A Resounding Sobriquet: The Medici Aesop

The animal fables traditionally attributed to Aesop (ca. 620-560 B.C.E.), widely available in Latin translation in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, were transmitted in the original Greek to the West from Byzantium by the scholar Maximus Planudes (d. 1310). With the humanistic revival of classical Greek texts, Aesop took on new life as a means of teaching Greek to young boys, and this elegant manuscript "” copied by an anonymous scribe from the edition printed by Bonus Accursius at Milan ca. 1480 "” may have served just this purpose, if in an elevated setting. It is known from a 1495 inventory that Piero de' Medici (b. 1472), son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, owned an illustrated Greek Aesop, and the Medici arms appear microscopically within one of the miniatures (on the well-head in the fable The Dog That Came to Dinner). Piero was tutored by the noted scholar Angelo Poliziano between 1475 and 1479, and the Greek scholar Giovanbattista Buoninsegni was also of that circle. The fables are illustrated by 135 lively and memorable miniatures, which would have appealed to a child and helped to fix in his mind the moralizing messages with which each story ends. The exquisite miniatures and the other decorative elements appear to be the work of several artists. Formerly attributed to Francesco d'Antonio del Cherico, the Medici Aesop is now assigned to Mariano del Buono (1433-ca. 1504) and the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon. It is the most highly illustrated version of the Fables to survive from the Italian Renaissance.


Aesop. Fables (The Medici Aesop). In Greek. Manuscript on vellum; written by an unknown scribe; illuminated by Mariano del Buono and the Master of the Hamilton Xenophon. Florence, ca. 1480.
The New York Public Library, Spencer Collection.


More Images from the Medici Aesop

Related Publication: The Medici Aesop: Spencer 50 from the Spencer Collection of The New York Public Library

Related Publication: The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library

Online Exhibition: Faith and Legacy: The Hellenic World from the Collections of The New York Public Library

Exhibition Brochure: The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library

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