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

Medal of Emperor John VIII Palaeologus (obverse and reverse)

c. 1438
Copper alloy, diameter 10 cm
Münzkabinett, Staatliche Museen, Berlin

John VIII Paleologus (1392-1448), emperor of Byzantium, was the last ruler but one of the old Roman Empire. He was invited by Pope Eugenius IV to attend a council in Ferrara to discuss the possibility of union between the Greek and Roman churches. The emperor arrived in Ferrara with a large retinue, and he was interested in recruiting support in the West for his conflict against the Turks, who were threatening Constantinople. Pisanello, working in Ferrara for Leonello d'Este, was fascinated by the exotic appearance of the imperial entourage, details of which he recorded in drawings and used in paintings.

Pisanello was commissioned to produce an object commemorating this historic visit. Pisanello's medal, the first portrait medal of the Renaissance, became the progenitor of all subsequent medals.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.