The illuminator

The refined adornments to be found in the Farnese Lectionary are by the painter and illuminator, Giulio Clovio, who was born (circa 1498) in Grižane, in today’s Croatia. However, Clovio was active in Italy from 1516 on, firstly in Venice (at the service of Cardinal Marino Grimani), and then in Rome at the service of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. He resided at the cardinal’s splendid palace.
As a result of his misfortunes during the Sack of Rome of 1527, and the atrocities that occurred with the arrival of the Imperial troops, Clovio turned to religion and became an Augustine canon of the monastery of San Rufino in Mantua. According to Vasari, who was personally acquainted with Clovio, it was here that he took the name, Giulio, as a token of his affection for Giulio Romano.
Clovio died in Rome in 1578 and was buried in the Roman church of San Pietro in Vincoli.


Vasari on Clovio
The Florentine historian and writer, Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, provides us with an authoritative description of the favour enjoyed by Giulio Clovio during his lifetime. He writes, “Never has there been nor is there any likelihood that there shall be, for many hundreds of years, a more singular or more excellent illuminator, or we may say painter of small things, than don Giulio Clovio, his having proved to be by far superior to all who have ever engaged in painting in this manner.” Furthermore, according to Vasari, “since he was aided by nature more in small things than in large, he decided, wisely, to engage in illumination, his works of this kind being most attractive and marvellously beautiful”. 
Vasari mentioned a number of Clovio’s works, and also claimed “Hence it can be said that don Giulio has [...] in this gone beyond the ancients and moderns, and that he is in our time a new Michelangelo in little.”

Codices of remarkable beauty
Among the artworks of Giulio Clovio, we find various paintings and important illuminated codices, a number of which were also mentioned by Vasari.
Over and above the Lectionary, one such codex is the fine Libro d’Ore Farnese (Farnese Book of Hours), housed in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. This codex appears in a portrait of Clovio by the Spanish artist (and close friend and admirer), El Greco. The portrait is housed in the Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte (Naples).

Superb adornments
The elaborate adornments of the codex include six large full-page illuminations and a number of wonderful gilded frames adorned with putti, masks, floral motifs, tablets and allegorical figures (grisaille-rendering).
A noteworthy feature of this work consists in the use made of various kinds of gold, conferring a marvellous sheen upon each page of the Lectionary.
The shimmer of gold creates a magical effect which sets off to best advantage the four full-page illuminations that can be ascribed with certainty to Clovio These are the Adorazione dei pastori (Adoration of the Shepherds) (f. 5v), the Discorso della montagna (Sermon on the Mount) (f. 6v), the Resurrezione (Resurrection) (f. 16v) and the Giudizio finale (Last Judgement) (f. 23v).  
The variegated and complex cultural repertory of this figurative artist finds full expression these works, and, indeed, we see here the influences of Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s frecoes at the Vatican and of the works of Titian and Dürer, transposed into masterful compositional schemes. Also noteworthy in this sense is Clovio’s capable use of colour, evidenced by the “mutable” colour effect – a hallmark of the art of Michelangelo.  
We may also ascribe to Clovio the adornments of the margins of f. 2r, f. 4r and f. 17r. The other two full-page illuminations, La consegna delle chiavi (Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter) (f. 11v) and La Discesa dello Spirito Santo (the Descent of the Holy Spirit) (f. 20v), are, with the remaining adornments, to be ascribed to other illuminators.

Giulio Clovio
Giulio Clovio


Giulio Clovio, miniatura
Giulio Clovio, miniatura


Clovio, miniatura
Clovio, miniatura


Il Giudizio Universale
Il Giudizio Universale


Particolare della miniatura
Particolare della miniatura