Reflections of Glory:
The medallic art of 16th century Italy

13 June – 22 September 2002

This exhibition is now closed

Room 90

This display of sixteenth-century Italian medals coincides with the publication, in February 2003, of a major British Museum catalogue, Italian medals c.1530–1600 in British public collections.

The first medals were made in Italy in the 1430s. One hundred years later the Italian medal was firmly established, with princes, clerics, antiquaries, merchants and many others using the medium to signify personal worth. Being portable and durable, medals were recognised as highly effective ways of conveying a message to contemporaries, and also to posterity. Images and inscriptions were carefully chosen to indicate the virtues and events with which those represented on the medals wished to be associated.

The artists who made medals worked principally in the cities of northern and central Italy, but some travelled to other European countries to serve foreign patrons. Artists such as Leone Leoni and Benvenuto Cellini won international reputations.

More Italian medals of the late Renaissance can be seen in the British Museum's Europe 1400–1800 gallery (Room 46).

Reverse of a medal of Wratislaw von Pernstein by Antonio Abondio

Reverse of a medal of Wratislaw von Pernstein by Antonio Abondio.