This article is one of three previews of international sales I've covered this month. Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, the Milan-based auction house that was founded in 1974, will be holding a sale of Books and Manuscripts later this month on May 22nd. With 214 lots, the sale is made up primarily of Italian material with other locales interspersed throughout. Viewings of the sale will begin in Milan 10 days before the sale on May 12th, and continue the 13th and 14th (times listed at the end of this article).
Several items are quite old, dating from the 15th century and earlier. The high estimate for a single item in the sale is lot 2620 (20th item of the sale), an ornate Flemish Book of Hours made circa 1460-1480. Miniatures and decorative borders are some of the most compelling aspects of Books of Hours, and the copy being auctioned at Il Ponte contains thirteen of each (twelve full-page miniatures). The miniatures are done in the style of Willem Vrelant, a Dutch book illuminator who was active until circa 1481. Lot 2620 is estimated 20,000 – 30,000€.
Not to be outdone in age, lot 2608 is a manuscript dated September 1, 1456. The item in question is an Italian version of Giovanni Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris (Italian, Le donne famose), translated by the master Donato Albanzani da Casentino for Niccolò d’Este, Marquess of Ferrara. D’Este was an important character in the history of late 14th and early 15th century Italy. One particularly interesting fact about him is that in 1425, he had both his wife and an illegitimate son executed on charges of adultery, with a follow up decree that all women within his realm of power found guilty of adultery should also be executed. He later had to rescind the command after it was found the order would depopulate Ferrara! The manuscript listed as lot 2608 is estimated 15,000 – 25,000€.
Rounding out the highlights of pre-16th century material is another very early item, lot 2619, which is a medieval manuscript begun in Toscana in 1338 and completed in 1346. Entitled Summa de casibus conscientiae and written by Bartolomeo di San Concordio, this version, made by Antonio Guarnera, is one of the earliest copies of the manuscript and was completed during the life of the author. More common are later copies, like the one at Yale’s Beinecke Library, that were copied after San Concordio’s death in 1347. Lot 2619 is estimated 8,000 – 12,000€.
Throughout the sale, a running theme that is immediately obvious from browsing the online catalog is the amount of material that is visually engaging and appealing. Maps include lot 2606, a hand-colored map of the Maluku Islands by Blaeu (est. 300 – 500€), and lot 2628, an untitled world map according to Ptolemy dated 1541 (est. 1,200 – 1,800€). Several posters are included in the sale, including Adolphe Mouron Cassandre’s classic Venezia travel poster (lot 2800, est. 900 – 1,200€). Works of art on paper include Chagall, Dali, and de Chirico, and lots 2807 through 2813 are all items related to Surrealism. Architecture is also a subject with a strong showing.
All in the all, Il Ponte de Casa Aste’s sale of Books and Manuscripts offers a wide array of material that will appeal to many tastes and budgets. The online catalog is viewable here. Viewers of the catalog should note there is a language selector in the top right corner of the site, and selecting English will add English language lot descriptions after the existing Italian descriptions.
The sale will take place at 3 pm CEST on May 22 at their Via Pontaccio 12 location in Milan. Viewings will be taking place on this schedule:
12 – 14 May: 10am – 1pm and 2:30 – 6:30 pm
Bidding will be available through the expected avenues: in person, and via telephone, internet, and absentee. Registration for online bidding may be done here.