Franco dei Russi, f. 1455-1482
Among the best known artists of the fifteenth-century, he is a Mantuan active in Ferrara, Padua, and Venice from 1455. Just like many of his generation, he was involved in the making of the Borso d’Este Bible (Modena, Biblioteca Estense Universitaria, mss. lat. 422 e lat. 423). He dedicated himself to illustration of both codices and incunabula, thus contributing to the spread of the peculiar antiquarian language, born in those decades in Northern Italy, to Central Italy (see the Oratio gratulatoria by Bernardo Bembo to the doge Cristoforo Moro, London, British Library, ms. Add. 14787, from the beginning of the sixties; the Ortographia of Tortelli published in Venice by the presses of Nicholas Jenson in 1471, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Vèl. 526 e Vèl. 527; the signed cutting Add. 20916, London, British Library). He was particularly influenced by the Antiquaria of Mantegna, from which he derived his repertoire of ancient monumental aedicules, cornucopia motifs, and painted bas-relief friezes, among other things. The new Venetian vision was also influenced by the style of Bellini, from which “a new naturalism is derived” and “certain warmer chromatic tones” (original text: Torquati, Scheda nr. 105, p. 390). In the mid-seventies, Franco began his activity for the library of Federico da Montefeltro and would remain in Urbino as a ‘palace’ illuminator definitely until 1482, the year of the death of the duke.
On a stylistic basis, art historians attribute to him a large number of Urbinati manuscripts, such as Urb. lat. 10, the Gospel Book of the duke; Urb. lat. 151, the De sanguine Christi by Francesco Della Rovere; Urb. lat. 308, a miscellaneous grammar book (but see the Curatorial Narratives for a different critical opinion); the famous Libanius, Urb. lat. 336; the Dante's Commedia, Urb. lat. 365.
HERMANN, La miniatura estense, passim; TORQUATI, Scheda nr. 105, p. 390; FUMIAN, Su alcuni miniatori ferraresi, passim; TONIOLO, Franco dei Russi, pp. 240-244; TONIOLO, Scheda nr. 2, p. 116; MARTELLI, The Production of Illuminated Manuscripts, pp. 42, 45; MARTELLI, I codici di produzione urbinate, pp. 70, 73; PERUZZI, La formazione della biblioteca, pp. 25, 32; TONIOLO, I miniatori ferraresi, pp. 79, 82, 83, 89.
Urb. lat. 336, f. 2r - Urb. lat. 365, f. 75r