Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

In searching for some works that I had read about by the senior Giovanni Bembo, father of Bonifacio, I came upon this article in the Jewish Press. It was in 2005.
I will highlight three parts of the article that was interesting to me.(and maybe to you :) )
Four beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscripts loaned to the Israel Museum are being shown under the title Jewish Masterpieces from the Vatican Library. Although they are masterpieces of Jewish thought and handwritten by Jewish scribes, their art is not Jewish at all. These glorious books were clearly illuminated by trained Italian Christian artists with a mastery of color and perspective unknown to Jewish folk artists and scribes.

Even Ha'ezer (The Stone of Help) relates to family law (marriage and divorce);……………
At the beginning of Even Ha'ezer, a Jewish wedding is depicted in great detail the sumptuous clothes and elaborate hats, the musical accompaniment, the elegant hall with its Renaissance perspective, the groom placing the ring on his bride's finger, and the bearded officiant who lends a measure of gravitas to the occasion…….
Given the beauty of their artistic style, which is typical of northern Italy, the illustrations in this manuscript must have been produced in one of Lombardy's leading workshops, possibly that of Bonifacio Bembo of Cremona. ... px?id=1638

I cannot find this manuscript to see the illumination...If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
It occurs to me, that if the possibility of the work in 1435.c was from the Bembo Workshop- They must have been expert in Marriage depictions and this subject was a reoccurring theme- for all sorts of clients- in this case Jewish.
I guess the idea that tarot was their main occupation is niave- possibly it was just a sideline.
If anyone can find these illuminations I would be very grateful.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

Yay! Yes that is it SteveM, thank you very much.
In my book of Hebrew manuscript painting it says it was painted in 1438 by Bonifacio Bembo; the Zavaitari Brothers of Monza who painted another part and the script was completed on Thursday, November the 24, 1435 by the scribe in Mantua. It sure travelled around to get completed.
It is beautiful.
Tarot was just following a tradition for what ever reason in the handpainted cards of the Lovers.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

I hope this doesn't re-encourage the 22 trumps = 22 hebrew letters crowd. Joking of course and another nice find Lorredan!

On a more serious note - "possibility of the work in 1435.c was from the Bembo Workshop" - certainly fits in the balzo hairstyle discussion Mikeh and I were having were the balzo seemed to be in use in the 1430s and then used in the 1440s to depict "old fashioned"/legendary events. I'm assuming the Jewish marriage was a contemproary depeiction and not trrying to show an ancient biblical one...

Re: Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

Hi Phaeded!
I thought you might think it interesting.
It was apparently painted in 1438. It was to illustrate the traditional formula of Jewish marriage where it says
"Behold you are consecrated unto me with this ring, in accordance with the Laws of Moses and Israel"
The two couples are the same pair, divided by a coloumn. On our left the bride has become bareheaded as was the custom.
The article says they are wearing extravagent and luxuriant headgear and garments trimmed with fur- typical features of The Gothic International style in Lombardy. It can be apparently dated by illustration because the officiant is not joining the hands of the couple as appears later in the second half of the 15th Century illuminations.
Such a detail to explain so much!
I think the following extract says a lot also.
While lively and elegantly accoutred figures are familiar from the Lombard Gothic style, they also reflect the general Renaissance indulgence in lavish dress to which the rich were given and which synods of Jewish communities, such as the one held in Forli in 1418, tried to prohibit by Ordinance.
The Ordinances did not work for this couple...and Bonficiao Bembo ignored in his illustrations Sumptuary Laws which were quite severe on Jews elsewhere. Maybe not so strong in Lombardy- or ignored.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

There has been talk about the Zavaratti Brothers and a possible involvement with hand painted Tarot images.
Well there seems some confusion with which Zavaratti painted the other part of the Hebrew work.
As far as I can tell it goes like this...because they all have the same names except the Father.
The First Zavaratti was called Cristoforo di Francesco who was active it seems for 5 years in Milan 1404-1409. His son was Franceschino who was active in Milan 1414-1453. Francescino had two sons Ambrogio and Gregorio who were active in Milan 1453-1481 and painted the fresco in Monza in 1444 (which does not make sense?) So it would seem that the painter/illuminator of the Manuscript (the date of 1438 is apparently correct)was Francescino and who was the prime mover of the Frescos in Monza, working with his two sons. The work in the Church at Monza appears to have several hands looking at the styles and you can see why Bonifacio Bembo was influenced by the Zavaratti. So it seems that it is possible to have painted cards earlier than thought for the CY.
As an aside, I know that Bonifacio Bembo's father Giovanni apparently painted a fresco in the right side of the Church and Monastery of Sant Agostino in Montalcino and would have seen Bartoli di Fredi's Sienese School of Painting Heritics under the feet of Virtue- Like in the Cary Yale. I had a photo from a brochure and I cannot locate it.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

I post a wedding image from Franceschino Zavaratti and other that have not been definetely attributed to which son or brother of the Zavaratti. You can see the difference in style from the Bembo workshop, but they are all considered
International Gothic.
This from Franceschino
Zavartari one.jpg
Zavartari one.jpg (12.17 KiB) Viewed 5365 times
This another family memeber of the Zavaratti, and shows the difference in style and is at the moment been repaired.
Theolinda Three.jpg
Theolinda Three.jpg (11.57 KiB) Viewed 5365 times
This is part of one that was origianlly thought to be Bembo and is definetely Zavarratti.
Zavattari Two.jpg
Zavattari Two.jpg (13.95 KiB) Viewed 5365 times
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

Re: Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

Excellent, Lorredan and SteveM. I am not convinced that the clothing is even as late as 1438. (And to be sure, the CY could be later than that, evoking old fashioned dress. But maybe this illumination Steve showed us is doing the same.) Does the article say when the wedding was? Perhaps it is meant to depict a wedding in 1418, before the edict prohibiting such dress. Bandera, in the catalog for the Brera exhibit of the Brera-Brambilla cards in 1991, says (p. 32):
The Brambilla cards conform to stereotyped figures derived from the finest early fifteenth century in the knightly tradition. For this purpose the frescoes, since destroyed, carried out by Gentile da Fabriano in 1414-1419 in the Broletto of Brescia, might have been used as models; a few fragments have come to light recently. (Footnote: Anelli, 1986).
To see examples of the cards she is talking about, go to ... onti_Tarot.
Bandera also notes the influence in the cards of Michelino da Besozzo, whose "ironic, bizarre expressions" were "perhaps influenced by the epicurean theory which developed in the circles close to Pavia Unviersity"--i.e., I presume, sumptuousness, again, at an earlier time. For Bandera, this is all in the context of arguing that these things--frescoes, playing cards, altarpieces, to which I would add illuminations--reflect model books that the various workshops used, built up over decades. For example, I noted recently the extreme similarity between a greyhound in the Visconti Hours and one in Pisanello's sketchbook (attributed to him). I was somewhat astonished to learn in my reading last week that Gentile's sketchbook was actually "inherited by Pisanello, who succeeded Gentile as chef d'atelier for the San Giovanni in Laterano frescoes" (R. W. Scheller, A Survey of Medieval Model Books, Haarlem 1963, p. 174). This was determined when it was realized that sketches of Roman sarcophagi on one side of a piece of paper were not by Pisanello, who did sketches on the other side, but by Gentile, who had seen them in Rome prior to his death in 1427.

These people did not draw from life if they could help it. That is what the model books were for: take your work from that of the recognized masters--and your peers, if you have to. The problem for me is, how much is taken from the model books, dating back decades, and how much from the style of their own day? They do not simply copy the older painters. I am out of my element here.

Certainly the Zavatarri are relevant. I will do some digging in the library tomorrow, hopefully, as to when that work was done and by which of the family.

For the bizarre, Steve, is there any way you can adjust your picture of the illumination to include the whole thing? Or maybe just the right side, large. On my computer, at least, the right side is cut off, and that is the most outrageous, absurd, unrealistic part of the whole scene. That oversized hat is from the Mad Hatter! Maybe the scene is meant as a joke, or a satire on the absurd excesses of sumptuousness.

What your find tells me is that even then, in 1438, the Bembo workshop must have had a reputation for being able to depict such absurd things in such an elegant way.

Re: Bembo Workshop and Marriage Depictions

Hi Mikeh!
If you look at the Zavaratti painting of Theolinda in the Church of John The Baptist at Monza (Modetia) you will see a headress behind the Bride, that comes from a much earlier time-like in the Duc du Berry illuminations. The fresco was painted in 1444 to illustrate Theolinda's story, who died in 628. So you are not going to see style from the future, but from the past, as what the painter thought a legend would look like- and I guess that most likely came from model books of some sort.
I have an illumination from the front piece of a folio 111 Book One of Johannes De Deo Columba(possibly a Carthusian Monk) It was apparently painted by Antonio Maria Sforza (who used his wife's name) in 1491-1497.
It is the Virtues surrounding a Dove. They are exactly like the Moon card female figure of the PMB- exactly! Same dress, same cord or tie, same hairdo, same stance. The dove incidently is included because Carthusians saw the Dove(Columba) as the symbol of all Christian Virtues. So the Monks name was most likely in English -Brother John of the Holy Spirit. Charity is spilling gold coins from a purse, the hand that holds the Moon in the PMB is spilling the coins in this much later illumination.
Now either the PMB Moon was the model, or there was a model book at Bembo's workshop. I cannot see any other explanation.
In the index it says..
Duke Matteo Acquavivas Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Vienna, Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek,Cod.Phil Gr 4 90 folios Frontispiece, Book 1Fol. 1r.
The Universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts

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