Portrait medal: 

Portrait medals acted as a personal emblem that expressed a characteristic, an interest or accomplishment of the person they were meant to embody. This tangible token is a commemorative method for the commissioner to leave a lasting mark of themselves in imagery unique to the individual.  It is way for them to illustrate their greatest accomplishments and achievements as well as relevant imagery that is representational of their life. This unique portrait style comes from an inspiration of Roman coins and the renaissance revival of interest in Antiquity. The coins are double sided, displaying a portrait on one side and imagery on the other. The imagery is often a metaphor for Greek and Roman history myths and Biblical stories.  Portrait medals are typically made of bronze, an expensive material of the time.

Coins were used as a propaganda method and a way to circulate his or her self image. Commissioning a coin was a sign of wealth and power. They were beautiful objects that held meaning and symbolism as well as prompted discussion. To receive a coin from a patron was considered an honor and therefore, became a collectors item of the period.

Giovanni Cristoforo Romano was a sculptor and medalist during the Italian Renaissance. He worked as a medallist for the courts of Ferrara and Mantua. Duchess Isabella d’Este looked to him for the commission of her how portrait medal. Isabella d’Este,marchesa of Mantua, is among one of the few women of the 15th century with a portrait metal. She commissioned artist, Giancristoforo Romano to create her unique medallion. One side features Isabella’s profile, her hair is fixed in a hairstyle worn by ancient roman women. Her name and title encompasses her portrait. The choice of imagery on the opposite side alludes to mythology. A snake is placed at the feet of a winged figure and a Sagittarius, Isabela’s astrological sign, is in movement over head. The phrase circled around the image translates to “for those who are well deserving.” This slogan refers refers to honor and great privilege it is to receive this token.
This portrait metal features Isotta degli Atti, mistress to Sigismondo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini. She wearing an elaborate jeweled veil over her hair that is attached to her high forehead. The reverse side an elephant is walking across a field of flowers. It is believed that this is a symbol of strength, power and chastity Matteo spent most of his career as an artist at the Malatesta court in Rimini. He grew to be an important member of the court and Sigismondo’s inner circle.
This is the reverse side
The scene on this coin is based of a legend from Malatesta, Lord of Cesana’s life. Malatesta finds himself about to be captured by enemies. In his armor he drops to his both knees and makes a pledge he will build a hospital if he is freed. Pisanello creates a rocky landscape that has much more depth then other coin designs of the time. The scene is also made much more complex by showing the horse from behind.
The front of the coin shows Sigismondo Gandolfo Malatesta, the Lord of Rimini. To represent himself as a soldier he is shown wearing armor.
The second side shows Sigismondo’s new castle at Rimini. This design is one of the first times that architecture appears on coins.
The front of the coin shows Lorenzo de Medici in profile with his hair in a long bob. His expression is serious which eludes to his determination to be a great leader. He looks to be confident which is representational of his optimistic attitude to be a successful Medici leader. The inscription around the edge of the medal frames the head. It reads “MAGNVS LAVRENT / IVS MEDICES” which translates to “The Great Lorenzo de’ Medici.” The opposite features the phrase, “TVTELA PATRIE” that translates to “Protection of the Country.” The image of a laurel tree is one of his personal emblems. The lily is a symbol of Florence. Including images that represent the Medici family convoy the families power as rulers.
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