Giovanni Belbello da Pavia, f. 1425-1460
Attested for the first time in documents dating from October 13, 1442, he was an active miniaturist at the court of Gonzaga di Mantova. The artist’s catalog is very broad: 'at least worth mentioning are Belbello’s numerous contributions to the second volume of the Offiziolo by Gian Galeazzo Visconti (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, ms. Landau Finaly 22). In the 30’s of the same century comes the decoration of a breviary in collaboration with the Maestro delle Vitae Imperatorum intended for Bianca di Savoia and commissioned by Filippo Maria (Chambéry, BM, ms. 4) and of the Messale for Barbara of Brandenburg Gonzaga (Mantua, Archivio Diocesano), made between 1442- 1462. After numerous vicissitudes and the end of his assignment at the court of the Gonzagas, Belbello would finish his career in Venice (1462-1470). The style of Belbello reinterprets the naturalistic flair of Giovannino de Grassi, transforming landscapes often into ideal and unreal places. His design may be identified by the abbreviated line and construction of oval faces with short and straight noses and images enlivened by a bright color range, which derives from the efforts of the late twentieth-century Emilian miniature.
The codex Ott. lat. 2057, conserved in the Vatican Apostolic Library, is probably the first work of the miniaturist, as has been substantially argued by Antonio Cadei. Here the artist shows to be anchored to a late fourteenth century language; moreover, especially in the realization of the marginal friezes, we can recognize his debt to the transalpine figurative culture, which aligns the activity of Belbello with that French-style taste of the Po area characteristic of the works of Michelino da Besozzo. The codex from the Ottobonian collection, in addition to the miniatures of the Aeneid from a later period (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, latin 8204), represents the first of only two cases of Belbello’s career in which the miniaturist approaches classical texts of the manuscript tradition instead of his more widespread decoration of liturgical codices, such as the aforementioned cases and the amazing apparatus of miniatures in the Bibbia di Niccolò III d’Este, rmade between 1432-1433 and still preserved in the Vatican Apostolic Library (ms. Barb. lat. 613).
CADEI, Studi di miniatura lombarda, pp. 30-39; LOLLINI, Giovanni Belbello, pp. 273-276.
Barb. lat. 613, f. 3r - Ott. lat. 2057, f. 1r