Italian illuminator. He almost certainly studied under Giulio Clovio in Rome and later worked at the papal court, probably from 1523 to 1572; his name is entered in the Archivio di Stato Romano for the year 1568–9. A detached leaf from a choir-book, now in a book of cuttings, some of which are signed (London, BL, Add. MS. 21412, fols 36–43), bears the date 1564 and an inscription stating that Bonfratelli was miniator (miniaturist) to the Apostolic Chamber under Pope Pius IV. Its fine miniature of the Adoration of the Shepherds shows some influence of Raphael, while the borders, decorated with a frieze of festoons and architectural motifs, have small figures in the style of Michelangelo. Other works attributed to Bonfratelli include a small miniature of St Luke (Philadelphia, PA, Free Lib., Lewis MS. M. 27:7) and a single leaf (New York, Pierpont Morgan Lib., MS. M. 270) composed of fragments including the Four Evangelists and the arms of Pope Gregory XIII, for whom the book was probably made. The attribution of the latter to Bonfratelli has, however, been contested by Brown. Bonfratelli’s work is characterized by a lively use of colour and a free compositional style. His borrowings (particularly in the marginal decorations) from contemporary trends in printed book designs show that he made attempts to modernize his repertory in the mid-16th century, at a time when manuscript illumination was already in decline.
- J. W. Bradley: A Dictionary of Miniaturists, 1 (London, 1887), pp. 147–8
- M. Harrsen and G. K. Boyce: Italian Manuscripts in the Morgan Library (New York, 1953), p. 58
- T. J. Brown: ‘Some Manuscript Fragments Illuminated for Pope Gregory XIII’, British Museum Quarterly, 13 (1960–61), pp. 2–5
- The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination, 1450–1550 (exh. cat., ed. J. J. G. Alexander; London, RA, 1994)