Exhibitions/ Art Object
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Medal of Cecilia Gonzaga

Artist:
Pisanello (Antonio Pisano) (Italian, Pisa or Verona by 1395–1455)
Date:
model 1447 (old aftercast)
Medium:
Bronze (copper alloy with warm brown patina under a worn layer of black wax)
Dimensions:
Diam. 8.4 cm, wt. 142.55 g.
Classification:
Medals
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
1975.1.1307
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 960
In the dreamlike nocturnal scene on the medal's reverse, an outsize unicorn lies gently at the feet of a half-clad maiden. Thus Pisanello, one of the great artists of the Renaissance, embraces the medieval legend of the taming of the unicorn to create a poetic metaphor for the life of Cecilia Gonzaga, seen on the obverse. This beautiful princess of Mantua refused to marry, choosing instead to remain a maiden and serve as a nun of the Order of Saint Clare. The traditional theological association of the unicorn with Christ, therefore, has particular resonance here. The crescent moon is apparently a reference to the classical virgin goddess Diana.
Inscription: Inscribed on the obverse: CICILIA• VIRGO• FILIA• IOHANNIS•FRANCISCI• PRIMI•
MARCHIONIS• MANTVE (Cecilia, virgin daughter of Gianfrescesco, first marquess of Mantua); inscribed on the reverse: OPVS • PISANI• PICTORIS • M•CCCC•XLVII (the work of Pisano the painter, 1447).
J. P. Heseltine, London; Henry Oppenheimer, London, by 1912; Oppenheimer sale, Christie’s, London, 27 July 1936, lot 1 (as “original cast of great beauty; fine patina, pierced”; to [John Hunt, London]). Acquired by Robert Lehman through Hunt from the Oppenheimer sale.
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