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Dr Federico Botana


I am a research assistant in the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'Manuscript Egerton 1500: Histories and Genealogies'. As an art historian, my role is to study the illustration of the British Library MS Egerton 1500 and other manuscripts of Paolino Veneto's Chronologia Magna. These manuscripts, notably MS Egerton are fascinating: they present the history of mankind by compiling chronological tables and genealogical schemata lavishly illustrated with portraits, narrative scenes and maps. MS Egerton 1500 is one of the most remarkable graphic histories produced in the Middle Ages. Its ingenious mise-en-page is an example of the efficient didactic tools devised by scholars of the mendicant orders such as the Franciscan Paolino. For its illuminators, Egerton 1500 was an ambitious project: it was conceived to include more than one thousand portraits of biblical and historical figures. Paolino's manuscripts are mines of iconographic knowledge: a rich variety of crowns, hats and other attributes allows us to discover how patrons and artists imagined the good, the bad and the great of their past and present times.

An Occitan manuscript inspired my first research project: British Library MS Royal 19.C.I, c.1320, the Breviari d'Amor by Matfre Ermengaud, on which I wrote my MA dissertation and an article published in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. I explored how positive and negative views on material wealth are illustrated in the Breviari, as well as the influence of mendicant schoolmen on the text and the illustrative programme. In addition to the art of the mendicant orders, I am especially interested in how images served to define and perpetuate a sense of belonging among medieval communities.

For my PhD, I studied the representation of the Works of Mercy in medieval Italy, on which I wrote a monograph that will be published by Brepols in 2012. The Works of Mercy are the basic forms of almsgiving elaborated by medieval theologians. They were represented in wall and panel painting, sculpture and manuscript illustration. A large number of these depictions were commissioned by confraternities to illustrate their charitiable activities and express their collective hopes of salvation.

In 2009, in my capacity as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, I organised at The Courtauld Institute an international conference on medieval mural painting in parish churches across Europe, which placed a particular emphasis on churches in rural locations. In the last academic year, I completed a project on a manuscript of Aesop's Fables copied and illustrated in the 1450's by a member of a prosperous Florentine merchant family, Filippo di Lorenzo Benci. In this case, I explored how Aesopic imagery was used to teach younger members of the family notions of virtue and sin, mercantile wisdom and civic identity.

The Leverhulme Trust funded project: Manuscript Egerton 1500: Histories and Genealogies
  • 'Like members of a Body: Assisting the Poor in Matfre Ermengaud's Breviari d'Amor', in Armut und Armenf├╝rsorge in der italienischen Stadtkultur zwischen 13. und 16. Jarhunderts, ed. Philine Helas and Gerhard Wof (Peter Lang, 2006), pp. 287-303
  • 'Virtuous and Sinful Uses of Temporal Wealth in the Breviari d'Amor of Matfre Ermengaud', Journal of teh Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, LXVII (2004), pp. 49-80

In press:

  • The Works of Mercy in Italian Medieval Art c.1050-c.1400. Monograph, approximately 400 pages (Brepols Publishing, scheduled for January 2012

In progress:

  • 'The Benci Aesop' (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS 11.11.83). Article, approximately 15,000 words, 23 illustrations (submitted, under peer review).


Between 2007 and 2011, I taught medieval and Renaissance Italian art at The Courtauld Institute and Birkbeck College. In 2012 and 2013, I will be teaching medieval Italian art at the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies in Reading Unviersity. I enjoy introducing students to the methods employed by medieval workshops for creating panel paintings, polyptychs, frescos, marble and stone sculptures, and manuscript illuminations. In particular, I enjoy stimulating them to explore the original functions of works of art such as altarpieces and devotional images, as well as issues of patronage, notably for decorative programmes of private chapels in mendicant churches.