Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455), Commentari (1452-1455)

At the end of his long career as a sculptor and protagonist of the early Renaissance, Ghiberti wrote the Commentaries which he left unfinished at his death. The work is divided in three parts: the first book deals with antique artists, the second with Tuscan artists of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, and the third, incomplete book is dedicated to theoretical topics, with a main focus on optics. The short passage reproduced here is from the description of Buonamico Buffalmacco’s works in the second book. This is the first reference to Buffalmacco’s activity in the Camposanto, and therefore Ghiberti’s testimony has played a major role in the recent attribution of the first fresco campaign to the Florentine painter. Indeed, the phrase “moltissime storie” would indicate a major contribution to the decoration of the galleries. Yet the vagueness of Ghiberti’s phrase led later writers such as Vasari to locate Buffalmacco’s works in different parts of the cemetery.

commentari_s.86

Source: Manuscript on paper, 68 folios, mid-15th century. Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Fondo Principale II, I, 333, fol. 9v.

Edition: Lorenzo Ghiberti, I commentarii (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, II, I, 333), ed. Lorenzo Bartoli (Florence: Giunti, 1998), p. 86.

Transcription

“Bonamicho fu excellentissimo maestro, ebbe l’arte da natura, durava poca fatica nelle opere sue. Dipinse nel monistero delle donne di Faenza, è tutto egregiamente di sua mano dipinto con moltissime istorie molto mirabili. Quando metteva l’animo nelle sue opere passava tutti gl’altri pictori. Fu gentilissimo maestro. Colorì freschissimamente. Fece in Pisa moltissimi lavorii. Dipinse in Campo Santo a Pisa moltissime istorie. Dipinse a sancto Paolo a Ripa d’Arno istorie del testamento vecchio e molte istorie di vergini.”

Translation
Bonamicho was a very excellent master, he received the art from nature, and he had little difficulties in his works. He painted in the female monastery in Faenza, where eveything is exquisitely painted by his hand, with numerous and very marvelous scenes. When he applied himself in his works, he outstripped all the other painters. He was a very amiable master. He colored in a very fresh manner. He did a great many works in Pisa. He painted many scenes in the Camposanto in Pisa. In San Paolo a Ripa he painted scenes of the Old Testament and many stories of virgins.