Averlino, Antonio di Pietro
Medalist of the Roman Emperors
Works of Art
Filarete was a Florentine sculptor who was possibly trained in the workshops of Lorenzo Ghiberti. In about 1433 Pope Eugenius IV called Filarete to Rome, where the artist produced, between 1433 and 1445, the central bronze doors of Saint Peter's. The doors' decorations include profile portraits of Roman emperors, for which reason John Spencer attributed to Filarete the group of pseudo-antique portraits formerly ascribed to "The Medalist of the Roman Emperors." Filarete was forced to leave Rome in 1448 and probably went to work briefly in Venice and then intermittently at the court of Francesco Sforza in Milan between 1451 and 1465, where he designed the Ospedale Maggiore and produced a treatise on architecture.
Two portrait medals are attributed to Filarete, a self-portrait of before 1465 (Hill 1930, no. 906) and a portrait of Francesco Filelfo, probably made in Florence in about 1447. An obverse and reverse of the self-portrait medal appears in the border decorations to the great doors of Saint Peter's and are dated 1445. This format for a personal portrait may have been inspired by the portrait heads of himself and his son, sculptured in the round by Ghiberti on the Gates of Paradise at the Baptistery in Florence in about 1450. Ghiberti placed his family portrait heads in a context of heads of prophets, while Filarete placed his own portrait in a context of Roman emperors. These works locate Filarete amongst the earliest of experimenters in medallic portraiture, even though Filarete's medals are of a bungling and amateur character in themselves.
The recent appearance of a portrait medal by the foundry master responsible for the doors of Saint Peter's, Varrone Belferdino (NGA 1988.30.1.a,b), confirms that members of the Filarete workshop were interested in the form of the newly invented portrait medal. The reattribution of the medals from the Medalist of the Roman Emperors to Filarete is therefore reasonable.
 John R. Spencer, "Filarete, the Medalist of the Roman Emperors," Art Bulletin 61 (1979): 550-561. In addition to the three medals in the NGA collection, there are portraits of Julius Caesar (Hill 1930, no. 731) and Trajan (Hill 1930, no. 733).
 Richard Krautheimer and Trude Krautheimer-Hess, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Princeton, 1982: 9-10, pls.135a, 135b, 136 b.
 George Francis Hill, A Corpus of the Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini, London, 1930: no. 905, said of it, "The work has little artistic significance, is obviously not from the hand of a professional medalist, and does not stand in any relation to any school of medallic art." Nevertheless, Alberti's self-portrait plaque (NGA 1957.14.125) could be criticized in the same terms.
 John R. Spencer, "An Unknown Fifteenth-Century Medalist - Varro, Beltrame Belfradelli," The Medal, no. 13 (1988): 4-7. Louis Waldman, "Varrone d'Agniolo Belferdino's Commemorative Medal of an Unknown Lady," American Journal of Numismatics 3-4 (1991-1992): 105-116.
[This is the artist's biography published in the NGA systematic catalogue of Renaissance medals.]