PISANELLO
(b. 1395, Pisa, d. 1455, Roma)

Cecilia Gonzaga

1447
Cast bronze, diameter 7 cm
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Cecilia Gonzaga ((1426-1451) was the daughter of the marquess of Mantua, Gianfrancesco Gonzaga who became a cloistered Clarissan nun in 1445. She must have had extraordinary talents; although nothing survives from her hand to demonstrate her achievements, she was extensively praised for her learning by an impressive array of intellectuals.

Although the medal was probably commissioned to honour her erudition, in it she is celebrated for the traditional feminine virtue of chastity. The reverse alludes to this in both classical and Christian terms. Pisanello's medal, the first of a woman, is one of his most successful medals, integrating the two sides to form a balanced and complementary whole.




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