Latin Classics The Evolution and Transmission of Texts of Specific Works [by M. Buonocore]

Horatius Flaccus, Quintus, 65 a.C.-8 d.C.

The figurative tradition of the works of Horace does not have a conspicuous number of witnesses, and above all the first known examples can all be dated after the year one thousand (Villa, I manoscritti; Olsen, L’étude des auteurs). In the Vatican Apostolic Library, of the approximately two hundred codices that are preserved from the works of Orazio, only four illustrated copies allow us to reflect on the history of the figurative tradition of the Horatian text; these were made between the 11th century until the 15th century: Reg. lat. 1701; Vat. lat. 3261; Vat. lat. 1592; Vat. lat. 3173 (Buonocore, Codices Horatiani). The works with the text of Orazio can sometimes be associated with the commentary of Porfirione, as in the case of ms. Reg. lat. 1701, which presents the commentary as a gloss to the text. The work of Porfirione also gave rise to an autonomous illustrative tradition, which contributed to the diffusion of the ars poetica of Horace particularly in the humanistic era, to which for example the splendid manuscript, ms. Chig. H. VII. 229, attests.

Often these are codices in which the use of color is reduced to shades of brown, ranging from red to sepia, and the depicted image is reduced to the monster at the beginning of the epistle to the Pisoni (Alexander, Scribes as artists). The monster is sometimes presented with the features of a female Triton with wings and a mane; in other cases the miniaturist seems to draw from the hybrid forms of his iconographic repertoire, adapting them to the needs of the text, as is the case with Reg. lat. 1701, which depicts a half-Pegasus/half-centaur hybrid on f. 60r (Villa, «Ut poesis pictura»). A recurrent representation in the Horatian codices is also the image of Maecenas, often depicted next to the poet, as in a eleventh-century Parisian codex (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, latin 8213) or in Vat. lat. 3261 (f. 1v). Horace’s image at the opening of the works is also frequent, as demonstrated by Vat. lat. 1592, placed as a full-length image in the outer margin (Buonocore, Augusto-Federico).

Finally, among the most de luxe codes of Horace’s text we cannot forget the frontispiece of the Berlin manuscript, copied in Naples around 1490 probably by Gianrinaldo Mennio from Sorrento, and illuminated by Giovanni Tedeschino (Preussicher Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78 D 14). This codex, unlike the examples mentioned above from the Roman era, bears no relation between the words of the Horatian text and the images depicted (Vedere i classici, pp. 17-18).