Journey through the Dante Urbinate: Matteo de’ Contugi

Often, when we turn our attention to miniatures, we risk forgetting the great contribution given to us by the copyists, who were first-rank artists themselves. Today we will meet Matteo de’ Contugi, one of the fine copyists of the Dante Urbinate.

Born in Volterra, he was active in Mantua (Mantova), working for the Gonzaga and in Ferrara for the Este. His date of birth is unknown, as is the location of his training. What we do know is that he had special ties to the city of Ferrara where he worked with the greatest living artists of the time. He sent many letters from Urbino to the Marchese Ludovico Gonzaga that show that Matteo was living in Urbino between 1477 and 1486. This does not mean that his first arrival at the court of Federico da Montefeltro could not have been earlier than that.

Contugi had a great career that even included him holding political-administrative office but, unfortunately, we do not have evidence of his work as a copyist after 1482 - the year he left Urbino following the death of the Duke.

Source: Ambrogio M. Piazzoni, Una nuova lettura della Commedia, La Divina Commedia di Federico da Montefeltro. Il Dante Urbinate. Commentario. 

Illumination from Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia, Ms. Urb. lat. 365, f. 1r, 1478-1482, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

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