Unfolding the Cocharelli Codex: some preliminary observations about the text, with a theory about the order of the fragments

Chiara Concina


ABSTRACT: The so-called ‘Cocharelli codex’ is an early fourteenth-century manuscript, considered one of the most astonishing products of medieval Italian illumination art. Unfortunately, only 27 leaves of it survive today. The extant folios are housed in three different libraries: 25 ff. in London, British Library, MSS. Add. 27695, Add. 28441, Eg. 3127, Eg. 3781; 1 f. in Florence, Museo del Bargello, MS. inv. 2065; and 1 f. in Cleveland, Museum of Art, Wade Fund, MS. n. 1953.152. This manuscript belonged to the wealthy merchant Genoese family of the Cocharelli, and the text (a treatise on the virtues and vices) was written by one of its members for the education of his sons. Many details included in the examples used to explain each vice concern historical events dealing with Genoa and the Latin East (Acre and Cyprus). At the beginning of his work, the anonymous author tells us that he took many of the anecdotes contained in his treatise from the memoirs of his grandfather Pellegrino Cocharelli. The presence of Pellegrino in Acre, Cyprus and Genoa is witnessed by a series of notarial deeds drawn up between the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth century, and this evidence allows to hypothesize that he personally witnessed some of the historical events described in the treatise. The unique style of the miniatures of the Cocharelli codex has been studied in detail, but little has been done for what concerns the text, that is still unpublished. The aim of the present paper is to try to reconstruct the exact order of the fragments (that are today pell-mell bound), to give a general overview on the structure and sources of the treatise, as well as to offer some considerations on the connections between the text and the miniatures.

KEYWORDS: Medieval Latin literature – Moral treatises – History of Genoa – History of the Latin East – Medieval Italian miniature

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