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Matteo de' PASTI

Italy Died 1467 /1468

Portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (obverse)
Fortitude, seated on two elephants (reverse)
c.1449-55 Place made: Italy
Materials & Technique: sculptures, metalwork, bronze

Primary Insc: titled obverse relief, " SIGISMONDVS.PANDVLFVS.DE.MALATESTIS. S.RO.ECLESIE.C.GENERALIS", commemorative date reverse relief, "M.CCCC.XLVI"
Dimensions: 8.0 diameter
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1986
Accession No: NGA 86.1808
  • apparently excavated from house foundations in Rimini c.1905-1910;
  • Carlo de Carlo, Florence, c.1980;
  • Alain Moatti, Paris;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, March 1986

PLEASE NOTE: this work is on long term loan at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne more information

Many variants exist of de Pasti's portrait medal of Sigismondo Malatesta (1417-1468), the powerful ruler of Rimini. The early version of the head shows Malatesta in court dress, the later in armour; it is the inscription which varies most. The reverses include Rimini castle, Malatesta arms and symbols, and as here, the figure of Fortitude, holding a broken column and seated on two elephants. The Malatesta family adopted the elephant as part of their heraldry, as it stood for strength and fame.

The inscription, 's[anctae] ro[manae] eclecie c[apitanus] genera[lis]', is translated as 'Captain-general of the Holy Roman Church'. Sigismondo was granted this title in 1435 by Pope Eugenius IV, but stopped using it later as his dispute with the church worsened. Much of his conflict with the papacy concerned the granting of the vicariate to him, and then its withdrawal. Pope Pius II was a deadly enemy, and 'canonised' Sigismondo into hell.

Sigismondo was greatly concerned with his fame, his reputation in history, and in continuing the family name. As well as the monuments he built to himself and his wife Isotta, he buried hundreds of medals with their images in the walls and foundations of his castles and churches. 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.

  1. Stephen K. Scher, p.76
  2. 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

G.F. Hill, Pisanello, London: Duckworth & Co. 1905 pp.226, 228-229, illus b&w pl.66;

George Francis Hill, A Corpus of Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini, London: British Museum 1930, cat.179, p.41, illus. b&w;

G.F. Hill and Graham Pollard, Renaissance Medals from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art, London: Phaidon n.d., cat.61, pp.16-17, illus. b&w (other impressions)

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra