Antonio Da Monza

Antonio da Monza (Monza, 15 century – 16 century) was an Italian illustrator, author of a miniature Pentecost, now guarded at Albertina in Vienna.

The illuminator Antonio da Monza brought a Renaissance fascination with antiquity to the art of manuscript illumination at the end of the 1400s and beginning of the 1500s. Identified through his signature on a miniature from a liturgical book made for Pope Alexander VI and now in Vienna, he was a native of Monza, outside of Milan, and a member of the Franciscan Order.

Antonio’s artistic style was influenced by the art of Leonardo da Vinci. Scholars have attributed several liturgical books, as well as some miniatures in the Sforza Hoursand in Antonio Minuti’s Life of Muzio Attendolo, to him. The recent discovery of the Golden House of Nero, an ancient Roman villa, and its Fourth Style wall paintings influenced Antonio’s work, supplying him with a rich visual vocabulary of ancient motifs.

A grand initial R ornaments the most elaborate page in the gradual and marks the introit for Easter, the chant sung by the choir as the priest enters the church. Within the letter, Jesus stands atop his sarcophagus, giving the priestly sign of blessing while holding a cross staff with a banner, a traditional sign of his Resurrection. Below him, several Roman guards awaken from sleep. A long vista extends into the distance to include a monastery.

In the border, decorative and figural motifs derived from classical antiquity and known as grotesques delight the eye. Winged putti scamper across the backs of tritons, and Roman monumental lettering mingles with military trophies and carved cameos.

Works:
Gradual, Italian, late 15th or early 16th century
This gradual, measuring over two feet tall, contains the sung parts of the Mass. The large size was deliberate: it enabled a group of singers standing before it to read the notes and words. The saints invoked in the litany suggest that the gradual was made for the Franciscan church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome. The illuminator Antonio da Monza enlivened the border of the manuscript’s most elaborate large page with luxurious small-scale decoration that encourages close examination. The antique motifs he used in the border reveal the profound influence of antiquities upon Renaissance artists. After artists rediscovered the Golden House built by the emperor Nero in Rome, and its Fourth Style wall painting, they adopted its grotesques and candelabra motifs.

Initial R: The Resurrection, Italian, late 15th or early 16th century
A grand initial R ornaments the most elaborate page in the gradual and marks the introit for Easter, the chant sung by the choir as the priest enters the church. Within the letter, Jesus stands atop his sarcophagus, giving the priestly sign of blessing while holding a cross staff with a banner, a traditional sign of his Resurrection. Below him, several Roman guards awaken from sleep. A long vista extends into the distance to include a monastery. In the border, decorative and figural motifs derived from classical antiquity and known as grotesques delight the eye. Winged putti scamper across the backs of tritons, and Roman monumental lettering mingles with military trophies and carved cameos.

Decorated Initial P, Italian, late 15th or early 16th century
Decorated Initial U, Italian, late 15th or early 16th century
Decorated Initial P, Italian, late 15th or early 16th century