Jesus in a Nutshell

One of the peculiarities of 15th-century tree diagrams is that the humans are often shown as half-figures emerging from a kind of nutshell. Possibly this is a stylized nest. These show up in manuscripts and then appear in early printed books where the art continues in the same fashion.

There is a remarkable instance of this in Urb.lat.300 which is the among the manuscripts uploaded Dec 1 to Digita Vaticana. This is a manuscript of the Fons memorabilium universali of Domenico Bandini d'Arezzo (c. 1335-1418), for which the catalog gives the additional title De viris claris Lexicon. It was likely copied thus during the author's lifetime.

This has a most unusual table of contents at the front which shows Christ growing out of a hexagonal fountain, with the book's topics listed in roundels at the end of branches. It is discussed in Hermann Schadt's Arbores, p 335, the reference for which you will find in a previous blog post.

This short of thing is familiar from the Hartmann Schedel Liber Chronicarum of 1493, as in this hand-coloured copy in Munich showing Mizraim, his wife and their son Ludim:

Christiane Klapisch-Zuber (L'Ombre, p 297) terms this object a corolla. These motifs in fact have a medieval past. For example, the Dialogus de laudibus sanctae crucis at Munich (BSB, clm 14159) contains a similar treatment of Isaac as a bust in a graphic that is a kind of at-a-glance diagram of how the Old Testament is organized and its themes:

The December 1 uploads bring the posted total on Digita Vaticana to 3,361. Here is the full list, and once again I will not describe the Pal.lat. releases here, as it is likely most of them have been online before today in Heidelberg, since Rome and the German library have partnered to digitize them.
  1. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.197, Nicholas of Lyra, Postillae
  2. Barb.lat.3935, a 14th/15th century Dante
  3. Barb.lat.3954, Petrarch
  4. Borg.copt.109.cass.XIV.fasc.44,
  5. Borg.copt.109.cass.XIV.fasc.45,
  6. Borg.copt.109.cass.XIV.fasc.47,
  7. Borg.copt.109.cass.XIV.fasc.48,
  8. Borg.copt.109.cass.XIV.fasc.49,
  9. Borg.copt.109.cass.XV.fasc.50,
  10. Borg.copt.109.cass.XV.fasc.51,
  11. Borg.copt.109.cass.XV.fasc.52,
  12. Borg.copt.109.cass.XV.fasc.54,
  13. Borg.copt.109.cass.XV.fasc.55,
  14. Borgh.183, Book of Hours with this hair-raising visitation of death wielding a club:
  15. Cappon.199,
  16. Cappon.252.pt.B,
  17. Cappon.318,
  18. Pal.lat.537,
  19. Pal.lat.771,
  20. Pal.lat.818,
  21. Pal.lat.835,
  22. Pal.lat.884,
  23. Pal.lat.896,
  24. Pal.lat.904,
  25. Pal.lat.908,
  26. Pal.lat.911,
  27. Pal.lat.914,
  28. Pal.lat.916,
  29. Pal.lat.922,
  30. Pal.lat.924,
  31. Pal.lat.925,
  32. Pal.lat.934,
  33. Pal.lat.935,
  34. Pal.lat.936,
  35. Pal.lat.937,
  36. Pal.lat.938,
  37. Pal.lat.950,
  38. Pal.lat.951,
  39. Pal.lat.1015,
  40. Patetta.685,
  41. Urb.lat.11, Gefroi de Pinkegni, commentarii in Evangelia etc. In French. Important supplementary source of Occitan version of bible. See Samuel Berger. This codex is celebrated for its copious miniatures by Neri da Rimini (c.1270 - c.1330), including this Three Kings with the Infant Jesus on 13v:
  42. Urb.lat.16, Nicholas of Lyra, Postillae on Psalms, Job, Minor Prophets
  43. Urb.lat.17, Nicholas of Lyra, Postillae
  44. Urb.lat.27, Thomas Aquinas on Gospel of Matthew
  45. Urb.lat.56,
  46. Urb.lat.76,
  47. Urb.lat.85,
  48. Urb.lat.101, Bede and Anselm
  49. Urb.lat.123, Alexander of Ales OFM
  50. Urb.lat.161,
  51. Urb.lat.165,
  52. Urb.lat.180, Burkhard of Worms, legal
  53. Urb.lat.182, Aristotle's Historia animalium, De partibus animalium, De generatione animalium, all penned in Florence in about 1470. Anthony Grafton's Rome Reborn catalogue noted of this codex: Pope Nicholas V was a patron of the translation of ancient scientific works from Greek into Latin. New translations of Aristotle's books on animals, which describe over five hundred different species and are the principal ancient works on the subject, played an important part in this pope's intellectual program. George Trebizond's translation was commissioned by Nicholas V. Its details are listed in the St Louis catalog. Later noticed by @LatinAristotle.
  54. Urb.lat.251,
  55. Urb.lat.253,
  56. Urb.lat.277,
  57. Urb.lat.282,
  58. Urb.lat.291,
  59. Urb.lat.299,
  60. Urb.lat.300, manuscript of the Fons memorabilium universali of Domenico Bandini d'Arezzo (above).
  61. Urb.lat.307, Nonius Marcellus, Paul the Deacon
  62. Urb.lat.309, Aulius Gelius, Attic Nights, 15th-century copy
  63. Urb.lat.313, Cicero, Epistolarum ad familiares
  64. Urb.lat.314, panegyrics by Pliny and others
  65. Urb.lat.317, Asconius on Cicero
  66. Urb.lat.323, Cicero, 15th century
  67. Urb.lat.329, Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, 15th-century copy including this fine drawing at fol. 139v and figural miniatures:
  68. Urb.lat.336, Libanius, letters etc, 15th-century copy
  69. Urb.lat.374,
  70. Vat.ar.13,
  71. Vat.gr.802,
  72. Vat.gr.1135,
  73. Vat.lat.127, commentary on Mark and Luke
  74. Vat.lat.239, Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 15th century copy
  75. Vat.lat.275, Ambrose on Psalms
  76. Vat.lat.298, Basil the Great and Cyril of Alexandria
  77. Vat.lat.354, a collection of 123 of Jerome's letters, 11th century
  78. Vat.lat.355, volume 1 of a 9th or 10th century manuscript in Beneventan script of the above. Important in the history of collecting the correspondence of Jerome of Stridon. The second volume, Vat.lat.356, is not yet online. Though there are about 7,000 manuscripts with Jerome letters, Andrew Cain says it took till the 9th century to assemble them all, so this codex dates back to that compilation period.
If you can add further details use the comments box or write me a tweet mentioning @JBPiggin. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 32.]


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Do you think that the "nutshell" image might be inspired by the idea that trees come from seeds / fruits?

    1. Interesting. But I suspect it's something cultural which we are not sensing at this distance. Ramifications in the early medieval stemmata of works by Cassidorus terminated in what Karl-August Wirth called "inkwells". They weren't really inkwells of course, but they reminded Wirth of things he had on his school desk as a boy, so it was an OK analogy. I say nutshells because I think "walnuts" when I see these. But there's an artist's logic here which still eludes us in those drawings. And I don't think the medieval and renaissance artist is yet trying to force a link to a tree. That begins in the 16th century

    2. It would be equally legitimate to guess that these are nests and the people are eggs. I don't think there's enough evidence yet to figure it out.