The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Cosimo de' Medici
  • Possibly Niccolò di Forzore Spinelli (Niccolò Fiorentino) (1430 - 1514) , Cast by
  • Possibly Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi) (1386 - 1466), for the model of the portrait
  • Cosimo de' Medici
  • Florence, Italy
  • late 15th century
  • Medal
  • Copper alloy. Cast medal.
  • Diameter: 7.5 cm
  • Inscription: 'COSMVS ٠ MEDICE/S ٠ DECRETO ٠ PVBLIC/O ٠ PP ٠'
    Inscription: 'PAX ٠ LIBERTAS ٠ QUE ٠ PUBLICA ٠ FLORENTIA'
  • S341
  • Smoking Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • An astute businessman and statesman, Cosimo de’Medici (1389-1464) first held the office of chief of the Signoria (the Florentine republican government) at a young age in 1415. Having hugely expanded the family banking business, and despite being exiled in 1433, the following year Cosimo was called back to Florence and became the de facto ruler of Florence. He was, however, extremely careful not to offend the republican sentiments of the Florentine, and never took formal control of the government. S341 is one of two known medals of Cosimo de’ Medici which have survived in numerous examples. It must have been circulating at least by 1469 as it was copied in a miniature decorating a manuscript made for Cosimo’s son Pietro, who died in that year.

    The relief is much more pronounced in the obverse: this and the wear to the reverse of our medal suggest that the medal was meant to display Cosimo’s portrait rather than the allegorical figure representing the city of Florence on the reverse. This was a bold statement for a man who had intentionally avoided personal imagery, and one of the earliest examples of politically motivated art commissioned by the Medici.

    Cosimo was a learned man and, like his heirs, an enthusiastic patron of the arts. The medal exploits the reference to ancient Roman coins and emphasises the connection between Cosimo and the great virtues of Republican Rome. The figure of Florence on the reverse is also modelled on the figure of the goddess Concordia often found on Roman coins.

    Although the cast of our medal has been linked to the name of Niccolò Fiorentino, as the rather clumsy treatment of the reverse is characteristic of his work, many scholars believe that the quality of Cosimo’s portrait points to a much more skilled sculptor, often identified as Donatello, who was among Cosimo’s protegés.