King of Naples and Sicily, Robert of Anjou (1277-1343), inherited from his father the kingdom of Sicily and all his Mediterranean lands. This empire had been conquered over the years by the dynasties of Anjou and Aragon. Robert of Anjou was a wise and capable king. During his reign, Naples became a powerful capital a center of culture and art.
Robert of Anjou became leader of the kingdom of Florence and the city of Prato in the years of the conflicts between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. During these continuous fights, Robert of Anjou was called to arbitrate.
The manuscript preserved in the British Library, Royal E IX, contains probably the original copy of the text addressed to Robert of Anjou by the people of Prato, Tuscany, when the city placed itself under Robert’s protection in 1335-40.
The Author of the Regia Carmina: Convenevole da Prato
Convenevole da Prato (1270-1338), professor of grammar and rhetoric, famous as Petrarch’s teacher, wrote the text of the manuscript. The text explains that the city of Prato requests the King to unite Italy under his rule and restore the Papal rule in Rome.
The date and the quality of the manuscript suggests that this codex was likely the presentation copy given to Robert of Anjou on behalf of the citizens of Prato. In 1757, George II presented the codex to the British as part of the Old Royal Library.
The illuminations of Pacino da Buonaguida
The decoration of the manuscript shows complex iconographies and an abundance of historical and biblical figures. The illuminations are mainly focused on Robert of Anjou who is portrayed on fol. 10, while his arms appear on fol. 2v.
Pacino da Buonaguida was a versatile and famous artist and illuminator. Active in the first half of the Trecento, he represents one of the main figures of the artistic context of the Trecento along with Giotto and the Maestro di Santa Cecilia.
His style is recognizable in the manuscript of Robert of Anjou because of the detailed physiognomy of the figures and the careful depiction of the details.
Post-17th century leather binding.
- Images courtesy of the British Library