The Model Book of Giovannino de' Grassi is the best-known and most precious manuscript in the "Angelo Mai" Library in Bergamo and is commonly regarded as the most important example of late Gothic Italian art. Created in the late 14th century at the Visconti court, the codex, a so-called model book, comprises 77 drawings and 24 letters of the alphabet in excellent quality.

The Artist: Giovannino de' Grassi

The master who so perfectly painted the manuscript is Giovannino de' Grassi. He was truly a universal artist and a gifted drawer and sculptor as well as the architect of the Milan cathedral.

At the height of his career, Giovannino de' Grassi maintained contact with the most famous architects of central European Gothic cathedrals, including with Heinrich Parler and Ulrich von Einsingen. This reinforced the Lombardian master’s position and probably also led him to produce drawings in which he documented his artistic ideas.

Model Books: Guiding Images of Medieval Art

Model books of this kind were an indispensable tool in every artist’s workshop. They contained artful ornamental elements, perfect calligraphic initials, and even animals, since most medieval artists never had the opportunity to study exotic creatures, such as leopards, gazelles or even lions, in nature.

In order to depict these animals in a realistic way, it was necessary to provide the artist with a model that could be identified without question by the viewer. Model books thus provided exemplary motives, showing both human beings and animals in their typical pose or executing specific activities.

Given their extraordinary artistic importance and the great influence they would have on the stylistic evolution of art, model books soon became sought after as collector’s items.

Exemplary Models for Generations of Artists

The model book depicts the most varied types of creatures. Sheep and lions rest harmoniously side by side while ostriches, porcupines, and monkeys happily roam among the pages of the manuscript. A very interesting feature are the perfectly drawn groups of humans.

There are women playing the lyre or gathering to read, and there is even a sailing boat. Every single page of the model book is a work of art in its own right, so masterly executed that many painters after de' Grassi used it as a model for their own creations.

The World-Famous Figure Alphabet

The five most extraordinary pages of the model book contain Giovannino de' Grassi’s famous alphabet. The Gothic letters, so skilfully painted by the master himself, consist of both human and animal figures. Musicians and angels wander through the book, side by side with very realistically sketched lions or bulls.

We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Sketchbook of Giovannino de' Grassi":

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
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#1 Das Musterbuch des Giovannino de Grassi

Lucerne or Munich: Faksimile Verlag, 1998

Das Musterbuch des Giovannino de Grassi, Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, Ms. VII. 14, Das Musterbuch des Giovannino de Grassi facsimile edition by Facsimile Verlag.
Das Musterbuch des Giovannino de Grassi facsimile edition by Facsimile Verlag.
  • Commentary (German) by Bravi, Giulio Orazio; Recanati, Maria Grazia; Vaccari, Maria Grazia; Montalbano, Letizia; Rossi Scarzanella, Chiara
  • Limited Edition: 333 of 999 copies (co-edition)
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Sketchbook of Giovannino de' Grassi: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

The full set, consisting of a facsimile volume in the velours etui and a commentary volume, is presented in a book case. The facsimile is published in co-edition.

Binding

The binding is a faithful imitation of the original binding in stiff cardboard. The model book is protected by an etui of the finest rust colored velours.

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#2 Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi

Modena: Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte, 1998-2002

+ 4

Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi, Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, Ms. VII. 14, Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte
Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte

+ 4

Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi, Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, Ms. VII. 14, Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte
Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte

+ 4

Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi, Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, Ms. VII. 14, Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte
Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte

+ 4

Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi, Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, Ms. VII. 14, Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte
Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte

+ 4

Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi, Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, Ms. VII. 14, Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte
Il Taccuino di disegni di Giovannino de' Grassi facsimile edition by Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte
  • Commentary (Italian) by Bravi, Giulio Orazio; Recanati, Maria Grazia; Vaccari, Maria Grazia; Montalbano, Letizia
  • Limited Edition: 999 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Sketchbook of Giovannino de' Grassi: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

The full set, consisting of a facsimile volume in the velours etui and a commentary volume, is available in a leather book case. The facsimile is published in co-edition.

Binding

The binding is a faithful imitation of the original binding in stiff cardboard. The model book is protected by an etui of the finest rust colored velours.

Used and new from

€ 1,250

approx US$ 1,479


Our Price

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