Cast bronze, diameter 8 cm
Musei Civici d'Arte Antica, Ferrara
There are seven known medals depicting Borso d'Este (1413-1471), the ruler of Ferrara for more than two decades. He succeeded his more cultured and intellectual brother Leonello, in 1450. He was made duke of Modena and Reggio by Frederick III in 1452, and in 1471, four months before his death, he was installed as duke of Ferrara.
Borso was vain but his interest in portraiture was not merely an expression of vanity: he fully appreciated the usefulness of princely images in promoting his legitimacy and status. His portrait was included in the fresco cycles of his various residences, most memorably in the Palazzo Schifanoia, as well as on medals, coins, and in individual portraits.
Three of the seven medals were cast in 1460. This fact probably relates to the visit to Ferrara of Pope Pius II the preceding year and to Borso's ambition to be invested as duke of Ferrara.
The reverse of Lixignolo's medal shows Unicorn Dipping Its Horn into a Stream (a unicorn purifying water with its horn). This is a favoured device that is also found in Borso's lavishly illuminated Bible.