The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Caterina Sforza
  • Style of Niccolò di Forzore Spinelli (Niccolò Fiorentino) (1430 - 1514)
  • Probably Florentine School, Cast by, later cast of a model of c.1488
  • Caterina Sforza
  • Italy
  • c.1488 (Modern reproduction after original of c. 1488)
  • Medal
  • Brass copper quaternary alloy; cast medal.
  • Diameter: 7.5 cm
  • Inscription: 'CATHARINA ۰ SF ۰ DE RIARIO ۰ FORLIVII ۰ IMOLAE ۰ Q ۰ CO ۰'
    Inscription: 'VICTORIAM ۰ FAMA ۰ SEQVETVR'
  • S344
  • Smoking Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan, Caterina became known and celebrated during her own lifetime as a strong, beautiful, confident and resourceful woman, capable of reacting to an eventful life and to often adverse circumstances.

    Having married the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, Girolamo Riario, in 1475, the two ruled as counts of Forli and Imola (near Bologna) until Girolamo’s assassination in 1488. Having been imprisoned with her children, Caterina managed to regain control of the city, expel her enemies, the Orsi family, and claim the rule of Forli and Imola for her son Ottaviano.

    During the 1490s she married again twice in secret, not to jeopardise her control over territories she had fought so determinedly to keep. This precaution, however, proved pointless in the long term, as in 1498 Pope Alexander VI Borgia confiscated the two cities which were captured by his son Cesare between 1499 and 1500. Caterina ended up in prison again, but was freed in 1501, when she retired to Florence. One of his children was the great military commander (condottiere) Giovanni dalle Bande Nere (1498-1526).

    Since the medal depicts Caterina in mourning, it is likely that it was made around 1488 after the murder of her first husband. The reverse, therefore, probably refers to her ability to retain her territories after an attempt by Pope Innocent VIII to take them from her in the same year.