The Portland Vase, £5.00
Diameter: 71.000 mm
George III Collection
CM George III, German Medal 21
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Cast and chased silver medal of Emperor Charles V, by Leone Leoni
Milan, Italy, about AD 1549
Charles V's triumph over misfortune
Like his contemporary and adversary, Benvenuto Cellini, Leone Leoni (about 1509-90) had a colourful and successful career, working for the most illustrious patrons. In March 1549, Leoni arrived in Brussels to present his ideas for sculptures of the emperor, Charles V (ruled 1519-1556, died 1558). he also brought three examples of his gold medal of Charles' son, the future Philip II of Spain. The Emperor's admiration of the pieces led him to commission two medals, one of himself and one of his late wife, Isabella of Portugal (1503-36). This was in addition to orders from Leoni for statues and portrait busts of the Habsburg family, and the medals were still unfinished in September of that year.
The depiction of Charles V as a mighty emperor, wearing a laurel wreath and armour, reflects his crushing power in Europe after his victory over the Protestant League at Muhlberg in 1547. On the reverse, we see Hercules slaying giants and fighting the Hydra with a satyr hiding in the background and a legend meaning 'You must not yield to misfortune'. Charles often likened himself to Hercules and this scene perhaps reflects his own wars with the French, Turks and Protestants in the preceding twenty years of his reign. This period of stability was short-lived, as a depressed and defeated Charles eventually abdicated in 1556 after further successful rebellion by the Protestant princes.