Antonio Pisano called Pisanello (c. 1393-1455), Filippo Maria Visconti (Duke of Milan, 1412-47), bronze medal, bust to right wearing hat with soft top; long inscription giving his titles of Duke of Milan, Count of Pavia and Angera, Lord of Genoa, rev., the duke in full armour on horseback left holding lance upright; to the right, a page on horseback and between them, an armed horseman to front; in the background, a mountainous landscape with buildings and, on the right, a colossal female statue stands amid the buildings; signed below, OPVS PISANI PICTORIS, 102.5mm (Hill 21; Arm. I, 8, 23; Kress 3 = Pollard 2; Syson & Gordon 66, 2.24), pierced, a few knocks in obverse field, a very fine contemporary cast with brown patina

Sold for £43,200

Much has been written on the subject of Pisanello’s medals for he is universally acknowledged as the inventor of the portrait medal, an art form that he made popular and which flourished thereafter in Italy and beyond. His first medal has generally been regarded as that of John VIII Palaeologus who was in Italy in 1438-39 to attend the ecumenical council of the Greek and Latin churches held initially in Ferrara and later moved to Florence. The present medal of Filippo Maria Visconti has also been put forward as a contender for Pisanello’s first medal – and Syson and Gordon in Pisanello, Painter to the Renaissance Court (2001) date the medal of Visconti to c.1435-40 and that of the Byzantine emperor to c.1438-41. They show how the chivalric reverses have been influenced by, in the case of Visconti, Pisanello’s fresco of St. George and the Princess of Silena (c.1434-38) and in the case of John VIII Palaeologus, Pisanello’s painting of The Vision of St. Eustace (c. 1438-42). The duke was notoriously shy of his appearance (as related by his secretary Pier Candido Decembrio) and would only allow Pisanello to portray him, so that all other depictions of him depend upon the medal.

Provenance: Collection Vicomte de Jonghe, J. Schulman, 24 November 1936, lot 3 and pl. III.