Μαρτυρίες για τους χρήστες του Ζωναρά της ΜόδεναςPart of : Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας ; Vol.37, 1997, pages 39-62
Evidence of the Users of the Zonaras Codex at Modena
The well-known codex in the Biblioteca Estense at Modena, which is illuminated with busts of the Roman andByzantine emperors, is re-examined. A revision of its dateand a new interpretation of its illumination are proposed.Contrary to what has been previously maintained, therewere no illustrations in the codex originally. The portraitsof all the emperors, Roman and Byzantine, both those inthe margins of the text and those in rows on the last foliosof the manuscript, both those painted on folios and thosepainted on other paper and stuck onto the pages, are contemporary and by the same hand. They postdate the Fall ofConstantinople, since Constantine Palaeologos is included,and were probably executed gradually by the first Postbyzantine owner of the book who, before deciding to illustrate the series of roman and byzantine emperors, hadrepaired the badly damaged manuscript now in his handsand supplemented its contents with brief historical records.The illumination is in no way integrated with the writtenpage and is obviously an addition. On the other hand, itsspirit is in full harmony with the content of the annotations.Subsequent owners used the codex in an analogous manner, commenting in the margins on the text or the illumination. They mainly noted information on the Byzantineemperors and Constantinople, where the additions wereevidently made. They also retouched the portraits and repaired the damage. The manuscript was in Italy in the 16thcentury and was in the d'Esté Library by around 1573. Noadditions were made after that, although some conservation measures were perhaps taken.Chronographical accounts occur in many manuscripts duringthe 16th century. The Modena codex is of particular interestbecause these date from immediately after 1453. All are inthe vernacular and were made by owners and readers of thebook shocked by the collapse of the Empire. Their use ofthe old Byzantine manuscript as a historical notebookenables us to follow the way in which a popular Byzantinebook of history was transformed into a Postbyzantine 'chronicle'. The greatest peculiarity of the manuscript is the illumination: a pictorial commentary on the text which distinctly emphasizes that history is no more than the succession ofemperors. The illustrating of the founder of the Empire,Constantine the Great, after its last ruler, ConstantinePalaeologos, is a reminder of the destiny of Constantinople.So the series of imperial portraits takes on a prophetic hue.Although the Postbyzantine 'chronicle' enjoyed a splendidcontinuity, the kind of illustration attempted by the ownersof the Modena manuscript was not imitated. It seems thathenceforth prophetic messages were best depicted not byportraits of historic kings, but by illustrating the obscure,and therefore promising, pronouncements of the oracles.