Cast bronze medal of Isotta degli Atti by Matteo de' Pasti


British Museum

British Museum

The legend around the veiled portrait translates as: 'To Isotta of Rimini, the ornament of Italy for beauty and virtue'. The medal is a tribute to Isotta degli Atti, 'mistress' of Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of Rimini (and can therefore hardly be described as conventionally virtuous, though it must have been required that she remained faithful to her lord and master). It was her posthumous reputation that concerned Sigismondo, who must have commissioned this piece. Matteo's medal bears the date of 1446, which does not refer to its date of execution, rather commemorating the year when Isotta became Sigismondo's mistress. The date also appears, surprisingly, on her tomb in the church of S Francesco, more commonly known as the Tempio Malatestiano, in Rimini. Examples of the medal were buried in the walls and foundations of the many buildings constructed by Sigismondo, to be discovered by future generations. This medal, like her tomb, was therefore intended to preserve Isotta's fame.The elephant on the reverse of the medal provides a connection with ancient coins, specifically of the famous empress Faustina the Elder, wife of Antoninus Pius. On the reverse of a coin of Faustina is a chariot drawn by elephants and the legend AETERNITAS ('eternity'). The elephant was used by the Malatesta family as a symbol of Fortitude, and was also understood as standing for Chastity. By its association with the Faustina coin, this elephant on the reverse of Isotta's medal also trumpets her eternal fame.

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  • Title: Cast bronze medal of Isotta degli Atti by Matteo de' Pasti
  • Date Created: 1446/1446
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 84.50mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: cast; pierced
  • Subject: elephant; personal-ornament; heraldry
  • Registration number: G3,VP.8
  • Production place: Made in italy
  • Producer: Designed by Pasti, Matteo de'. Modelled by Pasti, Matteo de'
  • Material: bronze
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by George IV. Previous owner/ex-collection George III


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