Academic journal article Parergon

Frederick II of Hohenstaufen's Australasian Cockatoo: Symbol of Detente between East and West and Evidence of the Ayyubids' Global Reach

Academic journal article Parergon

Frederick II of Hohenstaufen's Australasian Cockatoo: Symbol of Detente between East and West and Evidence of the Ayyubids' Global Reach

Article excerpt

The depiction of an Australasian cockatoo in Andrea Mantegna's Madonna della Vittoria, completed in Mantua in 1496, has recently been discussed by Heather Dalton in her 2014 article, 'A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in Fifteenth-Century Mantua: Rethinking Symbols of Sanctity and Patterns of Trade'. (1) Dalton examined the presence of this parrot in Mantegna's altarpiece and concluded that the image revealed 'the complexity and range of Southeast Asian trading networks prior to direct European contact' as well as confirming the interests and purchasing power of Mantegna and his patrons, the Gonzagas. She posited that it was very likely that Mantegna had a live bird as a model, suggesting that as 'cockatoos are known for their longevity, gregariousness and ability to live happily with humans', a young cockatoo could have made the long journey from 'east of the Wallace Line to Europe'. In support of this she noted that in the thirteenth century, 'the Sultan of Babylon sent a White Cockatoo from Indonesia to the leader of the Sixth Crusade, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II'. (2) The evidence for this is in Emperor Frederick II's book on ornithology and falconry, De arte venandi cum avibus (The Art of Hunting with Birds). (3)

De arte was written in Latin by Frederick or a scribe under his direction between 1241 and 1244 and is thought to have been based on a translation of two Arabic texts on falconry: the Kitab al-Mutawakkili, dedicated to the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil, and a manuscript by Adham and Ghitrif. (4) Although Frederick's original manuscript was lost in 1248 at the siege of Parma, six volumes of material, including drafts and fragments relating to the lost manuscript, survived at the emperor's Apulian castles. Ten years after the loss of the original manuscript, and eight years after Frederick's death, his son Manfred began the painstaking exercise of recreating his father's work using this material. (5) In 1266 Manfred was killed at the battle of Benevento and his still incomplete De arte was taken as plunder, ending up in the possession of Jean II de Dampierre-Saint-Dizier (commonly known as John of Flanders). By the mid sixteenth century, the Nuremberg intellectual Joachim Camerarius the younger owned the manuscript and in 1596 Markus Welser published a printed edition in Augsburg. In 1622 the Duke of Bavaria, Maximilian I, presented the original manuscript to Gregory XV to be included in the Bibliotheca Palatina, then in Heidelberg. (6) The manuscript, now in the Vatican City and known as Codex Ms. Pal. Lat. 1071, is made up of Manfred's two-volume, 111 folio adaptation of the De arte. (7) It is the work of a single hand, except for folio 74. Amongst the nine hundred marginal illustrations of birds, animals, falconers, perches, and falconry equipment are four coloured drawings of the white cockatoo gifted to Frederick II. (8)

Codex Ms. Pal. Lat. 1071--the manuscript now in the Vatican Library--is one of only two surviving versions of Frederick's work containing images as well as textual references to the cockatoo. The other--now in the National Library of France--is a French translation of Manfred's manuscript, prepared for Jean II de Dampierre-Saint-Dizier by Simon d'Orleans c. 1300. (9) The images of the cockatoo in the French manuscript are copies of those in Codex Ms. Pal. Lat 1071, although their juxtaposition to other birds is slightly different and they are more upright and wooden in appearance with slightly exaggerated beaks. (10) Because the four images in the Vatican manuscript have rarely been reproduced in print, few people are aware of their existence. This may be because many scholars have relied on Casey Albert Wood and Florence Marjorie Fyfe's 1943 English translation of all six books of the De arte. (11) Although Wood and Fyfe included many illustrations from the Codex Ms. Pal. Lat. 1071, they did not include those of the cockatoo. This article, the result of an international collaboration between historians and zoologists, aims to focus attention on the fact that Australasian cockatoos were present in the Middle East in the medieval period and that one, identified as a Sulphur-crested or Yellow-crested Cockatoo, reached Europe in the mid thirteenth century. …

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