Bit Boss

North Italian

Not on view

The center of this bit boss displays the face of the gorgon Medusa, circled by a rim adorned with seven projections in the shape of human busts wearing 16th-century ruff collar and a Roman-style mantle. This repeated figure is likely to be King Philip II of Spain, represented as such in several portraits made by Leone and Pompeo Leoni. Because of his short beard, this portrait seems to have been more particularly inspired by the medal made in 1549 by Leone Leoni when Philip, still a prince, visited his German and Flemish territories for the first time, as well as from his portrait painted by Antonis Mor in 1557.

Italian bronze founders also used the same design of Medusa’s head for ornamental plaquettes, used for adorning several types of objects including staff weapons (see 14.25.354).

These bosses and plaquettes seem to have been imported to Spain as the same Medusa's head is also found on many 17th-century Spanish mortars (bronze founders regularly used molds taken from pre-existing medals or plaquettes for decorating their mortars or bells).

Bit Boss, Copper alloy, North Italian

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