Education, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books, Research

Thrust, Parry, Download!

Aiming Points on the Body / Fiore dei Liberi, Fior di Battaglia

Aiming Points on the Body (detail), from Fiore dei Liberi, Fior di Battaglia, possibly Venice or Padua, ca. 1410. Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment, 11 x 8 1/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XV 13, fol. 32

The Fior di Battaglia (Flower of Battle, Ms. Ludwig XV 13) is one of the most popular manuscripts in the Getty’s collections. The earliest Italian martial arts manual, the text was written by 14th-century knight Fiore dei Liberi, a celebrated fencing master in his own time. The four known illuminated manuscripts of his text (the other three are located at the Morgan Library, New York; the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris; and a private collection, Italy) are so well known in modern martial arts communities focused on historical techniques that they merit their own article on Wikipedia.

Combat with Dagger and Combat with Sword / Fiore dei Liberi, Fior di Battaglia

Combat with Dagger and Combat with Sword (details), from Fiore dei Liberi, Fior di Battaglia, possibly Venice or Padua, ca. 1410. Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment, 11 x 8 1/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XV 13, fols. 18v and 19

The images were conceived as an integral accompaniment to the text, helping the reader envision the specifics of the combat techniques Fiore was teaching. The illuminations are done in a lively drawing style that infuses them with an unusual sense of movement and energy. Each position is painstakingly depicted, with particular attention paid to the placement of hands, feet, and weaponry. Modern viewers are fascinated by the sheer volume of information about medieval fighting skills conveyed by the illuminations—so much, in fact, that battle connoisseurs routinely use the manuscript as a primary source for the reenactment of medieval combat.

The Manuscripts Department at the Getty Museum handles numerous requests every year for disks with reproductions of every page of the Fior manuscript. These images are so highly prized, in fact, that we have been told that there is even a black market for sharing the high-res files of the Getty manuscript. But now, as part of the Getty’s newly announced Open Content Program, we are delighted that a full set of high-resolution images of this manuscript is available for free download.

Combat with Sword, Combat with Pollaxe, and Equestrian Combat with Lance / Fiore dei Liberi, Fior di Battaglia

Combat with Sword, Combat with Pollaxe, and Equestrian Combat with Lance (details), from Fiore dei Liberi, Fior di Battaglia, possibly Venice or Padua, ca. 1410. Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment, 11 x 8 1/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XV 13, fols. 24, 37, and 42

Now enthusiasts across the world can follow in exquisite detail the thrust of sword, the thud of the pollaxe as it hits its mark, and the pounding of the horses’ hooves.

Begin on the webpage for the book and simply click on the icon at the upper right marked “Page through the book” to flip through the individual folios, and download any you wish (step-by-step instructions here). Want a digital version of every folio in the manuscript? All you need is enough disk space.

Manuscripts are among the most difficult art forms to obtain in high-quality reproductions: many have never been photographed, and of the hundreds of illuminations in a single manuscript, the selection chosen for a website may happen to exclude the particular image a researcher or fan desires. With the new Open Content Program at the Getty, we are excited to make our collection more available to the public and scholars than ever before. In the coming months, we will be adding more and more images to the website for free download. Our ultimate goal, which is within reach, is to share each one of our amazing manuscript illuminations with the world.

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One Comment

  1. Eric Mains
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    This is an incredible boon for historical martial arts scholars. Thank you!

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      #ProvenancePeek: June 30

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This portrait of actress Antonia Zárate by Goya is now part of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. The records of famed art dealer M. Knoedler & Co. at the Getty Research Institute reveal its recent provenance: the painting was sold by Knoedler on June 30, 1910, to financier Otto Beit. Part of his collection, including this painting, was later donated to the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. To this day the Gallery showcases some of its greatest masterpieces in the Beit Wing. This spread from a digitized Knoedler stock book records the transaction (second entry from top).

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art. He sold European paintings to collectors (such as Henry Clay Frick, the Vanderbilts, and Andrew Mellon) whose collections formed the genesis of great museums such as the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the Huntington, and more. Knoedler’s stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate, ca. 1805–06, José de Goya y Lucientes. Beit Collection, National Gallery of Ireland. Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.

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      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.

      06/30/15

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