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CARDINAL PIETRO BEMBO circa 1538-1548?

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Pietro Bembo; An almost forgotten renaissance man
Poet, author, statesman, courtier, cardinal, Knight of Rhodes(Elisabetta Gonzaga, duchess of Urbino, addressed him as Knight of Rhodes in a letter of 26 October 1517)


Unifaced cast lead 63mm, Cardinal Pietro Bembo, long-bearded right, wearing a cardinals cape & beretta around, . PETRVS . . CARD . . BEMBVS .
The subject of the medal, Cardinal Pietro Bembo, was born in Venice in 1470 and is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the world of Italian literature during the Renaissance. He edited the works of Petrarch and Dante, insisted on the classics as contemporary models, and helped ensure Tuscan became the standard language for Italian letters. Bembo appears as a character in Castiglione's celebrated treatise on ideal courtly behaviour, Il Cortegiano [The Courtier]. His own works include verse in Latin and Italian, as well as a history of Venice and a celebration of Platonic love, Gli Asolani [The Asolans]. Secretary to Pope Leo X, he was promoted to cardinal in 1538 by Pope Paul III. His portrait was painted by Raphael and Titian, amongst others. Bembo died in Rome in 1547. He had a platonic love affair for many year with Lucretia Borgia, & might have been, at one time, her lover. Some of their letters survive & there is a book named for Byron’s description of them as “The Prettiest Love Letters In The World”
Credited by biblophiles with the first modern book De Aetna (1495) published by Aldine Press(Aldus Manutius), the type-face used is still called Bembo, he also introduced literary methods and standards as well as punctuation which are still in used today.
I found 2 references online;
1: From "The Italian Medals of the 15th & 16th Centuries by Alfred Armand 1883"
BEMBO (Pietro), Venetian, born in 1470, made a cardinal in 1538 + 1548.
Dia. 60. . PETRVS . CARD . BEMBVS. No Reverse.
Bust right of Pietro Bembo, with a long beard, Cap of the berretta, wearing a Cardinals cape. - M.,I, LVII 3.
2: Esemplare del Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Firenze: una sola faccia; diam. mm 61,4; iscrizione -PETRVS-CARD-BEMBVS Bibliografia: ARMAND, Les médailleurs italienscin, 11, 174, n. 5; 111, 233, a; HEISS, op. cit., 197, n. 2 ; POLLARD ...
Sent picture and asked Philip Attwood of the British Museum if he had info re my medal, here is his reply
"Yes, this is a version of the medal in the Bargello in Florence. It appears in Graham Pollard’s catalogue of that collection as no. 819 and is listed among the anonymous medals. Pollard was clearly not impressed, describing the medal as “of poor and unconvincing style and may be a restitution”. I would have said that the original medal may have been fairly skilfully modelled but only aftercasts survive. It’s certainly not possible to put a name to the artist"
Whether it is an aftercast or less likely a restitution, it is a very rare cast lead medal.
My example is 63mm, slightly larger than both the 60mm example that Armand references(assuming he is accurate) & Bargello's 61mm. Typically when a mold is made & a cast medal is produced from it the resulting medal is slightly smaller than the medal used to make the mold, that is due to shrinkage as the metal cools. Ergo my medal is probably earlier than both Armand's & the Bargello's.
Whether it is an aftercast of a circa 1538-1548 medal, or less likely a restitution, it is a very rare cast-lead renaissance medal.
It has been varnished, which I might try to remove, seeing that it is unifaced I could try the back of the medal & see how it goes.
Found this old auction of what appears to be a more modern copy of this medal though it might just be an old variant minus inscription, never mind it is wrongly referenced, look at the hammer price!










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  • 1 year later...

Nice medal, and it's always interesting to compare one's piece with other plated examples.


If I may just make a couple of add-on comments to your discussion of using diameters to determine age. Firstly, using the overall diameters is typically not the best comparison, as they can tend to not be perfectly round, and the distance between devices and the border can vary. Because of this, the recommended practice is to use the measurement of a design element (for example, the height of the bust). Unfortunately, most references do not provide this information (I believe Boerner is one of the few exceptions). Secondly, a later cast made from an original can have a larger diameter than older cast made from an earlier aftercast.

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If I may just make a couple of add-on comments to your discussion of using diameters to determine age.

Thanks for the comments, they are always most welcome. Sharing our collections & knowledge is the raison d'être of the site. So glad that you joined CoinPeople.


Very good points :yes: alas without the examples in hand or the exact measurements of a certain feature, plus, as you point out, the problem of the earlier v later version of the medal used for the casting-mold.....hence my using "implies" and "probably".

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