Cast and chased silver medal of Philip II of Spain by Gianpaolo Poggini

Madrid, Spain, about AD 1559-62

The Wealth of the Indies

By taking the Florentine medallist Gianpaolo Poggini into his service at the courts of Brussels and Madrid, Philip II was imitating the taste of his father, Charles V for Italian medal-making. The titles that surround Philip's portrait make the message of this medal very clear. He is called 'king of the Spains and of the New World in the West'. Mexico and Peru had fallen to Spain in the 1520s and 1530s, but the extraordinary resources, particularly silver, of their South American colonies were exploited only from the 1550s. In February 1562 Poggini wrote from Madrid to his former employer Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, to explain the imagery of the medal's reverse:

'a reverse of India [that is, Spain's South American lands], for which I dressed men and women with the clothes they wear in Peru, as you see; and that animal which resembles both a camel and a sheep [a llama] I have portrayed from one which is alive here, and I have included it because it is a rare animal and a useful one, since like ours it gives wool, milk and meat, and it bears loads like an ass. I have shown it burdened with bars of silver. The woman who bears the half globe as an offering represents the province of India as my Lord Gonzalo Pérez is pleased to interpret it. But I prefer to identify her as Fortune or Providence. The idea was mine in the first place, then I discussed it with my Lord and good friend Gonzalo Pérez. It seemed to him a good idea and he spent much effort working on the motto and refining the representation, with the help of many learned men at this court. And accordingly I executed it.'

The blank area on the globe may indicate Spain's intention to carry on their explorations in search of riches. The letter reveals the collaborative nature of medal design, and how they might be differently interpreted. This piece is cast froma struck specimen.

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J.G. Pollard, Italian Renaissance medals in (Florence, Associazione Amici del Bargello, 1985)


Diameter: 38.000 mm

Museum number

CM George III, Flemish and Dutch Medal 313


George III Collection


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