “Illustrating Nature,” 90–113.

Page numbers of figures are given in italics.

Abarimons, 102, 103, 104 alchemical herbals, 226

abortifacient, 209 Aldobrandino da Siena, Li livres dou sante
Abrahams, N. C. L., 27 (London, British Library, Sloane MS
absinthium, 119, 139 2435), 23, 57
Abu- al-H - - -
. asan al-Mukhtar Ibn Sa‘dun Ibn Alessio Piemontese (Alexis of Piemont;, see Ibn ps. of Girolamo Ruscelli), 218–19,
acanthus, 97 230–31, 236
acatia (blackthorn), 120, 124 Alexander, Jonathan, 78
Ackerman, James S., 224, 241, 243 Alexis de Piemontese, see Alessio
acorns, 69 Piemontese
action figures, 131 Alexis of Piemont, see Alessio Piemontese
adiantos vel politricum (maidenhair), 31, algebra, 172
32, 33 alimentary system, 149
Adiantum capillus-veneris L., maidenhair allium (garlic), 139, 143
(adiantos, politricum), 31, 32, 33, 34, almshouse, Sherborne (Dorset), 18
41, 43 aloe lignum (aloe wood), 127, 135, 139
Adoration of the Magi, see Angelico, Fra aloe, 137, 139, 140, 141, 143
aesthetics, 65, 112, 113, 216, 241; see also aloen, 119, 120, 127, 128
naturalism aloes, 138, 139
Aetius of Amida, 47 alphabetic order, see articulation systems
affrodille (asphodel), 29 altarpieces, 17–19, 26, 184, 186, 195–97
Africa, 78, 98 alterity, 104
ages of man, 72, 196 Altichiero, 57
agnus castus, 127 alum, 127, 139
agnus dei, 19 Amaranthus blitum L., blite, 42
agriculture, 56, 64, 68, 69, 76–77, 88 amber (lynx stone), 132
agrimonia de jardin, 41, 43 ambrosiana, 139, 229
agrimonia, 29, 139 America, discovery of, 75
agrimonie, 29 amidum (starch), 124, 129, 131, 139
Agrippa, Heinrich Cornelius, Occulta amigdales (almonds), 121
philosophia, 196 amulets, 15, 17, 19, 22–23
Alberti, Leon Battista, Della pittura, anagallis (pimpernel), 227
178–81 Anatomia, see Mondino
Alberto of Bologna, 153 anatomies, see anatomists, anatomy,
Albertus Magnus, 85 dissections
Albucasis, 57 anatomists; see also della Torre,
albums, 27, 32, 36, 38, 41–49, 212, 215, Marcantonio; Leonardo da Vinci
236; see also Thott 190 Benivieni, Antonio, 166


Berengario da Carpi, Jacopo, 160 appium risus (celery-leaved buttercup),

Henri de Mondeville, 23 119, 121, 122, 128, 139
Marliani, Giovanni and family, 138, 172 Apt (in Vaucluse), 28
anatomy, 135, 138, 147–76, 168, 170–77, aqua (leaue, water), 137
221, 234, 243–45; see also Aquilegia (columbine), 210
dissections; Leonardo de Vinci Arabia, 7
anatomical education, 23, 151–55, Arabic science and medicine, xviii, 26, 48,
158–63, 166–68, 170–76, 244–45 73, 121, 170
anatomical illustration, 2, 23, 138, 148, and Byzantine learning, 26, 31, 33, 37,
149, 155, 156–57, 162–63, 164–65, 48–49, 51–55
167–68, 169, 234, 236, 243–44 Arber, Agnes, 136
animals, of, 55, 155 Arbolayre, 136–38
ancient history, Renaissance study of, 229, architecture and architectural motifs, 59,
243 66, 72, 84, 90, 92, 93, 94, 161, 175,
Andalusian Spain, 75 207, 229
Andrewe, Laurence, 143 of hospitals, 17, 161, 175
Androgen, 103, 104 Archivio Notarile, Florence, 17
Anemone hortensis L., garden anemone, argentum vivum (vif argent, quicksilver),
41, 43 127, 128, 138, 143
angales (anagallis, pimpernel), 226, 227 aristolongia, 120, 121
Angelico, Fra, 189 Aristotle, 29, 96, 104, 189, 247; see also
Adoration of the Magi, fresco (Venice, Pseudo-Aristotle
San Marco, Dominican convent, armillary sphere, 96
Cosimo de’ Medici’s cell) 96 Armstrong, Lilian, 87–88, 97,106
Anicia Juliana, Princess, 40 Arnold of Villanova, 57
animals and animal images, 21, 53, 155, Ars medica (Technê iatrikê), see Galen
226; see also names of specific art and science, xvii–xx, 241–3
animals art, artists, and artists’ materials; see also
block-prints of, 208 techniques and materials; workshop
images by Giovaninno dei Grassi practice; artisans and craftsmen;
workshop, 58–59 artists and illuminators
in herbals, 27–30, 32, 35, 36, 38, 41, 226 Pliny the Elder on, 83, 95, 112–114
in Pliny, 83–87 articulation systems in manuscripts and
anise, 77 early printed books, xix, 5, 9, 15, 16,
Anonimo Gaddiano, 153 116, 120, 125, 128, 137–38, 139, 141,
Antidotarium Nicolai, 119, 125 144; see also initials, labels on
antimonium (antimony, sulphide of images
antimony), 120, 123, 124, 130 alphabetical order, 27, 30, 35, 41–43,
antimony, 123, 124, 130 49, 119, 123, 127, 135, 137, 138,
antiquarian and pagan motifs, 89, 93, 97 210, 243
Antoninus, St, Summa, 179 chapter numbering, 138, 139
aphrodisiacs, 72–73 color used for emphasis, 128, 144
apium, 137; see also appium foliation, 137–38
apothecaries, see pharmacists glossary, 134, 137, 139
apotropaic images and objects, 17; see also indexes and index signs, 15, 16, 30, 134,
Coventry Ring 141
appium (celery?), 119, 120, 121, 122, 131, letterforms, 123
139 look-up tables 127, 134, 136–38, 139,
appium commune (celery), 119, 121, 122, 142
124 page layout, 28, 33, 34, 144
appium emoroidarum (lesser celandine), paraph symbol, 123, 128
119, 121, 124, 128, 129, 131, 139 printing and, 136–37
appium raninum (buttercup), 119, 121, table of contents, 123, 127, 137–38, 139
122, 139 textual hierarchy, 141, 144

artisans and craft traditions, xvii, 134, 170, Bartholomeus Mini of Siena, 118
174–75, 208, 216, 220, 234 Bartimaeus, 18
blockcutters, 230, 234, 241, 242 Basel, 230
artists and illuminators, 7, 65, 87, 109–13, bathing, 23
111, 116, 133, 134, 152–55, 175, 240, Battini, Marisa, 215
242; see also names of individual Baumann, Felix Andreas, 127, 135, 209
artists; patrons and patronage; beans (Vicia faba L., feves), 34, 38, 39, 43
techniques and materials; workshop beasts of the Apocalypse, 195
practice Beatrix de Savoie, 23
artists’ handbooks and books of secrets, beaver and beaver glands, 131
219; see also Cennini, Cennino beet, sugar, 77
asa fetida, 138, 139 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript
ascetics and asceticism, 101, 183, 188–89; Library, 2
see also hermits bellicum veneris, 42
asmatique, 135 Bellini, Giovanni, St Jerome in the Desert
aspaltum (bitumen), 119 (Florence, Uffizi), 188–89
asparagus, 55, 56, 72 bells, 21
asphodel, 29, 43 Benedetti, Alessandro, Historia corporis
Asplenium scolopendrium L., hart’s-tongue humani sive Anatomice, libri v, 173
fern, 41 Benivieni, Antonio, De abditis nonnullis
assa fetida, 127 ac mirandis morborum et sanationem
Astragalus (astragalus), 41 causis, 166
astrology and astronomy, 2, 9–11, 19, berbena femelle, 42
96–97, 173, 212–15 Berengario da Carpi, Jacopo, 160–61
Pliny the Elder portrayed as astronomer, Bergamo sketchbook, of Giovannino dei
94, 96 Grassi, 65, 67
atristito, see humoral/complexion types Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, 147
(phlegmatics) Berry, Jean, Duc de, Très Riches Heures,
Augustine, St, 17, 85, 150 69, 78, 87, 89, 133
aurum (gold), 120, 127, 128, 138, 139, 143 Bertiz, Agnes A., 52, 80
Auster/Aqua/Flecmaticus, 195 Besançon, 136
authenticity of image, 231; see also bestiaries, 87
“counterfeit” betony, 43
autopsia, 245–46; see also observation of Biagoli, Mario, 175
nature; dissections bianchi girari, 97, 98, 105, 106, 109
autopsies, 148, 151, 158–59, 166–67; see bifolia, 43
also dissections biota, Eastern Mediterranean, 35, 43
Autumpnus (autumn), 64 birds, 35, 110, 112, 113
Averlino, Antonio (Il Filarete), 161 Bithynia, 92
Averroes, 57 bitumen (aspaltum), 119
Avicenna, Canon medicinae, 57, 77, 137, black bile, see humoral/complexion types,
138, 170 (melancholics and melancholy)
Avignon, 28 Black Death, 80; see also plague
Avril, François, 127 blackthorn (acatia), 124
Azzolini, Monica, 232 blacte bisancie (a mollusk from
Byzantium), 118
Baghdad, 52, 53 Blemmyae, 102
Bagliano, Paravicini, 150 bleton, 42
balm of Gilead, 131 blite, 42
Bambach, Carmen, 175 bloodletting man, 9
Barbaro, Ermolao, 89 boar, wild, 69
barber-surgeons, 11 Boccaccio, 95
Barbieri, G., 61 Bock, Hieronymus, 240, 248
barley, 77 bole armeniac, 131

Bologna, 87, 89, 159; see also universities Zeno, Apostolo, 89

bombax, 143 bookbinding, 67, 135, 208
bones, see skeleton and bones Books of Hours, 2, 18, 69, 76, 133, 195,
Boniface VIII, Pope, Detestande feritati, 237
148 books of secrets, 216–19, 230
book collectors, see book owners, readers, books, 19, 26, 84, 209; see also book
and users owners, readers, and users; libraries;
book owners, readers, and users, 1, 84, 96, manuscripts; printers, early;
120, 143, 144; see also books incunabula and early printed works;
Beatrix de Savoie, 23 see also individual authors and
Berry, Jean, Duc de, 87 titles
Boccaccio, 95 costs and techniques of production, 84,
Brack, Wenzeslaus, 212 143, 230, 232, 234, 249
Capelli, Pasquino, 58, 87 as gifts and symbolic gestures, 1, 11, 23,
Carafa, Cardinal Olivero, 97 61–62, 67, 76, 86
Carrara, Francesco II, Lord of Padua, 67 images of, 8, 91, 94, 120, 185
Cordus, Euricius, 246–47 borage, 44, 143, 217
Cosimo de’ Medici, 86 boragine, 143
Company of Barber-Surgeons of York, Borago officinalis L., borage, 44
Guild-Book, 11, 12 borago, 14
della Croce, Niccolò, 172 Boreas/Terra/Melancholicus, 195
Dominican house, Lubeck, 86 Borghini, Vicenzo, 179
Fuchs, Leonhart, 240 Bosch, Jerome, Christ Mocked (London,
George of Lichtenstein, Bishop of Trent, National Gallery), 199–201
61 botanical gardens, 245
Gomes, Refael, 226 botanical illustration, 208, 231–37,
Grimani, Cardinal Domenico, 90 239–41, 242, 243–49; see also plants,
Guarino da Verona, 92 images of
St Jerome, 185 Botanical Renaissance and humanist
Johannes le Duerg, 135 culture, 239–49
Leonardo da Vinci, 170–74, 232 botanizing, 245, 246
Manfred, King of Sicily, 54 botany, see botanical illustration; herbals;
Marliani family, 172, 232 plants
Meynerius, Johannes Anthonius, 28 Botticelli, 189, 212
Ourscamp, Cistercian monastery, Boucicaut Master, 87
Noyon, 5 Brack, Wenzeslaus, 214, 230, 236
Petrarch, 95 brancha lupina, 41, 42
Piccolomini, Gregorio Lolli, 87, 98 Brandt, Kathleen Weil-Garris, 204
Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, xx, 84, breast milk and menses, 168
86–90, 91, 92–98, 99, 100, 103 Breton women, 106, 107, 114
Pius II, Pope (Aeneas Sylvius bretonica, 29
Piccolomini), 87 brionia blanca, 44
Pliny the Younger, 91 brionia nigra, 44
Salutati, Coluccio, 92 briony, 43
Sanudo, Leonardo, 84 British Library, London, 2
Sforza, Bianca Maria, 62 Brolo, see hospitals
Sixtus IV, Pope, 96 Bronzino, Agnolo, 189–91, 192, 193–96
Speroni family, 61 Eleonora of Toledo with her Son
Strozzi, Filippo, 84 Giovanni de’ Medici (Florence,
Urban, Anthoine, 28 Uffizi), 191, 192, 193
Visconti court, 87 Brothers of San Antonio di Castello, 90
Visconti, Giangaleazzo, 73 Brunfels, Otto, Herbarum vivae eicones,
Visconti, Verde, 59 237, 240, 244, 245, 246
women, 23, 59, 62 Bruni, Antonio, 166

Brunschwig, Hieronymus, The Vertuose caules, 123

Boke of Distyllacyon, 138, 143 cautery figures, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9
Brussels Cave, Roderick, 211
Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier, MS Cecilia, St, with Sts Paul, John Evangelist,
3714, 30 Augustine, and Mary, see Raphael,
Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS 197–99, 198
9559–64, 133 celandine (Appium emoroidarum;
Bryonia dioica Jacq. (white bryony), 44 Celidonia), 124, 129, 131, 214, 216
Bryson, Norman, 112 celery, 119, 122
Budahyliha Byngezla, 53 celery-leaved buttercup, 122
buttercup, 122; see also apium, appium celidonia, 214, 216
Byzantine empire, 25–27, 45–50 Cellini, Benvenuto, 193
Byzantine medicine, 46, 50 Celtis, Conrad, Quattuor libri amorum,
Ca’ Granda, see hospitals Cennini, Cennino, 208, 220
Calcar, Jan van, 176 centaury, 43
calendar images, 9, 10, 68–69 cepe, 143
calligrapher, 196 Cerruti family of Verona, 61
Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.2.44 ceterac, 43
(Henri de Mondeville, lectures on Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All.,
anatomy), 23 chamomile, 44
camomille, 44 Charles V, King, 21
Campin, Robert, 189 charms and spells, 20, 21
candles, paschal, 19 cherries, 55, 67
cannibals, 104 Chevalier de la charrette, London, British
Canon medicinae, see Avicenna Library, Additional MS 10293, 73
Canterbury Cathedral, 22 chickpea, 57
Capelli, Pasquino, 58, 87 Child Carrying Grapes, see Zeuxis
Capsella bursa-pastoris Medik., childbirth, 193
shepherd’s purse, 41 chiromancy and physiognomy, 181
Cardano, Fazio, 171–72 Chirurgia, see Roger Frugardi
Cardano, Girolamo, 171 chivalric culture, 72; see also courtly
carnival song, Il Trionfo delle Quattro romances, hunting
Complessioni, 179–80 cholerics and choler, 180, 181, 194–97; see
Carrara Herbal (London, British Library, also humoral/complexion types
Egerton MS 2020), 23, 58, 61, 67, 69, Christ Among the Doctors (Christ
70, 209 Teaching in the Temple), see Luini,
Carrara, Francesco II, Lord of Padua, 23, Bernardo; Cima da Conegliano
58, 67 Christ as healer, 13, 19, 20; see also
Carrillo, Jesus, 247 Christus medicus
cartilage, 132 Christian motifs and pagan texts, 95
Cassiodorus, 85 Christine de Pisan, 133
cassoni, 112 Christus medicus, 17; see also Christ as
castanee, 123 healer
Castiglione, Francesco, 151 church fathers, 96; see also St Jerome
castle of love, 73 cicer, 123
Caterina di Bernabò, 59 cicerchia (chickpea), 57
cathedrals, 22, 92, 147 ciclamenes panporcini (Cyclamen
catnip, Nepeta cataria L., 229 neapolitanum), 226
Cato the Elder, 109 cicorea (chicory), 234, 235
Cauda equina (Equisetum arvense, Cigoli, Lodovico, 176
horsetail), 34, 36, 37, 226 Cima da Conegliano, Christ among the
cauda marina, 41 Doctors (Warsaw, National Library),
cauda vulpina (horsetail), 34, 36, 37 201

cimbalaria, 42 Company of Barber-Surgeons of York,

cipari, 226 Guild-Book, 11, 12, 195
ciperj (Cyperus), 224–26, 225 compasses, Pliny holding, 96
Ciperus (Cyperus), 232, 233, 234 Compendium Medicinae, see Gilbertus
cipher, runes used as, 215 Anglicus, Roger de Baron
Circa instans, 57, 118–19, 121, 128, 137; compilatio, 125
see also Platearius; Tractatus de complexion; see also humoral/complexion
herbis types; humors and humoral medicine;
cisergia, 57 tetrads
Cistercian monastery of Ourscamp, Noyon, Galenic theory of, 53, 177
5 conceptual tool, as, 178, 190
citruli, 123 women, ideal complexions of, 178,
Clement VII, Pope (Giulio de’ Medici), 189–193
158 compound medicines, 118, 119
Clagett, Marshall, 172 conch shells, 104
Clark, Kenneth, 152, 168 Conradus de Boutzenbach, see Konrad von
Clark, Malcolm, 153 Butzenbach
clary (catnip? Salvia salvaticha), 228, 229 Constance, 212
Claudius Pulcher, 113 Constantine the African, 48, 57, 118, 137
Clayton, Martin, 236 Constantinople, 25–27, 40, 45–47, 49–50
Clesippus, 101, 114 contrafactum, see counterfeit
climate and health, 53, 69 Conversos, 226
clothing, 7, 53, 59, 72, 75, 76, 96, 97, 104, Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek
105, 193, 197, 200 (Copenhagen Royal Library), 27
academic dress, 7, 97, 119, 120, 125 MS GKS 227 2º (Livre des simples
Clusius, Carolus, 240 médecines), 115, 125, 126, 127–28,
coat of arms, 84, 89, 93, 94 129, 130, 135, 138
Codex Atlanticus nature print, see MS NKS 132 4º, 133, 222
Leonardo da Vinci; Melzi, Francesco; MS Thott 190 2º (Thott 190), 26–35, 32,
nature prints and nature printing 36, 38, 41–50
Codex on the flight of birds (Codice sul MS Thott 191 2º (Thott 191), 28
volo degli uccelli), see Leonardo da copperplate engravings (typis aeneis), 155,
Vinci, writings 234
Cogliato Arano, Luisa, 55 copying, 2–3, 10–11, 26–27, 31–50, 66,
cognition and images, 14, 247–49 117, 127, 131, 134, 219–20, 236; see
coins, 19, 80, 208 also “counterfeit”; imitation
coition, coitus, 61, 73, 74, 168, 169 Cennini on, 220
Collectanea rerum memorabilium, 85, 102, Leonardo da Vinci on casts of sculpture,
see Solinus 232
college of physicians, 159–60 copyists, see artists and illuminators;
Collins. Minta, 116 scribes and amanuenses
colors, 134, 197, 230 Cordus, Euricius, Botanologicon, 245–47
articulation systems, used in, 123, 128, Cordus, Valerius, Pharmacorum…
132, 134, 144 Dispensatorium, 246
of complexions and humoral types, 180, coronary occlusion, 163
187–88, 197, 199–200 corpses and cadavers, 148, 150, 155, 159,
of plants, in herbals, 134, 222, 224, 229, 167
248 Correggio, St Jerome panel, 187
of nature prints, 212, 215, 217–19, 231 Cortese, Cristoforo, 88, 111
skin, 106, 107, 114, 180, 181, 187–88 Cosmas, St, 11
symbolism, 19, 181 cosmology, concepts and images, 95,
columbine (Aquilegia), 210 97–98, 99, 104, 195–96
comin, 42, 43 costumes, see clothing
Como, 92 Cotyledon umbilicus L., navelwort, 41, 42

Council of Basel, 199 De animalibus atque eorum virtutibus, 27

“counterfeit” (contrafactum), 218–19, De balneis Puteolanis, Rome, Bibliotheca
230–31 Angelica, MS 1474, 23
court culture, 95, 154, 174, 175, 249; see de calculatione, see Marliani, Giovanni
also patrons and patronage De dosibus medicinarum, 119
and Tacuinum sanitatis, 51, 54, 57–58, De historia stirpium (Fuchs), 230, 240–41,
61–63, 65, 68, 72, 76, 80–81 242, 248, 249
courtly love, 68, 72, 76 De materia medica, see Dioscorides
Coventry Ring (London, British Museum, De simplicium medicamentorum
MME AF 897), 20, 21 temperamentis et facultatibus (Galen),
Coytus, see coition, coitus 29, 47
craft practice, see artisans and craftsmen; de Toni, G. B., 222
artists and illuminators; workshop De viribus herbarum, 27
Cranach, Lucas, 189 Dead Sea, 101
cranium, 156; see also skull Decameron (Boccaccio), 133
Creation, 97, 104, 195 decorum, 179, 180, 190–94, 197
criminals, 147–48, 155, 158 degre, 135
crows, 113 della Croce, Niccolò, 172
critical methods and Renaissance della Torre, Marcantonio, 152, 155, 173,
humanists, 229 174, 176
Crusaders, 25–27, 40, 46, 50 Demetrius, St, 186
cucumbers, 75 deputati sanitatis (health officers), 159
cucumeres (cucumbers), 75 Deputati sopra le Provvisioni dei Poveri
cucumeris, 123 (Deputies Providing for the Poor),
Cuminum cyminum L., cumin, 42, 43 161
cuminum, 42 Devastatio Constantinopolitana, 25
Cunningham, Andrew, 244 diaframe (diaphragm), 135
Cusano, Nicolò, 173 diagnosis and prognosis, 10, 11
Cusanus, Nicholas, De concordantia diet, 54, 55, 76, 81, 188–89
catholica, 199 dietary treatises, 2, 118–19, 121
Cushing/Whitney Historical Medical dill, 63
Library, Yale University, New Haven, Dionysios, Ornithiaka, 35
2 Dioscorides Vindobonensis (Vienna
Cushing/Whitney MS 28, see New Haven, Dioscorides), see Vienna,
Yale University Cushing/Whitney Österreichische Nationalbibliothek,
Medical Library, MS 28 (Paneth MS Med. gr. 1
Codex) Dioscorides, De materia medica, xviii, 26,
cuttlebone, 132 33, 35, 37, 39, 44, 49, 57, 66, 118,
cycle of the months, 63, 69 244
cymbalion, 42 alphabetical Dioscorides, 35, 41
cymbalium, 42 Dioscorides minor, 246
Cyperus (ciperj, “rush”), 222, 223, 224, manuscript tradition, 26, 27, 33, 35, 37,
225, 226, 232, 233, 234, 236 39, 40–49
Scirpus, compared to, 223, 224 Dioscorides Vindobonensis (Vienna,
Cyperus rotundus, 222, 223 Österreichische Nationalbibliothek,
Cyperus serotinus, 222 MS Med. gr. 1), 31, 33, 40–41,
Dacians, 128 Pietro d’Abano, commentary on, 47
daisy, 216 plant identifications, 31
Damian, St, 11 Discorso sulla dignità dell’uomo, see Pico
database of medicinal plants in ancient della Mirandola
works, 33 diseases and conditions, 142, 159, 183
dates, 77 asmatique, 135
Dati, Leonardo, La sfera, 180 baldness, 141

Black Death, 80 Celtis, Conrad, Quattuor libri amorum,

canker, 123 frontispiece to, 194
constipation, 72 Christ among the Doctors, 203
coronary occlusion, 163 Four Apostles diptych (Münich, Alte
dolour de dent, 30 Pinakothek), 196, 197
fearfulness, 141 Melencolia I, 182–83, 187, 188
fever, 135 Saint Jerome in his Study, 187–88
fistula in ano, 14, 15, 16
forgetfulness, 141 ebrionia, 44
hair loss, 141 eclipses, 9
head, 30 ecphrasis, 14, 191
head, broken, 141 Edward I, King of England, 132
head, sickness of, 5 Edward III, King of England, 23
headache, 135, 141 Egenolff, Christian, 246
heart damaged, 151 Egerton MS 747, see London, British
heart ventricle, hardened, 166 Library, Egerton MS 747 (Tractatus
iliaca passio, 14 de herbis et plantis)
kidneys, 21 eggplant, 75, 132
lunacy, 141 El Escorial, Biblioteca del Real
maladies de la teste, 134 Monasterio de San Lorenzo del
melancolie, 135 Escorial, MS R.I.5 (Pliny, Natural
nose bleeds, 123, 135 History), 87
paralysis, 19 electuarium confortivum, 132
plague, 80, 159, 174 elements, four, 29; see also humors, four;
poisoning, 135 humoral pathology; tetrads
polyps, 123 Eleonora di Toledo, 191, 192, 193; see
sciatica, 73 also Bronzino, Agnolo
shaking of head, 141 elifagus (pilifagus, sage), 212, 213
signs and symptoms, 13 Elijah, 183
syphilis, 168 embalming, 166, 167
teeth, of, 30 embellaria, 41
ulcers (ferite), 168 embellicum Veneris, 42
worms, 141 Emboden, William, 211, 222
dissections, 23, 150, 152–53, 155, 161–70, embryology, 167–68
173, 174, 176 emotions, expression and depiction of,
drawings of dissections, 157, 162, 164, 52–53, 104, 180–82, 184, 193; see
165, 169 also humoral/complexion types
distilling, 125, 126 encyclopedias, 35, 47, 48, 77, 239; see
Dixon, Annette, 65 also Pliny the Elder, Natural History
Doceno (Christofano Gherardi), 178, 188 engineers, 175, 230
Dodonaeus, Rembertus, 240 engravings, 155, 183, 187–88, 231, 234,
dogs, 80, 113 236, 239, 248; see also prints and
Dominicans, 86, 96 printmaking; printing and printing
Donatello, St John the Evangelist press
(Florence, S. Lorenzo, Old Sacristy, entertainments and pastimes, 216
altar wall relief), 183–84, 186 Equisetum arvense L., horsetail, 34, 36, 37
Dracunculus vulgaris L., dragon arum, 43 Erbario [Herbal containing 192 drawings
dragon arum, 43 of plants], see Longboat Key, FL,
dreams, 183, 189 Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection,
ducales conservatores (health officers), MS LJS 419 (Schoenberg herbal)
159 erbolaio grande, (herbal owned by
Duomo, Siena, 17 Leonardo da Vinci), 232
Dürer, Albrecht, 182–83, 187–89, 194–97, erbolaro (herbal owned by Giuliano da
199, 203 Marliano), 172, 232

eroticism, 72, 77 fidelity to nature, 112–114, 116–17, 178,

errata, 143, 234 190, 236–37; see also copying;
Essenes, 98, 101–102 experience and observation; imitation;
estates, 76 naturalism; verisimilitude
etchings, 236; see also copperplate field guides, 117, 245
engravings; engravings; prints and fields and field plants, 62
printmaking; printing and printing fig, 217
press figural representation, 177
Ethiopian, 102 figwurtz, 216
ethnography, 98, 102, 104; see also Plinian Filarete, Il (Antonio Averlino), 161
races filbert, 131
Eucharist wafers, stamped, 208 finger rings, 19–21
Eurus/Ignis/Colericus, 195 Firenzuola, Agnolo, 189, 190
evangelists, 196; see also tetrads fish, 106
Evax, King, of Arabia, 7 fistula in ano operation, 14, 15, 16
excretion and secretion, 52 Five Wounds of Christ, 20
executions, public, 147, 160 flattened specimens, appearance of, 67,
Excellent and Pleasant Worke, The, see, 217, 231
Solinus fleabane, 132
exemplar, see copying; model and copy flor de lis de mer, 43
exercise, 51–54 flor de lis, 43
exotic plants, 75, 77, 118 Florence, 86, 147, 151, 154, 159, 182, 191
experience and observations, first-hand, Baptistery, north door, St John the
27, 49, 116–17, 180 Evangelist (Lorenzo Ghiberti), 183
botanical, 75–77, 208, 222, 230, 240, capitani of Dawn Night, and Lorenzo,
242, 243–45 Duke of Urbino, (Michelangelo),
anatomical, 147–48, 152–53, 165, 167, S. Lorenzo chapel, New Sacristy,
240 Medici mausoleum), 184, 186
Experimenta (Pseudo-Galen), 7, 8 Pellegrinaeo murals, Santa Maria
experimentation, 59, 207, 216, 231, Nuova hospital, 17–18
236 Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
Eyck, Jan van, 186 MS plut. 18.7, 54
MS plut. 23.6, 19
falcons, 77 MS plut. 73.415, 5
Fathers of Netherlandish Botany, see MS plut. 82.1.8, 86
Dodonaeus, Rembertus; Clusius, Biblioteca Nazionale
Carolus; Lobelius, Matthias MS BR[Banco Rari] 397, 58, 80
Fatio, see Cardano, Fazio MS LF [Landau Finaly] 22, 58
fecundity, see fertility, human Anonimo Gaddiano, MS Magl., XVII,
Federico of Habsburg, 59 17, 153
females, physiology of, 189 flowers, 34, 66, 137, 143, 208, 210, 216,
fennel, 77 220–22, 224, 234, 237, 240–41, 242,
Ferdinand of Naples, King, 84 248; see also under names of
ferite, see ulcers individual plants
ferle, 43 in nature prints, 212, 216–17, 231, 236
Fermo, Biblioteca Comunale, Fondo pressed in books, 209
manoscritti, codice n. 18, 226 Sanguineus, emblem of, 195
Ferragut, 55 Fogolari, Gino, 61
fertility, human, 193 folklore, 23, 168
fetal positions, images of, 3, 4 fomes, 43
feudalism, 68, 76 food and foodstuffs, 38, 43, 168, 216, 247;
feves (Vicia faba L., beans), 34, 38, 39 see also under names of individual
Ficino, Marsilio, Three Books on Life, 89, foodstuffs; diet; non-natural causes of
183 health

exotic foods, 55, 56, 75–77, 79 enclosed gardens, 56, 101, 104, 105
in Tacuinum sanitatis, 52–55, 56, 59, 63, garden of love, 72
73, 75–77, 79, 81, 224 garden plants, 62, 104, 105
foot, anatomy of (by Leonardo da Vinci), in Tacuinus sanitatis, 51, 62–63, 66, 68,
157 72, 76, 77
forensic medicine, see anatomy, garlic, 143
dissections Gart der Gesundheit, 136–37, 229, 237, 244
Foster, Richard, 200 Linnaeus’s opinion of, 237
four humors, 177–80, 244; see also Gaston (Phoebus) III of Foix, Livre de
complexion/humoral types; humoral chasse, 208
medicine; tetrads; seasons; tetrads Gauls, 128
Fourth Crusade, 25, 50 Gaurico, Pomponio, De sculptura, 199
Fra Angelico, Adoration of the Magi fresco gems, jewelry and precious stones, 7, 15,
(Florence, Dominican Convent of San 19, 21, 106, 193
Marco), 96 healing and apotropaic properties, 15,
fragaria (strawberry), 143 19–20, 21, 24, 193
Francesco Carrara II, see Carrara, pearls, 108, 193
Francesco II, Lord of Padua, Pliny on, 95, 106, 107, 108, 109
Franciscan, see Pacioli, Luca genitalia, 16, 148, 149, 158, 168, 169
Frederick II of Sicily, 54 genre scenes, 64, 69, 71, 73, 74, 77, 79,
Frederik IV, King, 135 137: see also labors of the months
French courts, 72 biblical models for, 73
Friedman, John Block, 102 geography, 75, 85, 95, 98
frieze, nature-printed, 218 and periodization, xvii, 240
frontispieces, 93–95, 96, 137, George of Liechtenstein, Bishop Prince of
Frugardi, Roger, Chirurgia, 13 Trent, 61
fruit and nut trees, 72, 86, 132 German Fathers of Botany, see Brunfels,
fruits, 193 Otto; Bock, Hieronymus; Fuchs,
Fuchs, Leonhart, 230, 240, 244–45, 249 Leonhart
De historia stirpium, 230, 240, 242 German plants, 240
New Kreüterbuch, 240 Gherardini, Lisa di Antonio Maria di
fueillet, 137 Noldo, 153; see also Mona Lisa
Füllmaurer, Henricus, self-portrait, 241, Ghiberti, Lorenzo, relief of melancholic
242 seer (Florence, Baptistery north door)
Galen and Galenic medical tradition, 7, 8, Ghiringhelli, Giovanni, 173
29, 46–49, 55, 57, 119, 125, 126, 168, Ghirlandaio, Domenico, St Jerome in his
244, 248; see also Study fresco (Florence, Chiesa di
complexion/humoral types; humors; Ognissanti), 184, 185, 189
non-naturals; passions; Pseudo-Galen; Gilbertus Anglicus
temperament Compendium Medicinae, 3
Ars medica (Techne- iatrike-), 52 The Sekenesse of Wymmen, 4
De simplicium medicamentorum gimlet, 14
temperamentis et facultatibus, 29, Giovanni di Paolo, Expulsion from
47–49 Paradise (New York, Metropolitan
and Dioscorides, De materia medica, Museum of Art), 98
46, 49, 248 Giovannino dei Grassi, Salamone dei
humoral theory, 29, 46, 52, 177, 244 Grassi, and workshop, 57, 58, 59,
galenga, 73 62–69, 77, 80
Galilei, Galileo, 176 Bergamo sketchbook, 65, 67
gallit[ri]cum, 42 Visconti Hours, 80
gallitcum, 41 Salamone dei Grassi, 58
gardens and gardening, 43, 72, 80, 101, Giovio, Paolo, Leonardi Vincii Vita, 155,
144; see also botanical gardens 158, 163

Girolamo Ruscelli, see Alessio Piemonte Hague, The, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS

Giuliano Amadei, attributed to, 87, 105 133.A.2, 96, 133
giunchus, see Cyperus; rushes; Scirpus hair, 135, 141, 209
GKS 227; see Copenhagen, Kongelige hand, anatomy of (Leonardo da Vinci
Bibliotek, MS GKS 227 2º (Livre des sketch), 157, 164
simples medicines) handwriting, 29, 123, 207, 218, 226, 234
glossaries, 127, 135, 138, 139; see also hart’s tongue fern, 41
translations, languages, and harvesting, 137
vernacular texts Haskins, Charles Homer, 25
Goes, Hugo van der, Portinari altarpiece hazel, 131
(Florence, Santa Maria Nuova hazelnuts, 121
hospital chapel), 18 healer and patient, 10, 11, 17
gold (aurum), 128, 139, 143; see also healing images, 15, 18, 19
litterae notabiliores, 132 health and hygiene, concepts of, 52, 72,
Golding, Arthur, 85 78, 163
Gombrich, Ernst, 112 health handbooks, 51–81, 87; see also Ibn
Gomes, Refael, 226; Tacuinum sanitatis; Taqwı-m
grains, 69, 77 health office and officers, 159
Grant Herbier, 137, 138, 143; see also heart, 163, 166
Arbolayre, Grete Herball Heliodorus, 181
grapes and grape leaf, 69, 70, 112, 208, hellebore, 43
217 henbane, 43
graphic experiment, 231 Henri de Mondeville, 23
Greek language Henry VI, King, 18
in herbals, 31, 33–35, 37, 39, 42–50 Heraclitus, 186
teaching in Milan, 171 herbal medicine, 85; see also Dioscorides;
Greek science and medicine, 48; see also foods and foodstuffs; herbalists;
Dioscorides, Galen, Hippocrates herbals; materia medica, plants;
Arabic translations of, 48 remedies
Grete Herball, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, herbalists, 87, 104, 117, 246
142, 143, 144, 239; see also Tractatus herbals, 11, 35, 41, 85, 115–45, 230, 243;
de herbis et plantis; Livre des simples see also under individual authors and
médecines titles
woodcuts in, 141 Byzantine, 26–50
Grieco, Allen, 188 compilation and production, 26–50,
Grimani, Cardinal Domenico, 90 115–45, 210, 224–30, 248–49
grotesques, 200, 215 functions, 11, 46, 116–19, 143–45, 245,
Grünewald, Matthias, Isenheim altarpiece 248
(Isenheim, hospital), 18 illustrations and pictorial traditions, see
Grüninger, Johann, 137 Carrara Herbal; Gart der
guaney, 216 Gesundheit; Grete Herball; Hortus
Guariento, 57–58 sanitatis; Manfredus Herbal;
Guarino da Verona, 89, 92 Pseudo-Apuleius; Schoenberg
Guild-book of the Barber-Surgeons of herbal; Tacuinum sanitatis;
York, London, British Library, Tractatus de herbis
Egerton MS 2572, 11, 12, 195 incunabula and early printed editions,
Guillebert of Mets, 125, 127, 132, 133 116, 136, 229, 232, 233, 234, 235,
Guiron le Courtois, 76 236, 244; see also Arbolayre;
gum arabic, 218 Brunfels, Otto; Cordus, Euricius;
gum from an overseas tree, 132 Fuchs, Leonhart; Gart der
Gynaecia, see Muscio Gesundheit; Grete Herball;
gynecology, 3 Herbarius Latinus (Tractatus de
uirtutibus herbarum); Herbolario
habitats, 35, 43, 121, 209, 221, 222 volgare, 229; Hortus sanitatis; Le

Grant Herbier; Le Grant Herbier Ca’ Granda, Milan, 161–63, 167

en francoys; Herbarius zu Teutsch; as charitable institutions (luoghi pii), 17,
Herbarius in Dyetsch; Tractatus de 161, 163
uirtutibus herbarum [Herbarius and medical schools (consorzii, scuole,
Latinus] scolle, scole), 155, 163
Leonardo da Vinci and, 172, 232, 234, Hôtel Dieu, Beaune, 18
236 at Isenheim, 18
naturalism in, 23, 75, 144, 240, 241, Leonardo da Vinci and, 152, 167, 174
243, 244, 248; see also Brunfels, patients in, 15, 17–18, 161–62
Otto; Carrara Herbal; Fuchs, in Rome, 174
Leonhart; Hortus sanitatis; Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, 17, 161
Manfredus Herbal; Roccabonella Santa Maria Nuova, Florence, 17, 152,
Herbal; Schoenberg herbal; 161, 163
Tractatus de herbis humanists and humanism, 89, 93, 95–96,
owners, readers, users, 143, 172, 224, 114, 174, 209, 229
237 italic hands, 206, 207, 209–10, 226
textual traditions, see Antidotarium humoral medicine and theory, 29, 52–53,
Nicolai, Circa instans, Dioscorides, 72, 163, 178–89, 224; see also
Galen, Isaac Judaeus, Macer, Pliny, humoral/complexion types
Pseudo-Apuleius, Tractatus de Galen and, 29
herbis humoral/complexion types, 178–200; see
herbarium (hortus siccus), 209 also four humors; humoral medicine
Herbarius (Pseudo-Apuleian), 117 and theory; tetrads
Herbarius Latinus (Tractatus de uirtutibus accident vs. essence, 182
herbarum), 232, 233, 234, 236, 235, colors of skin, and traits associated with,
239, 244 180, 181–82, 187, 190, 194, 197,
Herbarum vivae eicones; see Brunfels, 200
Otto and figure painting, 178; see also Dürer,
herbolari (herbal), 30 Albrecht; Leonardo da Vinci; Luini,
Herbolario volgare, 229 Bernardo; Michelangelo; Raphael;
herborizing, see botanizing Pontormo, Lorenzo
hermits, 98, 101, 183, 188 gender attributes, and, 189, 190, 193,
Hippocratic medicine and physiology, 168 197
Historia animalium, see Aristotle group representations (as sets), 194–200
Historia corporis humani sive Anatomice, moon, planets, winds associated with,
libri v, see Benedetti, Alessandro 193, 195
Historia plantarum, 62, 67–68 hunchback, see Clesippus
historiated initials, see initials Hunt, Tony, 144
history of art, xvii, 112, 116–17, 143–44, hunting and treatises on the hunt, 73, 77,
237 208
history of science, xvii, 237 Hyemps (winter), 71
Hohenstaufen court, 54 hyssop, 43
Homer, 109
honey, 132 Ibn (Abu- al-H -
. asan al-Mukhtar Ibn
Horace, Ars poetica, 248 al-H asan Ibn ‘Abdun Ibn Sa‘du- n Ibn
horses, images of, 30, 155, 236, Taqwı-m as-S.ih.h.a, 52–55, 68,
horsetail, 34, 36, 37 75, 77
Hortus sanitatis, 136, 229, 239, 244 icensaria, 132
hortus siccus, see herbarium iconography, 96–98, 109,
hospitals, 154, 160–62 iliaca passio, 14
administration of, 154, 160–62 illusionism and illusionistic effects, 216,
architecture and ornamentation, 15, 219–20
17–18 image production, professionalization of,
Brolo, Milan, 160–63 241

imagination, maternal, influence on John of Arderne, Practica, 13, 15, 16

embryo, 168 John II of France, King, 72
imitation; see copying; “counterfeit”; John Prodromos, St, monastery, 40, 46, 48,
illusionism and illusionistic effects; 50
naturalism John the Baptist, St, 11, 18, 98, 101
incunabula and early printed books, 86, John the Evangelist, St, 11, 18, 183, 184
88–89, 121, 139–40, 142, 171–73, Johnston, Stanley H., Jr., 136
194, 196, 233, 235, 239, 245–46; see Joseph, St, 189, 194
also individual authors and titles; Josephus, Flavius, 101
herbals; printers, early; printing jujube, 76, 77
Leonardo da Vinci and, 232, 234, 236 Julius Caesar, 109
Index of Medieval Medical Images in
North America (IMMI), 7 kallitrichon, 42
India, fruit from, 132 Keele, Kenneth, 154
ink, printers, see prints and printmaking, Kemp, Martin, 152, 166, 179, 180, 190,
techniques and materials 197, 220
initials, 5–7, 8, 86, 88, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, Kibre, Pearl, 90
101–102, 103, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, kidneys, 21
114; see also articulation systems Kings, Three, 20
intaglio, see prints and printmaking Konrad von Butzenbach, 213, 215
international gothic style, 58 kotule-do-n, 42
ipericon, 43 Kubiski, Joyce M., 86
iringe, 43 kuminon, 42
Iris germanica L., iris, 42 Kurth, Betty, 61
iris, 29, 42, 43 Kusukawa, Sachiko, 241, 249
Isaac Israeli, see Isaac Judaeus Kwakkelstein, Michael, 182
Isaac Judaeus (Is’h. a-q ibn-Sulayma-n al-
Isra-’ı-lı-) labels on images, 5, 16, 186, 211, 226
Liber dietarium universalium et labors of the months, 64, 65, 68–69, 71, 75
particularium , 118–19, 123, 128, lamps and candelabra, Corinthian bronze,
131, 137 101, 114
Omnia opera Ysaac, 121, 123 “Lancelot and Guinevere,” Chevalier de la
Isabella d’Este, 203 charrette, (London, British Library,
Isagoge (Joannitius), 55 Additional Ms 10293), 73
Isaiah, 5, 6, 183 Lancelot du Lac, 76
Is’h. a-q ibn-Sulayma-n al-Isra- ’ı-lı-, see Isaac Landino, Cristoforo, 84, 90
Judaeus landscapes, 59, 63, 67, 76, 84, 88, 97, 98,
Isingrin, Michael, 230, 242 221
istoria (narrative image), 181 lansolata, 43
Ivins, William M., Jr., 229, 243 lapidaries, 7
ivy, 43 Lateran Council of 1215, 17
Latin empire of Constantinople, 25–27, 40,
Jairus, 18 45, 46, 50
Jean sans Peur of Burgundy, 133 Latins and Byzantines, intellectual
Jenson, Nicholas, 84, 90, 96, 97 exchanges between, 26–27, 45–50
Jeremiah, see Michelangelo Latour, Bruno, 231
Jerome, St, 85, 101, 183, 184, 185, Laurenza, Domenico, 177, 182
186–89, 194 lazarettos, 159
jewelry, see gems Lazarus, raising of, 18
Joannitius, 55 Leo X, Pope, 158, 174
Johann Graf zu Solms, 215 Leonardo da Vinci
Johann von Cube anatomical investigations, 149, 152,
Johannes de Spira, 90 154–55, 156, 157, 162–65, 168,
Johannes Platearius, 118 173, 174, 176

della Torre, Marcantonio, and 152, “Saint Anne,” drawing, 153

155, 173, 174, 176 Salvator Mundi, 203
books, booklists, and reading, 167–68, “rushes,” drawing and text, 222, 223,
170–73, 232, 237
chronology of life and works, 147, 152, education, training, and self-education,
154–55, 156, 157, 162–63, 168, 170, 174–5; see also books and
172, 173, 190, 204, 205, 210, 217, reading
218, 221, 232, 234; see also Latin, limited knowledge of, 152,
Anonimo Gaddiano; Giovio, Paolo; 168, 170, 174, 206, 207, 232
Pacioli, Luca; Vasari, Giorgio handwriting, 207, 218, 226, 234
contemporary artists, relationships with, Leo X, Pope, and 174
177, 191, 197, 200–204 mathematics, interest in, 170, 173, 175,
drawings, paintings, sculpture, other 217, 234
images, 153–55, 162–63, 167–68, medical knowledge and relationships
220, 222; see also printing and with medical community, 152, 154,
printmaking 155, 167–76
alimentary system, drawing, 149 Melzi, Francesco, and 181, 205, 206,
architectural studies, c. 1518, 207 210–211, 216–218, 221, 230,
arm and hand, drawings, 157, 164 236–237
centenarian series of drawings, 163, Michelangelo and, 186, 203
164, 165, 167 myth of isolated genius, 174–76
coition of hemisected man and observation of nature, 210, 221, 222,
woman, drawing, 168, 169 223
columbine (Aquilegia), drawing, Pacioli, Luca, and, 170–71, 173, 175,
attributed to, 210 216–19, 230, 234, 236
cranium (skull), drawing, 155, 156 patrons and patronage, 170–75, 203
embryological drawings, 167–68, 173 physiognomy and physiology, interests
equestrian monument of Francesco in, 180–83, 200, 201, 203–4,
Sforza, 155 221
Five Grotesque Heads, drawings, 200, four humors, 204
201 four “universal states of man,” 182
“flowers portrayed from nature,” 220 gender differences, 168, 193–94
foot and leg, muscles of the calf and printing and printmaking
tendons, drawing, 157 Achademia, designs for woodcuts,
genitalia, male and female, drawings, 234
167–68 copper-plates for anatomy treatise for
grape leaf (or maple leaf), stencil or painters, 155, 221, 234
physiotype, 207–208, 220 De divina proportione (Pacioli),
Holy Family with Saint Anne and designs for woodcuts, 173, 175,
Saint John the Baptist (London, 217, 234
National Gallery), 203 nature printing, 205–11, 206,
horse heads, drawing or engraving, 155 216–221, 230–32, 236–37
Jesus disputing in the temple, planned printed books, plans for, 155, 232,
painting, 202, 203 234
maple leaf (or grape leaf) physiotype, printed book, typesetting calculation,
207–208, 220 232
Mona Lisa, 153, 190–91 relief engraving, method for, 234, 236
mulberry leaf (Morus), drawing, 211, technology of printing, knowledge of,
220, 221 220, 232
“one of our Ladies,” drawing, 153 visual thinking and strategies
penis dissection, drawing, 169 graphic codification, 167, 222, 231
sage leaf nature print, Codex writings (notebooks, manuscripts,
Atlanticus (Melzi?), 205–208, treatises); see also Windsor Castle,
206, 210–211, 216, 230 Royal Collection

Codex Atlanticus, 205–11, 206, 216, libraire, 133

219–21, 230–32, 236–37 libraries
Codex on the flight of birds, Il codice of San Antonio di Castello, 90
sul volo degli uccelli, Turin, in convents, 90, 93
Biblioteca reale di Torino, MS courts, Italian, at, 95
Cod. Varia 95, 211, 220, 221 Gesuati family, 89
Codice Trivulziano, Milan, Castello Grimani, Cardinal Domenico, 90
Sforzesco, Codex Trivulzianus N Guarino da Verona, 92
2162, 151 Byzantine, 45, 48–50
“discourse on herbs,” 221 Visconti family, 55, 57
drapery, proposed treatise on, 221 Pico della Mirandola, 89–90
figural representation, “On the human Salutati, Coluccio, 92
figure,” 155, 156, 177 John Prodromos, St, 48
Libro A (reconstruction of treatise on universities, Italian, 93
painting), 154, 221 Libri de Morti (Books of the Dead), 158
Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS Lichtenberger, Johannes, 215
8936 (Madrid Codex II), 171, Liège, 51, 62
232, 234 life and death, sphere of, see Sphere of
Paragone, 171, 175 Pythagoras
Paris, Institut de France, Manuscript life cycle, see ages of man
A (2172, 2185), (formerly Paris, Life of the Virgin, hospital murals
Bibliothèque nationale de (Florence, Santa Maria Nuova), 17
France, MS It. 2038), 222 life-casts, 220
Paris, Institut de France, Manuscript F ligatures, 17
(2177), 172 lights and darks, 191, 196, 211, 220–21,
Paris, Institut de France, Manuscript 231, 237
G, 221 lily, 43
plant morphology and growth, on, Limbourg brothers, 133
221 lingua bovina, 44
riddles, 218 Linnaeus, Carolus, and Linnaean botany,
trees and landscapes, on, 221 31, 121, 237, 241
treatise on human physiology, lion, 98, 99, 101
anatomy, and physiology, outline Lippi, Fra Filippo, Adoration of the Magi
for, 177 (Florence, Uffizi), 184
treatise on painting, Libro di Pittura, Lisa del Giocondo, see Mona Lisa 153,
Trattato della pittura (ed. Melzi), 190–91, 197
Vatican City, Biblioteca literacy, 19, 26,
Apostolica, MS Codex Urbinas litterae notabiliores, 123, 132
Latinus 1270, 154, 181, 205, Liuinus Stuudert, 135
221–22 Livia, Empress, 106
Leonardus (Achates) de Basilea and Livre de la chasse, see Gaston III Foix;
Gulielmus de Papia, 233 Paris Bibliothèque nationale de
leopard, 98 France, MS fr. 616)
Leopold of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria Livre des simples médecines (Copenhagen,
and Count of Tyrol, 59 Kongelige Bibliothek, MS GKS 227
lepers, 161 2º), 116, 118, 125, 126, 129, 134–36;
Lepidus, Aemilius Paulus, 113 see also Circa instans
lesser celandine, 124, 129, 131 Livy, 93
letterforms, 123 Lobelius, Matthias, 240
lettuce, 53 Lomazzo, Giovan Paolo, Trattato dell’Arte
Liber de simplici medicina dictus circa de la Pittura, 178
instans, see Circa instans London
Liber dietarium universalium et British Library
particularium, see Isaac Judaeus Additional MS 10293, 73

Additional MS 18854, 2 Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, 155,

Additional MS 29301, 16 171–72
Additional MS 42130 (Luttrell Luini, Bernardino, 200–204, 201
Psalter), 78 Disputa nel tempio (Saronno, Santa
Additional MS 47680, 23 Maria dei Miracoli), 202
Arundel MS 295, 3 Saint Mary Magdalene (National
C.27.11, 139, 140, 141, 142 Gallery, Washington), 203
Cotton MS Tiberius C VI, 11 Young Christ (Milan, Ambrosiana),
Egerton MS 2020 (Carrara Herbal), 202–203
23, 67, 70, 193, 209 Christ Teaching [Christ Among the
Egerton MS 747 (Tractatus de herbis Doctors] (London, National
et plantis), 52, 68, 115, 118–19, Gallery), 201, 203
120, 122, 124, 127–8, 193 Luttrell Psalter, 78
Egerton MS 2572 (Guild-book of the lynx stone (amber), 132
Barber-Surgeons of York), 11, 12
Harley MS 2897, 133 Maccagni, Carlo, 232
Harley MS 5311, section F, 10 Macer (Pseudo-Macer Floridus), 57
Harley MS 5401, 14 Macer Floridus, 118
Royal MS 10 E IV (Smithfield Machiavelli, 147
Decretals), 9 Macrobius, In somnium Scipionis, 89
Sloane MS 249, 3, 4 Madden, Thomas F., 25
Sloane MS 1975, 5, 6 Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 8936
Sloane MS 1977, 13 (Leonardo da Vinci, Madrid Codex
Sloane MS 2250, 10 II), 171, 232, 234
Sloane MS 2435, 23 magic, 213, 214, 215, 216
Sloane MS 2463, 3 Magistrato di Sanità (health officer), 159
Sloane MS 2839, 5 magus (wise man), 96; see also Kings,
British Museum Three
MME AF 897 (Coventry Ring), 20, maidenhair (adiantos, politricum), 31, 33,
21 39, 41
Victoria and Albert Museum mallow (siriaca), 213
Codex Forster II 2 [formerly malum terre, 43
London, Forster Library, malve, 43
South Kensington Museum, mandorla, 98
MS S.K.M.II.2], 162 mandrake, 43, 137
Codex Forster III [formerly, Forster Manfred, King of Sicily, 54
Library, South Kensington Manfredus de Monte Imperiale, 27, 66
Museum MS S.K.M. III], 173 Manfredus Herbal (Paris, Bibliothèque
MS L.1504–1896, 86, 105 nationale de France, MS lat. 6823),
Wellcome Institute, MS 5265, 160 66–68
Long, Pamela, 174 Mantegna, Andrea, St Mark (Frankfurt,
Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J. Städelisches Institut), 187, 189
Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 419 mantic text, 213, 215
(Erbario, “Schoenberg herbal”), 26, Mantua, 95
211, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229–30, manuscripts; see also articulation systems;
236, 237 incunabula and early printed books
Lorenzetti, Ambrogio, Good Government albums of illustrations, 27, 29, 31,
in the City and the Country (Siena, 41–49, 226–29, 239
Palazzo Pubblico), 78 ancient, in Constantinople, 26
L’Ortolano, Saints Roch, Sebastian and annotations in, 29, 77, 95, 127, 170,
Demetrius altarpiece (London, 226, 229, 236
National Gallery 669), 186 borders, illuminated, 9, 237
Louis d’Orleans, 72 commissioned, 7, 216
Lubeck, 86 composite, 229, 236

deluxe copies, 2, 3, 23, 31, 40, 45, 49, Cosimo il Vecchio, 86, 87, 96, 184
54, 57–58, 65, 67, 76, 84, 89–90, Cosimo I, 188, 191
117, 121, 123, 125, 132–33 Francesco, 179, 194
front-matter, 30, 134 Wunderkammer, 194
production and workshop practice, 30, Giovanni, 192, 193
62, 65, 77, 88–89, 123, 134, 239 Giuliano, 147, 158, 184
mappamundi, 98 Giuliano di Lorenzo de’, 158
Marani, Pietro, 152 Giulio (Pope Clement VII), 158
Marbode of Rennes, De lapidibus, 7 Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, 184
Marc Antony, 113 Lorenzo il Magnifico, 147, 151, 183–4,
Marco Polo, Milione, 102 187
Marcon, Susy, 86, 112 mausoleum, 184
Margaret of Antioch, St, and childbirth, scrittoio, 187
193 Medicina Plinii, 85
marjoram, 67 medicinal substances, 118, 128; see also
Mark, St, 187 under names of individual substances;
Marliani, Giovanni (Marliano, Giuliano?), materia medica
172, 232 medicine; see also anatomy; diseases and
Marseille, 28 conditions; dissections; medical
marvels of the East, 102 education; medical schools,
Mary Magdalene, St, 101 physicians and medical community;
Mascarino, Niccoló, 88, 90 Salerno and Salernitan medicine;
Master of Guillebert of Mets, 125, 127, surgeons
132–33 forensic, 148–51, 158, 159, 160
materia medica, 2, 31, 33, 35, 41, 46, 53, practical medicine, 125
66; see also under names of rhetoric, 13–14, 24, 171
individual medicinal substances; melancholia and melancholics, 135, 178,
Dioscorides; Galen; herbals 180, 182–84, 186, 188–89, 197; see
mathematics and mathematicians, 170–72, also humors; humoral/complexion
173, 175 types; tetrads
Matthaeus Platearius melancolie, 135
Antidotarum Nicolai, attributed to, melegueta pepper (nux sciarca), 118
119 Melencholia I (Dürer), 183, 187, 188
Compendium Salernitanum, 211 melograno, 42
Mattiolus, Pierandreas, 245 melon, 67, 75
McMurrich, James P., 153 melones dulces (sweet melons), 75
meat and game, 55 Melzi, Francesco, 205, 206, 210, 221, 230,
mechanical arts, 174–75 236; see also Leonardo da Vinci;
medical education, 3, 22–23, 120, 244; see nature prints and nature printing
also universities Flora and Pomona, 210
medical images, categories and functions Vertumnus, 210
of, 1–24; see also under individual memory, cognitive role in learning, 247
subjects of images menstrual cycle and moon, 193; see also
medical miscellanies, 6, 212, 213, 214, breast milk
215 menstruation, 209
medical practice and practitioners, 125, Mentha spp., mint, 42
126, 151–52, 159, 174, 245; see also mercury, 128
physicians; surgeons; herbalists Mesue, 57
medical schools, 154–55, 159, 160; see metals, minerals, ores, 41, 95, 112, 194
also dissections, hospitals, medical Metlinger, Pierre, 136
education, universities Meyer, Albertus, 241, 242
medical traditions, 52, 54, 66, 83, 170 Meynererius, Johannes Anthonius, 28
Medici family, 147, 158, 179, 184; see Michaelangelo, 178, 182, 184, 186–88,
also Eleonora of Toledo 195–96, 203–204

Dawn, Night, and Lorenzo, Duke of movements of the soul, see moti mentali;
Urbino capitani, (S. Lorenzo non-natural causes of health
chapel, New Sacristy, Medici mulberry (Morus), 211, 220
mausoleum), 184, 186, 188 mumie (mummies, powder of), 131
four seers: Daniel, Libica, Jeremiah, Muscio (Pseudo-Moschion), Gynaecia, 2,
Persicha (The Vatican, Sistine 3, 30, 31
Chapel, eastern bays of ceiling), Musée Cluny, 208
184, 186–88, 195, 196 Musée de Condé, 69
Milan, 59, 67, 72, 75, 78, 80, 87, 147, 151; Museo del Castelvecchio, 63
see also Leonardo de Vinci; Pavia, music and harmony, 53, 199
University of musk, 131–32
court, 170–71 Muslims and Christians, intellectual
medical community, 154, 170, 173, 174, exchanges between, 26; see also
232 Arabic science and medicine
Biblioteca Ambrosiana
Codex Atlanticus (Leonardo da Naples, 27, 68
Vinci), 173, 205–11, 206, 216, Narcissus poeticus L., pheasant’s eye, 42
219–20, 229–30, 236–37 narrationes, 13
MS E. 42 inf. (Pliny, Natural Nativity, 86
History), 58, 87 Natural History (Historia naturalis), see
Milione, see Marco Polo Pliny the Elder
milium, 42 naturalism, 112–13, 116–17, 143–44,
millet, 77 236–37, 241, 241; see also fidelity to
mimesis, see copying, imitation, nature; colors; fidelity to nature;
naturalism, visual representation, illusionism
illusion, Zeuxis counterfeit, 218, 219
minerals, 41, 83, 95 descriptive accuracy, 144
Mini, Bartholomaeus, see Bartholomaeus flattening, and, 67, 131, 209, 231
Mini functions of, 144
mint, 42, 43 historiography, 116–119, 143–6, 237,
Mirandola, counts of, 89; see also Pico 241, 243
della Mivandola, Giovanni and humoral theory, 178
mirror, 20 and illusion, Pliny on, 112, 113
Mithridates, 109 and illustrations in
mnemonics, xix, 132, 247; see also Byzantine herbals, 34
memory Carrara Herbal, 69
model and copy, 65, 131, 134, 136; see early printed herbals, 143, 229, 237,
also copying; model books 240
model books, 65 Historia Plantarum, 67
mollusk, 118 Leonardo da Vinci, 155, 167–8,
Mona Lisa, 153, 190–91, 197 220–222, 223, 224, 231
Mondino, Anatomia, 154 Manfredus Herbal, 67
monstruous races and exotic peoples, see Roccabonella Herbal, 75
Plinian races Schoenberg herbal, 224, 226
Montefeltro, Federico da, 147 Tacuinum sanitatis, 58–9, 67, 76–7
Montuus, 249 Tractatus de herbis, 116–117
moon, 30, 191 and imitation, 219, 220, 224
Morley, Brian, 222 and modernity, 241
morus (mulberry), 211 and nature printing, 216–19
Morus nigra (mulberry), 220 and observation of nature, 167–8, 220,
Mosley, Michael, 153 224, 231
moti mentali, 180, see complexions, and periodization, medieval vs.
humoral theory, passions, Galenic Renaissance, 144, 239–41
medical theory, non-naturals scientific knowledge, signaled by, 241

trompe l’oeil, 215 obstetrics, 3

verisimilitude, 230–1, 236, 241 Officio di Sanità (Health Office), 159
nature, Leonardo da Vinci on, 220 oils, 41, 53, 121, 197, 210, 217, 218
nature printing and nature prints, 205–37; see old age and health, 72, 163, 164, 165
also Leonardo da Vinci; Melzi, old wives, 246; see also herbalists
Francesco; Pacioli, Luca; books of Olea (olive-tree), 86
secrets; prints and printmaking; printing olive oil, 121
navelwort, 41 olive-tree (Olea), 86
Negi Master, 98 Omnia Opera Ysaac, 121; see also Isaac
nenofar maior, 43 Judaeus
Nero, Emperor, 101 On the Dignity of Man, see Pico della
Neudörffer, Johann, 196–97 Mirandola
New Haven orarium, 202
Yale University, Cushing/Whitney ordinatio, 125
Medical Library oregano, 43
MS 28 (Paneth Codex), 7, 8, 9 organizational systems, 125; see also
MS 55 (Book of Hours, detached articulation systems; tetrads
leaves), 19 alphabetical, 35, 121, 135, 141
New York anatomical, 135, 141
The Pierpont Morgan Library specific to general, 141
Inc. ML21193, 96 page layout and, 121
MS Acc. No. II, 65 Oribasius, 47
MS M 652 (Dioscorides, De materia ornamentation, see workshop practice;
medica), 31, 34, 39, 40, 43 manuscript production; articulation
MS M. 873 (Matthaeus Platearius, systems; patronage
Compendium Salernitanum), 211 Ornithiaka, 35
Nicander, 40 Ornithopus (bird’s foot), 41
Nicolas de Lyra, 73 orpiment, 131
Nicolaus de Mascharinis, see Mascarino, orthography, 43, 128, 131
Niccolò orticha, 44
Niketas Choniates, 26 os cuer (stag’s heart cartilage), 132
Noble Experyence of the Vertuous Handy Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Warke of Surgeri, see Brunswyg, (National Library of Austria), Vienna,
Hieronymus, 138 40
nomenclature, 31, 144; see also Linnaeus, Ourscamp, Cistercian monastery, Noyon, 5
Carolus Ovid, 93
bones, names of, 138 Oviedo, Gonzalo Fernández, Historia
diseases and ailments, 135, 141, 183 General y Natural de las Indias, 247
remedies, 141 Oxford
non-natural causes of health, 52, 69 Bodleian Library
notomia, 162, 166–67; see also anatomy; MS Arch G. b. 6; previously MS
dissection Douce 310, 84
nudity, 106, 162 MS Rawl. liturg. e. 14, 133
Nuremberg, 187, 246 ox-tongue, 217
nurses, hospitals, in, 17
nutmeg, 132 Pächt, Otto, 68, 116–18, 127, 209
nux sciarca (melegueta pepper), 118 Pacioli, Luca, 170
nymphaea, 43 “books of secrets” and, 219–20
Nyverd, Guillaume, 136–38 De divina proportione, 173, 175, 217
De viribus quantitatis, 216
oats, 77 Leonardo da Vinci, relationship with,
observation and experience of nature, 170, 216–18
116–17, 167, 168, 208, 221, 222, mathematics, 171, 216
244–46; see also naturalism Padua, 47, 58, 187, 199

page layout, 7, 28, 44, 55, 88, 93, 96, 121, Park, Katharine, 148, 152
125, 234 Parkes, Malcolm, 123
in Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts, 209, Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, MS 1278
234 (Pliny the Elder, Natural History), 88,
painting, techniques and materials, 113, 97, 104, 111
222, 224, 230; see also artists and Parmigianino, 189, 190
illuminators Parrhasius, 112
theory and practice, 154, 168, 178–79, parts of body, 135, 138, 148, 155, 157,
181, 205, 207, 221 167–68; see also bones; diseases and
palaces, 66 conditions; skeleton; skulls
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, 78 Pasquino Capelli, 58, 87
Palermo, 54 patients and doctors, 3, 125, 143
Paneth codex, see New Haven, Harvey patrons and patronage, 57, 73, 78, 84, 96,
Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical 132, 158, 175; see also Medici
Library, MS 28 family; Sforza family; Visconti family
Panicum miliaceum L., millet, 42 Beatrix de Savoie, 23
panne de verre, 218 Berry, Duc Jean de, 87, 133
Panofsky, Erwin, 188, 196, 243 Capelli, Pasquino, 87
papaver (white and black poppy), 44 confraternities, 17
Papaver rhoeas L., red poppy, 44 Frederick II, King of Sicily, 54
Papaver somniferum L., poppy, 44 hospitals and almshouses, 17, 23
Paralesis (Primula vulgaris), 226 Isabella d’Este, 203
paralysis, 19 Manfred, King of Sicily, 54
paraph symbol, 123, 128 Pico della Mirandola, 88–90
Paris album, nature print, see Paris, Piccolomini, Gregorio Lolli, 87
Bibliothèque du Muséum d’Histoire Paul of Aegina, 48
naturelle, MS 326 Paul, St, 19
Paris paupers, 162
Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, MS 5070, Pavia, 51, 58, 152
133 Pazzi family conspiracy, 147
Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Beaux Arts, pearls, 106, 109, 193
MS Masson 116, 67 Pecham, Johannes, Perspectiva communis,
Bibliothèque du Muséum d’Histoire 171
naturelle, MS 326 (Paris album of Pedretti, Carlo, 154, 221, 220
plant illustrations), 212, 215, 236 Pelacani, Biagio, 173
Bibliothèque nationale de France Pellegrinaio murals, see hospitals, Santa
MS fr. 343 (Guiron le Courtois), 76 Maria della Scala
MS fr. 616 (Gaston III of Foix, Livre penis, 148, 149, 168, 169
de la chasse), 209 pentefullon, 43
MS gr. 2183 (Parisinus Graecus), 47 peonia, 43, 226
MS Inc. Rès. 415, 98 peony, 43
MS lat. 364, 73 peoples, exotic, see Plinian races
MS lat. 6802, 95 perfumes, 53, 75
MS lat. 6823, 66 Peri ule-s iatrike-s, 35, see Dioscorides, De
MS lat. 6977A, 55 materia medica
MS lat. 7939A, 84 Perino del Vaga, 178
MS nouv. acq. fr. 5243 (Lancelot du Isaiah (Rome, Trinità dei Monti, Pucci
Lac), 76 Chapel), 186, 188
MS nouv. acq. lat. 1673 (Tacuinum Vasari on, 178, 186
sanitatis), 56, 58, 60, 74, 79 periodization, xvii, 1, 144, 237, 239–41
Institut de France, MS F. (2177), 172 Perspectiva communis, see Pecham,
Parisinus Graecus 2183, see Paris, Johannes de; Cardano, Fazio
Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Peter of Abano see Pietro d’Abano
gr. 2183 Petra monastery, 40, 48

Petrarch, annotations on Pliny, 95 Savonarola, Michele da, 199

Petrus Christus, 186 Theodore, Master, physician to
Pharisees, 202 Frederick II of Sicily, 54
pharmacists, 28, 78, 118, 132, 222, 245 Varesi, Ambrogio, 173
pharmacopoeia, 246 physiognomy, 177, 196, 199; see also
Pharmacorum … Dispensatorium (Cordus, humoral/complexion types; Leonardo
Valerius), 246 da Vinci; physiology, human, 148
pharmacy, education, 66 physiotypic process, see nature printing
Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Piccolomini, Aeneas Silvius, see Pius, II
MS Lewis E M 5.20, 5.19, 133 Piccolomini, Gregorio Lolli, 87, 105
phlegm, 141, 193; see also humors, four; Pliny manuscript owned by (London,
humoral/complexion types; Victoria and Albert Museum, MS
phlegmatics; tetrads L.1504–1896), 86, 87, 97–98,
phlegmatics, 180, 182, 189–91, 193–95; 101–102, 105, 106, 109
see also humors, four; Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, 84–114
humoral/complexion types On the Dignity of Man, 89, 104
physicians and medical community, 2, 7, Pliny the Elder, Natural History,
11, 17, 24, 125, 126, 143, 158–9, 167, manuscript, 88–104, 106–14
173, 174, 215, 222, 230, 245; see also Pico Master, 84–114
anatomy; costume and clothing; decorations to incunable copies of Pliny,
Dioscorides; dissections; Galen; Natural History, 84–90, 96
hospitals; medicine; surgeons; manuscripts attributed to, 91, 94, 99, 100,
universities 102–14, 103, 105, 107, 108, 110
arrogance of, 245 pictorial cycles, genres, and narrative
Benivieni, Antonio, 166 themes, 65, 72, 113; see also herbals
Brack, Wenzeslaus, 212, 214, 215 Pietro da Pavia, 58, 87, 98
Budahyliha Byngezla, 53 Pietro d’Abano (Peter of Abano), 47, 75
Byzantine physicians, 49 pigments, 112
calendar, physician’s folding (vade pilgrims and pilgrim badges, 17, 20–22, 24
mecum), 9, 10, 22 pilifagus (sage), 212, 213
Cardano, Fazio, 171 pine trees, 67
Cardano, Girolamo, 171 Pino, Paolo, Dialogo della Pittura, 178
Cordus, Euricius, 246–47 pionia, 43
Cordus Valerius, 246 Pius II, Pope (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini),
Cusano, Nicolò, 173 87
della Torre, Marcantonio, 152, 155, place and geography, in health, 53, 72; see
173–74, 176 also non-naturals
dress, 7, 125; see also clothing plague, 80, 159, 174
Ficino, Marsilio, 183 plant books, see herbals
Fuchs, Leonhart, 240–44 plant gatherers, 105, 117, 245–47; see also
Frugardi, Roger, 13 herbalists
Ghiringhelli, Giovanni, 173 plantago, 143
Giovio, Paolo, 158 plants; see also under names of individual
Ibn, 52 plants; botanical illustration, herbals,
ignorance of, 246 materia medica, naturalism
images of, 2, 87, 105 in amulets, 15
Leoni, Pierleone, 151 classification and taxonomy, 121, 221,
Marliani family, 172 222, 224, 231, 241
Marliani, Giovanni da, 172 growth, form, and morphology, 33, 34,
Pelacani, Biagio, 173 77, 224, 231, 240
Pietro d’Abano (Peter of Abano), habitat, 43, 121, 221
47, 75 nomenclature and identifications, 26, 42,
Pirovano, Gabriele 173 46, 49, 116, 119, 121, 128, 137–38,
Roger de Baron, 7 139, 215, 237, 241, 246

illustration, 31–44, 47, 49, 62, 66–68, Portinari altarpiece, see Goes, Hugo van
98, 134, 117, 128, 143, 207, 209, der
128, 230, 237, 241, 244, 248 portraits and portraiture, 80, 90, 106, 113,
images of, 14, 32, 33, 36–39, 56, 60, 70, 153, 190, 193
79, 124, 129, 140, 213–14, 223, of authors, 86, 84, 86, 94, 240
225, 227–28, 233, 235, 242 Mona Lisa, 153, 190–91, 197
specimens, 209, 231 in Pliny mss, 84, 86, 87, 91, 93, 94, 96,
study of, 104, 247, 248 97, 108, 109
symbolism of, 15, 72, 224 self-portraits, 87, 230, 241, 242
uses, 15, 43, 85, 104, 119 of women, 192, 198
Platearius, 118, 119, 127, 137; see also Posner, Kathleen Weil-Garris, 204
Johannes, Platearius; Matthaeus post-mortems, see anatomy, dissections
Platearius, Circa instans pouncing, technique, 208
Plinian races, 102, 103, 104 Practica medicinae, 3
Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 83–114, Practica platearij, 118
131, 244, 248; see also Guarino da Practica, see John of Arderne
Verona; Berry, Jean, Duc de; Petrarch; Prague, Národni knihova, MS XXIII F
Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni; Pico 129, 212, 214
Master; Pietro da Pavia; Pliny the precious stones, see gems and jewelry;
Younger; Pseudo-Pliny Polycrates
anecdotes illustrated in, 101–14 pregnancy, 168
art, naturalism, and illusion, on, 109–13, pressed flowers, 209
131 Primula vulgaris (paralesis), 226
botany, on, 131, 144 printed books, see book owners, readers,
incunable editions, 92 and users; incunabula and early
medieval textual tradition, 85 printed books; printers, early
Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS E. printers, early, 143
42 inf., 58, 87 Andrewe, Laurence, 143
moralizing, 101–102, 106, 109, 114 Egenolff, Christian, 246
London, Victoria and Albert Museum, le Caron, Pierre, 136
MS L. 1504–1896 (Piccolomini Grüninger, Johann, 137
ms.), 86 Gulielmus de Papia, 232, 233, 235
Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, MS 1278 Isingrin, Michael, 230, 242
(Parma Pliny), 88, 97, 104, 111 Jenson, Nicholas, 84, 89, 90, 96, 97
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Johannes de Medemblick, 47
MS lat.Vi 245 (coll 2976) (Pico Johannes de Spira, 90
manuscript), 91, 94, 99–111 Leonardus (Achates) de Basilea, 232,
Pliny the Younger, Letters, 90, 92, 93 233, 235
Plutarch, Vitae virorum illustrium, 89 Metlinger, Pierre, 136
poetry and poets, 92, 171, 175 Nyverd, Guillaume, 136, 137
poisons, 135 Schott, Joannes, 246
political praxis and mechanical arts, 175 Sweynheym and Pannartz, 92
Poliziano, Angelo, 89, 209 Treveris, Peter, 136–38, 139, 140, 142
Polycrates, 106 printing and printing press, 207, 210, 235;
pomegranate, 42, 193 see also printers, early; prints and
pomes granades, 42 printmaking; Leonardo da Vinci
Pomiferae, 86 nature printing and, 207, 217, 220
Pompey, 106, 108, 109 printing errors, 143, 233, 234
Pontormo, Jacopo, 195–97, 203, prints and printmaking, 143, 207, 230,
Four Evangelists, tondi (Florence, St 234, 236, 239; see also copperplate
Felicità, Capponi Chapel), 195 engraving; engravings; intaglio; relief
popolo grasso, 81 engraving; woodcuts
poppy, 43 prognostication, see Sphere of Pythagoras
populus (poplar), 211 (sphere of life and death)

prophets and prophecy, 5, 183, 189, 196 relics, 20

proverbs, 216 relief carvings, church porch, San Zeno,
Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarius and herbal Verona, 69
tradition, 117, 118, 226 relief engraving, 236
Pseudo-Aristotle, Le Livre des problèmes, Rembrandt, 189
96 remedies, 13, 14, 28, 118–19, 127, 132,
Pseudo-Galen, Experimenta, 7, 8 135, 137–38, 141, 142; see also under
Pseudo-Moschion, see Muscio names of individual plants and
Pseudo-Pliny, Medicina Plinii, 85 remedies; materia medica; medicinal
Ptolemy, 96, 97 substances
public health, 159–60 resurrection of the body, 150, 151
pulse-taking, 3, 13 Reti, Ladislao, 232
punctuation, 123 Rhazes, 57, 137
Punic War, First, 113 rice, 77, 78, 79
Punica granatum L., pomegranate, 42 Richard de Bury, 209
purgatory, 17 Richter, Jean-Paul, 172
pygmy, 102 ricotta, 55, 59
Pyle, Cynthia, 229 riddles, 218
Rinio Herbal, see Roccabonella Herbal
qualities, see humors, four (Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale
Queller, Donald E., 25 Marciana, MS lat. VI.59)
quicksilver, 128 Rizon (rice), 79
quid pro quo, 119 Roccabonella Herbal (Venice, Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, MS lat. VI.59),
races and racism, 102, 104; see also 75
alterity; Plinian races Roch, St and plague, 2
races, monstruous, see Plinian races Roger de Baron,
Raphael, 181, 189, 191, 193, 196, 197, Practica medicinae, 3
198, 199, 203–204 Rogerina, 7,
Alberti, Della pittura, and, 181 Rogier van der Weyden, altarpiece
Heliodorus fresco (The Vatican), 181 (Beaune, Hôtel Dieu), 18
Jeremiah (Bologna, San Giovanni Rogier van der Weyden, follower of,
Evangelista, St Cecilia Altarpiece), altarpiece (Sherborne, Dorset,
186 almshouse chapel), 18
Maddalena Doni (Florence, Palazzo Roman de la Rose, 72
Pitti), 191 Roman emperors, 80, 86, 82, 93, 101, 106
Madonna di Loreto (Chantilly, Musèe romances, 68, 72, 73
Condè), 189 Rome, 92, 186
Saint Cecilia with Sts Paul, John ancient, 95, 102, 106, 109
Evangelist, Augustine, and Mary Biblioteca Angelica, MS 1474, 23
Magdalene (Bologna, Pinacoteca), Biblioteca Casanatense,
186, 197, 198 MS 459, 62
Madonna of the Goldfinch (Florence, MS 1382, 5
Uffizi), 193 MS 4182 (Theatrum sanitatis), 23,
School of Athens, 186 61, 62
reading and readers, 96, 144; see also ronce, 44
articulation systems; book owners, roses, 43, 60, 77, 132, 217
users, and readers Rosso Fiorentino, 189, 190
realism, see naturalism Rouen, Bibliothèque municipale, MS
recipes, household and medical, 29, 215, Leber (3054) 1088 (Tacuinum
216 sanitatis), 51, 104
Reeds, Karen Meier, 117, 244 roxe (rose), 60
reeds, see rushes Rubens, 189
Registre of the chaptrees, 138, 139 rubrication, 134

Rubus spp., bramble, 44 Longboat Key, FL, Lawrence J.

Rufinus herbal, 134 Schoenberg Collection, MS LJS 419,
Rufus of Ephesus, 55 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 236
runes, 215 scholars, Byzantine, medieval, and
Ruscelli, Girolamo, see Alessio humanist, 26, 46, 50, 66, 89, 92–93,
Piemontese, 218 96, 116–17, 144, 180, 183, 209,
rushes, 222, 223 244–49
rustici, see herbalists schoolmaster, 212, 230
rute, 29 Schott, Joannes, 237, 246, 249
rye, 77 sciatica, 73
science and art, 241; see also text and
sacra conversazione, 194 image
Sacrobosco, Johannes, Sphera Mundi, 98 scientific images, printed, 144, 243
sage (salvia), 29, 55, 205, 207–209, Sciopod, 102
211–12, 215–17, 226, 230 Scirpus, 222, 223, 224, 234
Salvia (sage), 206, 210, 213 Scirpus lacustri, 222
Salvia officinalis L., sage, 229 scolopendria, 41
Salvia pratense L., salvia dei prati, scorpions, 30
meadow clary, 229 scribes and amanuenses, 1, 134; see also
Salvia salvatica, 229 artists and illuminators
Salvia salvaticha (clary, catnip?), 228, Guillebert of Mets, 133
229 Mascarino, Niccoló, 88, 90
Salamon dei Grassi, 58 Pliny the Younger, portrayed as, 97
Salerno and Salernitan medicine, 27, 66, for Pacioli, De viribus quantitatis, 217
68, 115–16, 211 Scuole Piattine, 172
Salutati, Coluccio, 92 Scythia, 102
Salvia, see sage sea water, 63
Salzburg, University Library Salzburg, MS seals, wax, 208
M I 36, 212, 213, 237, 230, 237 seasons of life, see ages of man
San Marco, Dominican convent, 96 seasons, 53, 69, 72
San Zeno, Verona, church porch, 69 Secreti del Reverendo Alessio Piemontese,
sanguines, 180, 182, 194–97; see also see Alessio Piemontese, books of
humoral/complexion types secrets
Santa Maria della Scala, hospital, Siena, secretions and excretions, 52–53; see also
17 non-natural causes of health
Santa Maria Nuova, hospital, Florence, Secretum secretorum, 23
163 Segre Rutz, Vera, 51, 57, 67
Sanudo, Leonardo, 84 Sekenesse of Wymmen, 3, 4
sardonyx, 106 Sempervivum tectorum L., houseleek, 44
Saturn and melancholy, 188 sempre viva, 44
Savoldo, Giovanni Girolamo, Elijah Fed semprevivum, 44
by the Raven (Washington D.C., Serapion, 57
National Gallery), 187 serpentaria mayor, 43
savon, 199 sexuality, 72, 77; see also coition, coitus
Savonarola, Michele da, Speculum Sforza family, 62, 63, 151, 154, 158,
phisionomiae, 199 161–62, 170
Savoy, Bona of, 63 Sforza, Bianca Maria, 62
schematization and stylization in visual Sforza, Francesco, 155, 161, 168
images, 15, 87, 97, 141, 194–95, 226, Sforza, Giangaleazzo Maria, Duke of
229, 237, 241; see also naturalism, Milan, 62
flattening Sforza, Ludovico, 151
Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Shearman, John, 202
Image (SCETI), 226 shepherd’s purse, 41
Schoenberg herbal (Erbario), see shops, 78

Shrine of Juno, 113 spikenard, 197

sibyl, Libyan (Libica), 196 spiritelli, 93
Siena, 17, 78 sponges, 132
sigils, astrological, 19 squash, 67
Signorelli, Luca, The Realm of Pan, 184 Stachys officinalis (L.) Trev., betony, 41, 42
signposting, see articulation systems stag, 80, 132
simple and compound medicines, 123, standardization of images, 87
135; see materia medica, medicinal starch, 63, 124, 129
substances, remedies; see also under stars, 97
names of individual plants and statuary and monuments, 17, 92, 113, 155,
substances 184, 186
simples (simple medicines), see materia Stella, Angelo, 57
medica, medicinal substances, stenciling, 208, 220
remedies, simple and compound stole, see orarium
medicines; see also under names of stomach, 135
individual plants and medicinal Strassburg, 137
substances strawberry, 143
Singer, Charles, 117 Strozzi, Filippo, 84
siriaca, 213 Studio (University of Pavia), 174
siringue (syringe), 135 Studiolo of Francesco de’ Medici,
Sixtus IV, Pope, 147 (Florence, Palazzo Vecchio), 179
skeleton and bones, 138, 155, 172, 173, Studium, see universities
195; see also parts of body stufe (communal baths), 162
skin, 135, 180, 181, 182, 187–88, 197; see sudarium, 22
also colors; humoral/complexion Suetonius, De viris illustribus, 90, 92
types sugar, 75, 77, 137–38
skulls, 13, 101, 104, 155, 156, 187; see sulfur, 132
also cranium sulphide of antimony, 123; see also
sleep and wakefulness; see also non- antimonium, antimony
natural causes of health surgeons and surgery, 2, 13–17, 138, 143,
smells, 13, 23, 53, 72, 104, 132, 216, 224 159, 160–161, 174; see also John of