This famous manuscript of the Divine Comedy is known as Dante Gradenighiano or Gradonighiano after the fourteenth-century Venetian noble Giacomo Gradenigo, a diplomatic, highly literate and fine poet, who composed and wrote the text of the codex. Giacomo Gradenigo copied the Divine Comedy enriching the poem with an original commentary and verses by Meneghino Menzani, Jacopo Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio.
Gradenigo’s comments on the Comedy constituted an upgraded form of the influential commentary written by Jacopo della Lana. An acrostic contained in the manuscript reveals “Iacomo Gradonico” as the author and copist of the codex.
The Decorative Apparatus of the Dante Gradenighiano
The manuscript misses some verses in each of the three sections of the Divine Comedy entitled Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Thanks to Gradenigo's extensive commentary, the codex Gradenighiano represents an important witness of the cult of Dante in the area of the Venetian region.
Along with the commentary, the codex bears a refined decoration in small miniatures. The opening illumination depicts Dante and Virgil and it is followed by 23 delicate pen drawings with watercolor decoration. The identity of the illuminators at work on this manuscript is matter of debate.
The most refined quality of the first miniature in comparison with the less detailed drawings that follow, suggest that more than one artist realized the codex. There is general agreement on the fact that the illuminator would have been active in the circles of Padua, displaying a style close to the Master of the Initials of Brussels.
The Owners of the Dante Gradenighiano and the Original Recipt of the Manuscript
Remarkable information on the original aspect of the codex and its costs are contained in the manuscript. A note written by Gradenigo on the flyleaf at the end of the book provides unique information about the price of the 24 miniatures, the binding and the parchment, which costed 74 lire and 15 soldi.
The binding is attributed to a certain Cerbero who worked at the University of Padua. Cerbero provides evidence of the localization of the manuscript in Padua when Gradenigo visited the city in the last decade of the fourteenth century.
The manuscript represents the coat of arms of the Sanudo family (fol. 2r) along with the emblems of Giacomo Gradenigo. As it is usual in manuscripts, the arms of the Sanudo were painted over the original emblem of Gradenigo. The codex, after being in the hands of Giacomo Gradenigo, passed on to the Sanudo family who made their arms visible at the opening of the book.