Portrait medal of Don Inigo d'Avalos (obverse); Sphere Representing Earth, Sea, and Sky (reverse)
Pisanello (Antonio Pisano) (Italian, Pisa or Verona by 1395–1455)
Bronze (copper alloy with warm brown patina under a worn layer of black wax)
Diam. 7.9 cm, wt. 161.43 g.
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Not on view
Active in Verona and the Italian courts, the celebrated master Pisanello left behind a significant legacy, including a large corpus of drawings and several paintings. He was also the inventor of the commemorative portrait medal. Inspired by Roman coins, with their portraits of rulers and allegorical representations on the reverse, the medals commemorated individuals or events and functioned as gifts and mementoes. Pisanello’s medal of Don Inigo d'Avalos, grand chamberlain and military general to Alfonso V of Naples, depicts the sitter wearing a fur-trimmed robe and a hat composed of a rolled hood (cappuccio) and long draped portion. This masterful portrait medal captures his youthful self-confidence. The simple inscription is parenthetical to delicate variations in low relief, which harmonize with rhythmic folds of fabric in higher relief and the strong horizontal volume of the subject’s hat. The image on the reverse – a spherical earth with the sea and starry sky -- may have been inspired by Homer’s description of the shield of Achilles in the ancient Greek poem, the Iliad. This interpretation would celebrate d’Avalos’s military prowess; however, the image may also have astrological or biblical significance, alluding to the creation of the world or the influence of the stars. Above, flanked by two blossoming rose branches is a shield with a triple-towered castle, the arms of d'Avalos.
Inscription: Inscribed on the obverse: • DON• INIGO• DE• DAVALOS•; inscribed on the reverse: • PERVVI SEFA • OPVS• PISANI• PICTORIS• (by [for] you it is made; the work of Pisano the painter)
J. P. Heseltine, London; Henry Oppenheimer, London, by 1912; Oppenheimer sale, Christie’s, London, 27 July 1936, lot 6, including No. 53 (1975.1.1300) (as a “very fine original”; to [John Hunt, London]). Acquired by Robert Lehman through Hunt from the Oppenheimer sale.