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Jacopo da TREZZO

Italy 1515 /1519 – Spain 1589

Portrait of Gianello della Torre of Cremona (obverse)
Fountain of the Sciences (reverse)
1548? Place made: Italy
Materials & Technique: sculptures, metalwork, bronze

Primary Insc: not signed, not dated, title obverse relief: "IANELLVS.TVRRIAN. CREMON.HOROLOG.ARCHITECT", reverse relief "VIRTVS NVNQ : DEFICIT"
Dimensions: 8.0 diameter
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1986
Accession No: NGA 86.1806
  • Piot Collection, Paris;
  • sold at Piot sale, Paris, May 1890, no.698;
  • to Löbbecke Collection;
  • sold at Löbbecke sale, Munich, 26 November 1908, no.121;
  • to Lanna Collection (Adalbert von Lanna 1836-1909), Prague;
  • sold at Lanna sale, Berlin, 1911, no. 227 pl.15;
  • Alain Moatti, Paris;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, March 1986

Gianello delle Torre (1500-1585) is identified by the inscription as being from Cremona, a watchmaker and architect. Best known today as an engineer, his celebrated feat of raising the level of the Tagus River was completed in 1568. One cast of his portrait medal bears the date 1548, which could be a commemorative date rather than the date of execution. The reverse shows a classical female figure as a fountain statue, surrounded by seven men and a boy approaching the fountain of knowledge. One man holds a compass, another a rule, thus linking the figure to the sciences, particularly architecture. The legend Virtus nunq[uam] deficit means 'Virtue never fails', implying the projects built by della Torre will last.

The work has been attributed both to da Trezzo and to Leone Leoni. Hill praises the reverse, while not deciding finally between da Trezzo and Leoni: '... the Fountain of the sciences, with a stately figure supporting an urn from which flow the streams of knowledge, to be eagerly caught by figures bending at her feet - this is a nobly monumental design, than which the academic art of the sixteenth century has produced nothing better'. Scher states 'Stylistic evidence strongly favours [da] Trezzo as the author of the medal: the portrait is forceful, and the details of hair, beard and drapery are delicately modelled without being fussy. The reverse, showing the Fountain of the Sciences, is a masterpiece of relief sculpture with expressive movement, strong modelling, subtle variations in relief and a precise but lively depiction of faces, water, and drapery.' Attwood agrees with the attribution, but differs on the quality of the sculpture: '[Da Trezzo's] hand is particularly apparent in the somewhat lifeless classicism of the reverse. Leoni's figures have a degree of vivacity and sense of movement in their drapery that is wholly lacking in the work of da Trezzo. The grouped figures of the della Torre reverse, with their monumental symmetry and stiff poses, have much in common with those on the reverse of da Trezzo's Mary Tudor medal.'

Christine Dixon

  1. George Hill, rev. Graham Pollard, Medals of the Renaissance, London: British Museum 1920, 1978 p.97
  2. Stephen K. Scher, Grove Dictionary of Art
  3. Philip Attwood in Stephen K. Scher (ed.), The currency of fame: Portrait medals of the Renaissance, London: Thames and Hudson 1994, p.161

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

George Hill, rev. Graham Pollard, Medals of the Renaissance, London: British Museum 1920, 1978 p.97, illus. b&w pl.18.8;

G.F. Hill and Graham Pollard, Renaissance Medals from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art, London: Phaidon [1930, 1972] cat.441a, p.84, illus. b&w;

Mark Jones, The Art of the Medal, London: British Museum 1979 p.60, illus. b&w pl.140;

Philip Attwood in Stephen K. Scher, ed., The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance, London: Thames and Hudson 1994, cat. 55 pp.160-161, illus. b&w (all other impressions)

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra