The Messale Rosselli: Scientific investigation on an outstanding 14th century illuminated manuscript from Avignon

Elisa Calà, Angelo Agostino, Gaia Fenoglio, Valerio Capra, Franca Porticelli, Francesca Manzari, Sarah Fiddyment, Maurizio Aceto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The manuscript D.I.21 kept at Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria in Torino, better known as Messale Rosselli, is one of the richest fully illustrated missals surviving from the mid-14th century. It was produced in Avignon for the Aragonese Cardinal Nicolas Rossell (1314–1362) but after the patron's death, it passed from hand to hand until it reached its final destination in Torino. The Messale Rosselli has recently been the object of a thorough interdisciplinary study, involving full characterisation of the colourants with non-invasive techniques (FORS, fluorimetry, XRF spectrometry, optical microscopy, IR photography). The full set of colourants was identified, highlighting the systematic use of precious pigments such as lapis lazuli, cinnabar and gold, a feature reinforcing the symbolic value of the manuscript; in addition, less valuable but interesting dyes such as brazilwood and folium were also identified, used either pure or in a mixture with pigments in order to obtain a wide range of hues. The palettes used by the various artists have been evaluated according to the availability of raw materials in the geographic area around Avignon, finding that most of the colourants could be at easy disposal of the artists. Information has also been obtained concerning the preparation of the parchment. The systematic measurement of the width of folios allowed hypothesising the number of the animals slaughtered to produce parchment, and the way of using skins. XRF analysis on the folios suggested that different preparations were used. Finally, eZooMS, a non-invasive technique able to provide information on the animal species from which parchment was produced, evidenced that calf and goat, but not sheep, were used to produce the parchment of the Messale Rosselli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-730
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Early online date7 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy


  • Avignon
  • eZooMS
  • Folium
  • FORS
  • Manuscripts
  • Non-invasive
  • XRF

Cite this