Petrarch, Trionfi

Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Strozzi 174
15th century

Written in calligraphic mercantesca script with humanistic features and bearing the subscription of the scribe, the money-changer Bese Ardinghelli, the manuscript contains Petrarch’s Trionfi, preceded by eight folios with sonnets and portraits of famous figures. The illustrations for the Trionfi have been attributed to the Florentine artist Apollonio di Giovanni (1415/17–65), an illuminator and painter who specialized in the decoration of bridal chests, spalliere and devotional paintings. Fol. 28v depicts the Triumph of Chastity, impersonated by the poet’s beloved Laura, who is standing on a cart hauled by two unicorns; the naked figure of the defeated Cupid can also be seen kneeling on the cart. According to the tradition of medieval bestiaries, unicorns could only be tamed by virgins, and therefore evoked purity.