The Durazzo Book of Hours is named after its last owner. Painted by the illuminator Francesco Marmitta, this precious manuscript is different from other devotional books for private use. Indeed, it is painted purple and written in gold, employing the so-called chrysography technique. Pietro Antonio Sallando, Professor at the University of Bologna, is the master calligrapher who made this beautiful writing.
The Illumination Work of the Goldsmith and Jeweler Francesco Marmitta
Francesco Marmitta (1462-1505) was a painter, jeweler and inlayer from Parma. He made such splendid works as the Missal kept in the Museo Civico di Torino, commissioned by Domenico della Rovere. The miniatures in the Durazzo Book of Hours show medals and cameos reflecting the artistic delicacy of a jeweler.
Landscapes and natural elements are recurrent subjects in the book demonstrating Marmitta's extraordinary skills in creating atmospheric effects like the darkness of the night. His artistic skills were enriched by references to the Classical tradition.
The purple ground and gold lettering is a late antique layout: decorative elements like trophies, cameos, medallions, and bucrania are inspired to the Classical visual language. Along with the references to antiquity, the pictorial style of the miniatures reveals the artist's awareness of the most recent pictorial tendencies in Bologna. Marmitta was especially inspired by the work of Amico Aspertini.
The Origin and Provenance of the Durazzo Book of Hours
The patron of the Libro d'Ore Durazzo was probably from Parma. The fact that this codex was created or at least located in Parma is testified by another artist, Parmigianino, the artist behind the Portrait of a Collector – now in London, National Gallery – which depicts a figure holding this precise manuscript.
It seems that Francesco Marmitta's son, Jacopo, brought the book to Portugal. In the nineteenth century the manuscript was in Genoa, and first belonged to Antonio Bacigalupo, and then to the Marquis Marcello Luigi Durazzo who bequeathed the codex to the Biblioteca Berio.
The treasure binding is contemporary with the manuscript. It features embossed silver on crimson velvet. Splendid classical motifs of acanthus leaves and palmettes, grapes, vases, bucrania, masks and scarabs embellish the covers. The silver clasps are decorated with two rubies.