Etruscan terracotta sarcophagus, £24.00
Diameter: 66.000 mm
Lord Leighton Collection
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Cast bronze medal commemorating the Pazzi Conspiracy by Bertoldo di Giovanni
Florence, Italy, AD 1478
Murder in the Cathedral
The medal tells the story of an attack on the Medici family, plotted by their rivals in Florence, which took place in the Cathedral (Duomo) on 26 April, 1478. The Pazzi family and their allies intended the murder of Lorenzo 'Il Magnifico' ('the Magnificent') de' Medici, who through his banking wealth and political influence, had made himself effective ruler of the Florentine republic (1469-92). The plot failed, and Lorenzo was able to consolidate his power. However, his younger brother Giuliano was killed, and subsequently turned into a kind of martyr.
This medal is only one of several works of art commissioned from leading artists which proclaimed the safety of the republic under Lorenzo, as well as mourning Giuliano. It was modelled by Bertoldo di Giovanni (about 1420-91), an artist then living in the Medici palace, who later taught Michelangelo. Although it was clearly intended as a piece of propaganda, the first edition of the medal was not large and in September 1478 a model for the medal was sent to Bertoldo's fellow medallist Andrea Guacialoti (1435-95) in Prato, for him to cast four specimens.
J.D. Draper, Bertoldo di Giovanni: sculptor (Columbia and London, 1992)
G.F. Hill, A corpus of Italian medals of (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1930)
J.D. Draper, The currency of fame: portra-5 (New York, 1994)