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Overview

Pisanello, who was a painter as well as a medalist, is generally credited with having invented the Renaissance medal form, as well as having brought it to its highest potential. He made several medals of the Marquess of Ferrara, this one being for the occasion of Leonello's marriage to Maria of Aragon in 1444. The composition of the reverse side alludes to their marriage, with Leonello (in the guise of a lion; his name means "little lion") being taught to sing by Cupid, who here represents matrimonial love. The artist has dated this reverse composition (MCCCCXLIIII, or 1444) on the pillar in the background, and has signed it OPVS PISANI PICTORIS ("the work of Pisano the Painter").

The inscription across the field and around the bottom of the obverse, LEONELLVS MARCHIO ESTENSIS D(ominus) FERRARIE REGII ET MUTINE, identifies Leonello as Marquess of Este and Lord of Ferrara, Reggio, and Modena. The truncated inscription around the top, GE R AR, is an abbreviation of GENER REGIS ARAGONUM, identifying him (through his marriage) as the son-in-law of King Alfonso V of Aragon, ruler of Naples; Leonello's marriage to Maria brought him a bride who increased his prestige by associating him with the powerful Neapolitan court.

Inscription

across center: LEONELLVS MARCHIO / ESTENSIS; around bottom circumference: D[ominus] FERRARIE REGII ET MVTINE; around top circumference: GE[ner] R[egis] AR[agonum]

Provenance

Gustave Dreyfus [1837-1914], Paris; his heirs; purchased with the entire Dreyfus collection 9 July 1930 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold 31 January 1944 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[1] gift 1957 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1953
Renaissance Portraits, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1953, no cat.
1994
The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Frick Collection, New York; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1994-1995, no. 5a, repro.
Bibliography
1883
Armand, Alfred. Les médailleurs italiens des quinzième et seizième siècles. 2nd ed. 3 vols. Paris, 1883-1887: 1:3, no. 8.
1908
Migeon, Gaston. "La collection de M. Gustave Dreyfus, V: Les plaquettes." Les Arts 80 (August 1908): 3, nos. viii, ix.
1930
Hill, George Francis. A Corpus of Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini. 2 vols. London, 1930: no. 32.
1931
Hill, George Francis. The Gustave Dreyfus Collection: Renaissance Medals. Oxford, 1931: no. 10.
1951
National Gallery of Art. Renaissance Bronzes: Statuettes, Reliefs and Plaquettes, Medals and Coins from the Kress Collection. Intro. by Perry B. Cott. Washington, 1951: 161.
1951
National Gallery of Art, Renaissance Bronzes: Statuettes, Reliefs and Plaquettes, Medals and Coins from the Kress Collection. Introduction by Perry B. Cott. Washington, 1951:
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 58
1966
Pope-Hennessy, John. The Portrait in the Renaissance. London and New York, 1966: 68-69, fig. 68.
1967
Hill, George Francis, and Graham Pollard. Renaissance Medals from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art. London, 1967: no. 10.
1972
Chiarelli, R. L'Opera completa di Pisanello. Milan, 1972: no. 95.
1983
De Lorenzi, Giovanna. Medaglie di Pisanello e della sua cerchia. Museo del Bargello, Florence, 1983: no. 9.
1983
Wilson, Carolyn C. Renaissance Small Bronze Sculpture and Associated Decorative Arts at the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1983: 18, no. 5.
1984
Pollard, John Graham. Italian Renaissance Medals in the Museo Nazionale of Bargello. 3 vols. Florence, 1984: no. 9.
1990
Woods-Marsden, Joanna. "Art and Political Identity in Fifteenth-Century Naples: Pisanello, Cristoforo di Geremia, and King Alfonso's Imperial Fantasies." In Rosenberg, Charles, ed. Art and Politics in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy. Notre Dame and London, 1990: 12-13, fig. 2.
1991
Mottola Molfino, Alessandra, and Mauro Natale, eds. Le muse e il principe: Arte di corte nel Rinascimento padano.2 vols. Exh. cat. Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan. Modena, 1991: 69, no. 8 [entry by Elena Corradini].
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 284, repro.
1994
Rykwert, Joseph and Anne Engel, eds. Leon Battista Alberti. Exh. cat. Palazzo del Tè, Mantua, 1994: 477, no. 78 (entry by Giannino Giovannoni).
1996
Cordellier, Dominique, et. al. Pisanello. Exh. cat. Musée du Louvre, 1996: 397-398, nos. 272, 273 [entries by Sylvie de Turckheim-Pey].
1996
Marini, Paola, ed. Pisanello: I luoghi del gotico internazioniale del Veneto. Exh. cat. Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, 1996: 386-387, no. 87 [entry by Davide Gasparotto].
1996
Rugolo, Ruggero. "Medaglie." In Puppi, Leonelli. Pisanello. Una poetica dell'inatteso. Milan, 1996: 157-159, no. 9.
1997
Campbell, Stephen J. Cosme Tura of Ferrara: Style, Politics and the Renaissance City, 1450-1495. New Haven, 1997: 46, 47, fig. 33.
1997
Gebhardt, Volker. Kunstgeschichte Malerei, 1997, no. 47, repro.
2000
National Gallery of Art Special Issue. Connaissance des Arts. Paris, 2000:61.
2007
Pollard, John Graham. Renaissance Medals. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. 2 vols. Washington, 2007: 1:no. 10, repro.
2011
Campbell, Steven J. "Review of Renaissance Medals, Vol. 1 Italy (Washington, 2007)." The Art Bulletin 93, no. 1 (March 2011): 108, nt. 3.