Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Design for a Medal


British Museum

British Museum

This small, finished drawing shows a design by Bernini (1598-1680) for a papal medal issued by Pope Alexander VII. It commemorates Bernini's own sculpture of the Cathedra Petri (Throne of St Peter) situated at the east end of the Basilica of St Peter, Vatican City, Rome. As the drawing shows, a huge throne is held up by the bronze figures of four bishop saints above an altar. Inside this bronze throne is an ivory chair believed to have been St Peter's throne. Behind the figures we see curved architecture with angels on top and the dove of the Holy Spirit radiating divine light.In the centre of the drawing is a compass hole and it is divided into quarters to help transfer the design to a wax model. The wax model, made from this drawing by the medallist, Gaspare Morone Mola, is also divided into four. When the bronze medal was issued in 1662, the sculpture was still under construction and the design not final. There are some changes between the drawing and wax model and again from the wax model to the bronze medal. In the drawing the curved architecture is heavily drawn in black chalk over the pen and wash used for the rest of the drawing. In the final sculpture the architecture was removed and replaced by a window.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Design for a Medal
  • Date Created: 1662/1662
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 60.00mm; Width: 59.00mm (circular)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: drawn
  • Subject: medal
  • Registration number: 1946,0713.689.a
  • Producer: Drawn by Bernini, Giovanni Lorenzo
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Seilern, Antoine. Previous owner/ex-collection Ottley, William Young. Previous owner/ex-collection Lawrence, Thomas. Previous owner/ex-collection Woodburn, Samuel. Previous owner/ex-collection Phillipps, Thomas. Previous owner/ex-collection Fenwick, Thomas Fitzroy