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Gaffurio, Franchino (1421-1522)

Franchini Gafurii Laudensis Regii Musici publice profitentis: De lubrique Mediolanensis Phonasci: de Harmonia Musicorum Instrumentorum Opus... Milan, Gottardo da Ponte, 27 November 1518

€ 280.000
Franchinus Gafurius laudensis Regius musicus corteque mediolanensis phonascus Amico Ambatiae, Viro honoratissimo
Gaffurio, Franchino (1421-1522). Franchini Gafurii Laudensis Regii Musici publice profitentis: De lubrique Mediolanensis Phonasci: de Harmonia Musicorum Instrumentorum Opus.... Milan, Gottardo da Ponte, 27 November 1518

Folio (299x206 mm). Collation: a4, A-M8, N6. [4], c, [2] leaves. Roman and gothic type. Woodcut printer's device on the verso of the last leaf. Large woodcut vignette on the title-page (137x115mm), depicting the author lecturing to students with the caption 'Harmonia est discordia concors', and the long inscription on the edge of the block 'FRAN. GAFVRI[VS]. LAVDEN. TRIA DE MVSICIS VOLUMINA. THEORICAM. AC PRACTICAM. ET HARMONIAM. INSTRUMENTOR[VM] ACCVRATISSIME C[ON]SCRIPSI'. Woodcut coat of arms, in a medallion, of the dedicatee Jean Grolier on fol. a4v. On fol. N6v another large woodcut portrait of Gaffurio (202x102mm) playing the organ. Sixty diagrams, some of which are full-page, the one on fol. H8v depicting eight figures playing various musical instruments. Full-page woodcut on fol. M6v with an allegory of music, showing its derivation from Apollo, the Muses, and celestial bodies. Musical examples printed from blocks on fol. M1v; mathematical examples in the margins. Numerous woodcut decorated and animated initials in several sizes, some on black ground. Contemporary limp vellum. Smooth spine, with traces of inked title at the top. Loss to the lower portion of the spine. In a modern marbled box. A very beautiful copy, a few quires uniformly browned. An early hand has annotated 'Musurgia' on the rear pastedown. A typewritten description of this copy is tipped in on the recto of the front flyleaf.

Provenance: possibly gifted by Gaffurio to Leonardo da Vinci (Gaffurio's autograph inscription on the recto of the first leaf 'Franchinus Gafurius laudensis Regius musicus / corteque mediolanensis phonascus / Amico Ambatiae, Viro honoratissimo'); Leonardo's servant, Batista de Vilanis (ownership inscription on the recto of the front flyleaf, partly inked out, 'Batta de Vilano'); from the library of the Abbey of Saint-Julien, at Tours, France (ownership inscription on the front pastedown, 'Pertinet ad Monasterium Sancti Juliani Turonensis').

An exceptional presentation copy of the rare first edition of one of the most famous music treatises of the Renaissance. The volume bears a dedication, in Gaffurio's own hand, to ' Amico Ambatiae, Viro honoratissimo', i.e., 'his friend in Amboise', possibly one of the greatest artists of all time: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum is the last and most elaborate work published by Gaffurio. Possibly composed around 1500, the treatise deals – as its title reads – with the harmony of musical instruments, and was dedicated by the author to the outstanding bibliophile and patron of the arts Jean Grolier, who was then active in Milan as treasurer of the French army. This edition is rightly famous for its fine illustrative apparatus, including two famous woodcut portraits of Gaffurio, the first of which is printed on the title-page, as a re-use of the block employed by Gottardo da Ponte in 1508 for Gaffurio's Angelicum ac divinum opus musice.

For the second portrait printed at the end of the volume a block first cut for another work by Gaffurio, the Theoricum opus musice discipline (Naples 1490), was re-used. The numerous diagrams and initials supplementing the text were designed by the refined French artist Guillaume Le Signerre, who was born in Rouen and active in Milan and later in Saluzzo (Piedmont).

Beyond the rarity and beauty of this Milanese edition, the most significant and valuable aspect of the present copy undoubtedly lies in the extraordinary story narrated by its provenance, particularly the inscription 'Franchinus Gafurius laudensis Regius musicus / corteque mediolanensis phonascus / Amico Ambatiae, Viro honoratissimo'.

In fact, the formulation used here by Gaffurio – ' Amico Ambatiae', i.e., 'to my most excellent friend in Amboise' – suggests that this copy of the De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum was presented by him as a gift to none other than Leonardo da Vinci. Numerous features appear to confirm this hypothesis. When this volume was published on 27 November 1518, Leonardo was indeed in Amboise (the Latin name for which is 'Ambacia') along with his pupil Francesco Melzi and his loyal servant, Batista de Vilanis, who was mentioned in Leonardo's will, dated 23 April 1519. As the book was printed at the end of 1518, it is possible that Leonardo, who died at the beginning of the following year, never saw the copy, even if his friend had sent it to him. Thus the butler Batista de Vilanis would have taken possession of the volume, signing it with his name 'Batta de Vilano' on the front flyleaf. Later, the book – as evinced by the later ownership inscription – came into the possession of the nearby Abbey of Saint-Julien at Tours.

Gaffurio's close relationship with Leonardo amidst the intellectual elite of the Sforza Court is well documented, and it is also very likely that Leonardo used to visit Gaffurio's rich personal library in Milan. The present copy of De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum not only places striking emphasis on this friendship, but also offers a crucial clue toward confirming the hypothesis that the man portrayed by Leonardo in his celebrated 'Portrait of a Musician' – the identity of whom has long been debated – was actually the maestro di cappella Gaffurio.

Adams G-14; Mortimer Italian, 204; Balensuela-Williams, pp. 75-76; Sander 2989; Santoro, Libri illustrati milanesi, 164; G. Cesari, “Musica e musicisti alla Corte sforzesca”, F. Malaguzzi Valeri, La corte di Ludovico il Moro, IV (1923), p. 210; M. Coleman, Amboise et Léonard da Vinci à Amboise, Tours 1932; F. Fano, “Vita e attività del musico teorico e pratico Francino Gaffurio da Lodi”, Arte Lombarda, 15/2 (1970), pp. 49-62; F. Russoli, “Ritratto di Musico”, Leonardo. La pittura, Firenze 1985, pp. 63-65; C. Pedretti – M. Melani (eds.), Leonardo da Vinci & France, Poggio a Caiano 2010; W. K. Kreyszig, “The Significance of Iconography in the Print Culture of the Late-Fifteenth-Century Music Theoretical Discourse. The Theoricum opus musice discipline (1480) and Theorica musice (1492) of Franchino Gaffurio in the Context of his Trilogy”, Music in Art, 35 (2010), pp. 53-70; M. T. Fiorio, “Leonardo's 'Portrait of a Musician' and some Reflections on his Milanese Workshop”, M. Menu (ed.), Leonardo da Vinci's Technical Practice, Paris 2014, pp. 152-161; L. Fagnart – H. Miesse, “Perché havemo bisogno ancora de maestro Leonardo. Léonard de Vinci au service de Charles II Chaumont d'Amboise”, Raccolta Vinciana, 36 (2015), pp. 47-76; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 68.