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Matteo de' PASTI

Italy Died 1467/1468

Portrait of Isotta degli Atti (obverse)
Malatesta elephant (reverse)
c.1453-54 Italy
Sculpture, Metalwork, bronze
Primary Insc: not signed, titled obverse relief, "D.ISOTTAE.ARIMINENSI.", commemorative date reverse relief, "M.CCCC.XLVI"
8.5 diameter
Purchased 1987
Accession No: NGA 87.350

Provenance:
  • Trustees of the British Rail Pension Fund;
  • sold at auction, Sotheby's London, 1984;
  • when bought by Alain Moatti, Paris;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, December 1986
  • PLEASE NOTE: this work is on long term loan at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne more information

    De' Pasti cast two notable medals of Isotta degli Atti 1432?-1474/5, the mistress and then third wife of Sigismondo Malatesta. The earlier, dating from c.1450, shows a young woman with hair covered by a veil. In this, the later medal, her tresses are bound into an elaborate dressing; she appears assured and mature. The daughter of a Rimini merchant, Isotta was first seen by Sigismondo at the age of thirteen in 1446, the year she became his mistress. They married after the death of his second wife, probably in 1456. The inscription 'd[ominae] Isottae ariminensi' means the Lady Isotta of Rimini. As noted above, the date 1446 is commemorative, 'the triumphal year when Sigismondo consolidated his political power, dedicated his new castle, and won Isotta as his mistress.' De' Pasti is not recorded as being in Rimini before 1449.

    The Malatesta elephant on the reverse has been called 'one of the most impressive representations of animals on a Renaissance medal, with its bold and fluid design, massive in its modelling yet sensitive to the subtle details of the skin; a natural and heraldic figure ...' The design was modified several times, as it once included inscriptions and two rosebushes; as with the medals showing Sigismondo, various combinations of elements exist for Isotta. The elephant, as well as standing for the Malatesta qualities of strength and fame, even immortality, was traditionally associated with piety and chastity.

    Christine Dixon

    1. Alison Luchs in Stephen K. Scher (ed.), The currency of fame: Portrait medals of the Renaissance, London: Thames and Hudson 1994, p.63
    2. Pier Giorgio Pasini, cited by Alison Luchs in Stephen K. Scher (ed.), The currency of fame: Portrait medals of the Renaissance, London: Thames and Hudson 1994, p.63

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010