A manuscript of one of the earliest compositions of an intellectual giant of the Italian Renaissance, almost certainly written during his lifetime and perhaps within his circle
1. Probably written in Florence in the late 1480s or 1490s (watermark a close variant of Briquet 3390 or 3392: both Florence, 1487-98), perhaps for a student in Ficino's Platonic Academy, which was founded by Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464) in 1462 in the villa of Careggi (Montevecchio), and reached its period of greatest growth under the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici (ruled 1469-92).
2. Sold in our rooms, 6 July 2006, lot 72.
Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), the Florentine Platonist, was perhaps the most breathtakingly original philosopher of the Renaissance. He saw his work as the philosophical arm of humanism, and claimed that his century "like a golden age, restored to light the liberal arts that were nearly extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music ... and in Florence it restored the Platonic doctrine from darkness to light", doing for philosophy what Giotto had done for painting and Dante for poetry (Kristeller, Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, 1943, p.23).
He was a devout Christian, but became fascinated with Classical Greek philosophical thought, and spent his entire life boldly trying to rationalise its teachings with Christian theology, in order to confirm and intellectually underpin that doctrine. "Ficino was voyaging through the straits of unorthodoxy out into the open seas of the ancient Gnostic heresies ... his audacious attempt to reconcile Platonism with Christianity went far beyond Platonism: it became a life-long ecumenical quest to introduce into orthodoxy an encyclopaedic range of unorthodox spiritual, magical and occult beliefs keyed to the theme of the soul's ascent" (Allen in Dict. of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, 2005, p.366).
This text is one of his earliest works (indeed it is among the very earliest records of his life and activities, cf. Kristeller, Marsilio Ficino and his Work after 500 Years, 1987, pp.157-58), and was composed at a crucial time for the history of the Italian Renaissance and his life. In 1439 the Byzantine emperor, John VIII Palaeologus (1392-1448), seeking an alliance against the Ottomans, came with 700 followers to the Council of Florence to consent to a union of the Greek and Roman churches. A number of scholars of Greek philosophy in the imperial retinue made a deep impression on Cosimo de' Medici, who would later become Ficino's patron and the founder of his Platonic school. The present text is a wide-ranging survey of the beliefs of the ancient philosophers (including Plato, Aristotle, Diogenes, Seneca, Zeno, Socrates and Pythagoras) about God and the human soul, dedicated to one of his early patrons, Francesco Capponi. It was defiantly written in 1457 when Ficino had been banished from Florence by its archbishop. The study of ancient philosophical texts and dissemination of their ideas ran the risk of appearing to be a revival of the religious beliefs of Antiquity, and Ficino was accused of heresy and ordered to read Thomas of Aquinas instead of Plato. It was edited by Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum II, 1937, pp.128-58, who records 13 manuscripts, not including the present one. None of those are outside Italy, and only 3 are outside Florence (Venice, Bibl. Nat. Marciana, Ital.xi.126; Lucca, Bib. Governativa cod.1640; and Siena, Bib. Comm. I.vi.25); only one other, apart from the present manuscript, is recorded in private ownership (Florence, Principe Piero Ginori Conti, 1865-1939: Kristeller, ibid. and Iter Italicum II, 1967, pp.519-20).
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale