The exhibition was born following the publication of the volume by Milvia Bollati and Marco Petoletti, Manoscritti miniati in Italia della Biblioteca Ambrosiana (fondo inferior) (Italian illuminated manuscripts of the Ambrosiana Library).
Among the manuscripts bearing works of Latin classics are the Tragedies of Seneca (C 96 inf.) illuminated by Niccolò di Giacomo da Bologna around 1385 with scenes showing the contents of the Tragedies, and the extraordinary Solinus (C 246 inf.), a unique volume in the panorama of the transmission of this compendium of mirabilia for the exceptional complexity and quality of its iconographic apparatus, with the representation of the monsters described by Solinus.
The ms. E 24 inf. contains the Encyclopaedia by Pliny the Elder and is signed by another illuminator, Pietro da Pavia, an Augustinian friar. The artist portrays himself at work in the capital letter of book XXXV, dedicated to ancient art, and dates his enterprise to 1389.
The series of fourteenth-century liturgical manuscripts is also prestigious: among the volumes on show there are, for example, the Missal of Roberto Visconti, archpriest of the Milan Cathedral. In his will of 1327 (C 170 inf.) he recalled among his assets this volume, which at the time was still being copied by Giovanni da Legnano. Another precious Ambrosian Missal (E 18 inf.), was instead illuminated by Salomone de ‘Grassi and collaborators at the end of the fourteenth century. Finally, there is also a Roman missal (G 300 inf.), probably made for an Augustinian community and decorated by Anovelo da Imbonate. Of the same author, only two other illuminated volumes for the cathedral of S. Tecla are known at the present stage of research. A special mention deserves the liber capituli of the Lombard Cistercian monastery of Morimondo, Martyrology and Rule of s. Benedict (H 186 inf.). It dates back to the mid-fourteenth century and is important also for the obituary additions to the martyrology, reporting the death of the main abbots.
Finally, there are masucripts which, although lacking an iconic decoration, feature a system of gold and ink filigrees of exceptional visual impact and great refinement: the important collection of music treatises, from Guido Aretino to Marchetto Padovano (D 5 inf .), perhaps destined for the Angevin court of Naples, and Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae (D 40 inf.), copied and illuminated in northern Italy in 1400 and later owned by Tommaso Tebaldi of Bologna, an important of fifteenth century Milan.
The exhibition is designed to let visitors appreciate the beauty of these treasures and discover that “mine of stories” that is hidden in every medieval manuscript.
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Renata Cipriani, a distinguished scholar of art history, who has devoted careful attention to the almost complete examination of the Latin codices of the Ambrosiana with a keen eye on decoration.