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Il Libro secondo di Francesco e Jacopo Dal Ponte.

Scholars who respond to the lure of archives will appreciate the production values that transmit some of the palpable character of the historical document transcribed in this volume. The treatment is as thorough in its scholarly apparatus as in its attention to the object. These qualities are complementary as well; for example, the color plates devoted exclusively to reproducing samples of the document allow the reader a sense of the different hands and inks present in the original. The Libro secondo di dare e avere della famiglia Dal Ponte con diversi per pitture fatte is an account-book from the sixteenth-century workshop of the Dal Ponte family of painters, better known as the Bassano, after their hometown. It is the only one of four such "mastri" from the workshop to survive, and while there are entries dating between 1511-88, it is most complete for the period between 1525-55, a crucial period when leadership passed from the founder of the workshop, Francesco, to his gifted son, Jacopo. The accounts were kept by double-entry bookkeeping, in the form of a "rubicario," that is, organized alphabetically (the lettered tabs are visible in pl. D) . On the verso were usually the accordi, or commissions, and on the recto, a register of payments. The editors have displayed a great deal of sensitivity in retaining the layout of the original 138 folios, and in typographically reproducing various signs and marks in approximate positions on the pages, resulting in an unusually lucid visual presentation of the relationship between one item and another.

The author of this edition, the late Michelangelo Muraro, an eminent Venetian art historian and professor of the University of Padua, wrote the introductory essay and directed the enterprise of intellectual investigation of the account-book. Its publication seems somewhat belated; Muraro discovered the manuscript in private hands in 1947, and by 1956, with the collaboration of Mario Brunetti, had a preliminary transcription. (The present final transcription and notes were carried out by Daniela Puppelin.) In a brief preface, David Rosand describes Muraro's aspirations for the project as a "global comprehension of Bassanese culture," never realized to the satisfaction of the author, "possibly a vision too ideal, too vast" (3), even though conceived as a collaborative work. Yet Muraro utilized his knowledge to practical ends, especially in his work for the soprintendenza, as he was able to identify and salvage works by the Bassano family mentioned in the manuscript. Here, Muraro's fascination with the artisanal nature of the Bassano's production, its difference from Venetian painting workshops and guild regulations, produces insights into the nature of Terraferma culture - from grand fresco cycles and altarpieces to marzipan ribbons and Paschal candles (see fig. 48 for an example of the latter). In his essay, Muraro first recounts the history of the manuscript, and then its role in the workshop. He is able to compare it to others of the period in the Veneto, notably the published account-books of Lorenzo Lotto, Alessandro Vittoria, Paolo Farinati, and Giovanni da Udine. Next, Muraro focuses on the formation and central part of the career of Jacopo and the fortunes of the workshop as reconstructed from works cited in the account-book (and reproduced if surviving). Muraro then considers Jacopo's rapport with the culture of his country environment, seen as a kind of resistance to the center (Venice) yet at a cosmopolitan level of quality (in contrast to the provincial production under his father), an environment that made it possible for Jacopo to elevate genre as a subject, "nature replaces history" (45).

The scope of Muraro's vision is made evident in the section following the transcription, in which Franco Signori has compiled impressive documentation for persons and groups cited in the manuscript. These historical notices range from the son of a peasant from San Eusebio with some small olive groves, to notable Venetian patricians, such as the podesta of Bassano.

Scholarly apparatuses giving money, weights, and measures, a glossary (useful for Bassanese dialect), and a catalogue of works cited in the manuscript, indexed by subject and location, are useful resources, but one cannot rely on their thoroughness in covering every reference. Finally, there is a bibliography and indices.

This volume joins the published inventory of the workshop and Jacopo's testament documenting the later years, and a number of new publications, particularly the recent quadricentennial exhibition catalogues. It is moving to learn that Muraro bequeathed the manuscript to the city of Bassano upon his death. It is auspicious that its publication inaugurates a new series for sources and documents in the history of art sponsored by the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice.

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Author:Cooper, Tracy E.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1995
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