An Important Italian Cameo Binding

Henricus de Herpf (c. 1410–1477).
Specchio della perfettione humana.
Venice: Niccolò d’Aristile detto Zoppino, 1529. (AER1212)

One of the many reflections of Classical culture on bookbinding in Renaissance Italy was the rise of “cameo bindings,” which were decorated with impressions from ancient medals or Renaissance imitations inspired by them. Developed in Florence before 1500 and widely popular by 1520, this method provided for an attractive design with a circular motif at the center of each cover, usually impressed in blind, but sometimes gilded. Although most cameo bindings featured antique subjects, religious themes were popular, as well.

This goatskin binding is the unique recorded example of this circular cameo of the Pietà. It depicts the seated figure of the Virgin Mary holding the body of her crucified son across her lap. On the left, St. John the Evangelist stands in prayer, while Mary Magdalen mourns at the right, her arms raised in anguish.

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=AER1212">AER1212</a>
The Sixteenth Century
Italian Cameo Binding