Combining a Powerfully Intricate Gilt Binding, a Manuscript Painted with Special Delicacy, And an Historical Personage of Considerable Importance

(Valladolid: 16 December 1801). 325 x 220 mm. (12 3/4 x 8 3/4"). [185] leaves. Single column, 17 lines in a fine italic book hand.

IMPRESSIVE CONTEMPORARY RED MOROCCO, EXTRAVAGANTLY GILT, BY MORENO (stamp-signed at foot of spine), covers framed with multiple decorative and floral rolls, square cornerpieces with cornucopias at corners, wreathed monogram at center, central panel with oblique vase tools at corners, raised bands, spine compartments with either multiple decorative rolls, floral spray centerpiece with cornucopias at corners, or bead-and-patera swag, turn-ins with guilloche roll, sky blue watered silk endleaves with floral gilt roll border, leather hinges, all edges gilt. Each text page with two triple-ruled frames in red and blue, some lettering heightened with gold, 14 major family names given decorative acanthus and floral borders, 14 LARGE DECORATIVE INITIALS FILLED WITH LANDSCAPES AND CASTLES and many incorporating snakes and bird motifs, title page with intricately decorated border, followed by A FULL-PAGE FAMILY CREST and then A STRIKING FULL-PAGE PORTRAIT OF CHARLES IV SURROUNDED BY PUTTI, ANIMALS, GODDESSES, AND SYMBOLIC MOTIFS; later in the text A VERY LARGE AND FINE HIGHLY DECORATIVE FOLD-OUT FAMILY TREE with a full border, sprigs of blossoms, acanthus leaves, and small scenes incorporating flora and fauna, protective silk guards; a decorative signatory page at the end. Front cover with a couple of finger smudges, rear cover with neat rows of tiny indentations affecting about half the surface (as a decorative feature?), but A SUPERB COPY, remarkably clean, fresh, and bright internally with virtually no signs of use, and the gorgeous binding virtually unworn and glistening with gold.

This outstanding example of early 19th century Spanish calligraphy, illustration, and bookbinding contains the genealogy of Don Josef Antonio Cavallero, Marquis de Cavallero, the powerful Minister of Justice under Charles IV. Cavallero (1754-1821) exerted considerable influence over the king, and was the nemesis of the Spanish prime minister Manuel Godoy, whose policies he opposed at every turn. But Godoy had the literal last word: most of what we know of Cavallero comes to us from Godoy's vicious description in his memoirs of a physically and morally repulsive drunk who conspired to oppose all science and reform, and to drag Spain back to the days of the Inquisition. The one thing Godoy could not fault was his rival's bloodline, shown by the present elaborate document to be unsullied. Historians have been kinder than Godoy, noting that Cavallero enjoyed a 25-year political career and the confidence of three kings, an unusual accomplishment for someone with all the failings attributed to him by Godoy. It seems likely, given the presence of signatures and seals, that this manuscript was produced and bound for Cavallero by artisans who were among the best in Spain. The palette used in the paintings here is celebratory and cheerful, using primarily bright pinks, blues, yellows, and oranges; the large decorative initials are particularly charming with their candy-colored turrets and whimsical flora and fauna. Of particular interest is the portrait of Charles IV, which is almost pointillist in its technique and gives us the best view of the artist's tastes and style. The roundel portrait itself is rather small, but it is surrounded and buoyed by an abundance of symbolism that includes references to war and to Spanish America. The portrait of Charles IV may have been based on one by Francisco Goya, who painted the King and his family numerous times. We have been unable to trace the binder Moreno in the online database of Historic and Artistic Bookbindings of the Biblioteca Real, nor is he mentioned in Matilde López Serrano's "La Encuadernación Española: Breve historia" (1972), in the "Enciclopedia de la Encuadernación" (1998), or in López-Vidriero's "Great Bindings from the Spanish Royal Collections 15th-21st Centuries" (Ediciones El Viso, Patrimonio Nacional, 2012). His style is somewhat similar to that of his contemporary, Antonio Suárez Jiménez (1770-1836), but Moreno's tools, design, and execution are more delicate that the rather bombastic creations of Jiménez. Whoever Moreno was, he has created an arresting piece of work, and its considerable dynamic power, along with the much more delicate decorations featured in the manuscript (and the importance of the historical personage involved), combine to produce an item of very great beauty and interest.

Add to Cart Price: $12,500.00

PJP Catalog: Transatlantic21.058