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Portraiture. The Renaissance and Baroque Medal


November 2020 to May 2021
Total hours: 40
Hours of lectures: 40

Examination procedure

  • Report or seminar


No prerequisites are required. The course is aimed primarily at undergraduate students, but is also open to PhD students.


The course aims at introducing the students to some of the main problems related to the art of the medal between the Renaissance and the Baroque, paying particular attention to the theme of the portrait both as a formal issue, and as a social, encomiastic and political matter, in relation to the reverses. The lessons will be held mostly between November 2020 and February 2021. The course will investigate not only the strictly historical-artistic aspects of this metallic production of the modern age (style, technique and iconography), but also the broader cultural context of its reception: the word-image relationship on its reverses; the ways of its distribution (within small friendship circuits or to a wider public, for propaganda purposes); its functions (laic, religious, etc.), the geographical horizons of the circulation of these multiples (favoured by the prevalent use of Latin); and their capacity to develop diachronic dialogues even with the Ancient Era. The lessons will mainly concentrate on the Italian production, from Pisanello to Massimiliano Soldani, but they will also offer insights into some Northern European episodes.

Although this course is planned as a unit in itself, it is highly recommended to attend the lessons – intended primarily for PhD students – on Portrait painters in Seventeenth-Century Europe, which will take place in the spring of 2021 and will take up and develop various aspects already addressed in the previous months in relation to the medals.

If possible, the course will be complemented not only by a series of seminars held by Italian and foreign scholars who have dealt with related themes and works, but also by some field trips (outside the class schedule).

Educational Goals

The aim of the course is to increase students’ historical and artistic knowledge and to bring them closer to some of the key themes of the history of the early modern medal (not only in its relationship with painting and sculpture, but also in broader literary and historical contexts), accustoming them to tackling the issues according to a broad diachronic development. At the end, the students will be required to give a seminar, choosing topics related to the lessons and previously validated by the professor, to evaluate the terms in which they understood not only the course contents, but above all the proposed study methodology.

Bibliographical references

  • G.F. Hill, Medals of the Renaissance, rev. and enl. by Graham Pollard, London, British Museum Publ.  1978
  • Ph. Attwood, Italian medals c. 1530-1600 in British Public Collections, 2 vols., London, The British Museum Press 2003, I, pp. 12-82
  • J. Montagu, Gold, Silver and Bronze: Metal Sculpture of the Roman Baroque, New Haven-London, Yale Univ. Press 1996, pp. 73-91
  • Italian Medals, ed. by J.G. Pollard, Hanover, Univ. Press of New England  1987 (Studies in the history of art, 21)
  • La arti a dialogo. Medaglie e medaglisti tra Quattro e Settecento, a cura di L. Simonato, Pisa 2014

Further bibliographical advice will be provided during the lessons.