MASSYS, Quentin
(b. 1465/66, Leuven, d. 1530, Antwerpen)

Portrait Medal of Erasmus

Bronze, diameter 10,5 cm
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Two years after his painted portrait of Erasmus on wood, Massys created a portrait medal of Erasmus, cast in bronze. He softened the profile face by showing the cheek's slight slag and the hair pushed back over the ear. The viewer is warned by the mixed reek and Latin inscription that 'His writings will present a better image; portrait executed from life.' That is , the portrait shows an authentic likeness, yet his writings, which will endure longer, give a fuller picture of Erasmus. The reverse depicts Erasmus's symbol, the classical deity Terminus, motto CONCEDO NVLLI ('I yield to no one') and inscription 'Consider the end of a long life - death is the ultimate limit of things.'

In the Web Gallery of Art you can view several portraits of Erasmus by Renaissance painters, such as Hans Holbein the Younger, Albrecht Dürer and Quentin Massys.