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What Is This Manuscript?

  • Paging through Pietro Mellini’s inventory in verse.

    In 1681, Pietro Mellini wrote a poem describing the “greatest hits” of his family’s art collection in Rome.

    The manuscript is now part of the Getty Research Institute collection.

  • Detail of the handwritten manuscript.

    This unusual document presents a puzzle to scholars.

    Collections of art are traditionally described in a legal document, called an inventory, that helps estimate the value of an estate. Mellini’s document is part poem and part inventory, a hybrid of two different types of text.

  • The structure of Mellini’s poem—verses of poetry next to numbered marginal notes that refer to the paintings.

    Mellini based his poem on a conventional inventory that was compiled the year before, in 1680. The structure of Mellini’s poem: verses of poetry next to numbered marginal notes that refer to the paintings.

    The numbered notes in the margins list paintings described in adjacent verses. Mellini also underlined most of the artists’ names.

  • Paging through Pietro Mellini’s inventory in verse.

    Mellini’s poem was written on thirteen sheets, or folios.

    The sides of a folio are referred to as the recto (front) and verso (back).

  • This is one of only three paintings definitively identified as belonging to the Mellinis’ collection. Angelica and Medoro by Giovanni Lanfranco (1600–1647), is currently in a private collection in Milan.

    The project researchers were able to identify only a few artworks that Mellini described in his poem. This is common when researching historical documents of this type.

    Included in this site are images of identified and related artworks that give a sense of what the Mellini collection may have looked like.

  • Learn more about Mellini’s unusual manuscript in scholarly essays by the project’s research team:

How to Use This Digital Publication

  • We’ve provided this scholarly publication in the form of a website. The intention is to allow readers to explore the primary source material on their own, and to reveal the research process of the scholars.

    Explore the manuscript:

    • High-resolution manuscript images are zoomable.

    • Side-by-side windows allow for comparison of facsimile, transcription, and English translation.

  • Our enhancements provide additional information about the manuscript:

    Highlighted areas on the transcription reveal the scholars’ annotations on the interpretation of Mellini’s poem.

    Highlighting in the English translation indicates project scholars’ discussions about translating the poem.

    A toggle turns notes on and off.

  • The numbered descriptions in Mellini’s marginal notes are keyed to a List of Artworks, which contains information about the identification of each item.

    Click on these item numbers to go to the List of Artworks.

  • The List of Artworks provides research into individual items mentioned by Mellini in his poem:

    • Images of identified artworks and other related works are presented here.

    • Research Notes provide detailed information about the identified artworks.

    • A comparison of Mellini’s poem and a conventional inventory written in 1680 is provided below each item.

  • Begin reading and working with this publication: