Constantine medal, 1402–13 (model), 16th century (cast)
Bronze; Overall 3 11/16 x 3/16 in. (9.3 x 0.5 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alain Moatti, 1988 (1988.133)
Jean, duc de Berry, was an avid collector of precious objects that referred, however distantly, to antiquity. This fine cast reproduces a lost medal, originally set with pearls, rubies, and sapphires, that the duke acquired in November 1402 in Paris and that he later had replicated in gold. The obverse shows the equestrian figure of Constantine (emperor of Rome 307–337). The reverse shows a cross flanked by two female allegorical figures, possibly representing Grace and Nature. The duke also had medals depicting the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Heraclius, of which only the last survives in later casts.
The sophisticated compositions, elegant figural designs, exotic physiognomic types, and unusual costume details suggest they made a profound impression on the Limbourg brothers, who illuminated several of the duke's manuscripts, including the Belles Heures in the Cloisters collection. The equestrian figure on this medal was copied in a scene of the Meeting of the Magi in another manuscript by the Limbourg brothers, the Très Riches Heures.