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Overview

In contrast to the more personal significance of Pisanello's Leonello d'Este, this medal is a political commentary on the union of King Henri IV of France and his wife Marie, and their resulting offspring, the future King Louis XIII. Henri and Marie are shown in a double portrait on the obverse, he in a superb armorial breastplate, she in a court dress with an extensive lace collar. The inscriptions around the top, HENR(icus) IIII R(ex) CHRIST(ianissimus), and MARIA AVGVSTA, identify the two as "Henri the fourth, most Christian King," and "Empress Marie." The maker, Guillaume Dupré, was the most brilliant practitioner of the medallic arts in France during this period and a great favorite of the ruling monarchs.

On the reverse, the distinctive profiles of the two rulers are recognizable in the two standing figures holding hands. These represent Henri as Mars, the god of war, and Marie as Pallas, the goddess of wisdom and the arts. Beneath their clasped hands stands the young child, their son Louis. The inscription around the top, PROPAGO IMPERI, "the offspring of the empire," reflects the dynastic aspirations of Henri and Marie, based on their hopes for young Louis' future.

Inscription

around circumference: HENR[icus] IIII R[ex] CHRIST[ianissimus] MARIA AVGVSTA; lower left: G DVPRE F; lower left engraved on truncation: 1603

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.

Bibliography
1967
Hill, George Francis, and Graham Pollard. Renaissance Medals from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art. London, 1967: no. 556.
1983
Wilson, Carolyn C. Renaissance Small Bronze Sculpture and Associated Decorative Arts at the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1983: 205, no. 3.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 295, repro.
2007
Pollard, John Graham. Renaissance Medals. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. 2 vols. Washington, 2007: 2:no. 637, repro.