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Medal - Allegory of Vanitas

Allegory of Vanitas

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Germany (South, made)

  • Date:

    1535-1540 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rosenbaum, Lorenz (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR18

This is a lead medal, made by Lorenz Rosenbaum (active 1535-1563) in South Germany, in about 1535-1540, depicting an allegory of Vanitas. This plaquette derives from an engraving by Bartel Beham.

The art of plaquette making emerged in the south, in Nuremberg and Augsburg, about 1510–20. The plaquettes had the same multiple purpose as their Italian predecessors. They were used mainly by goldsmiths and in bronze foundries, but also by cabinetmakers. The models were carved in wood, stone, slate and wax, then reproduced in bronze and lead. At first glance this might appear to represent the Virgin and Child. However, the presence of the hourglass and skull show that it is a vanitas scene, a reminder of the transience of life.

Physical description

Lead medal depicting an allegory of vanitas. A mother nurses her child. The skull and bones, and hourglass are reminders of death.

Place of Origin

Germany (South, made)


1535-1540 (made)


Rosenbaum, Lorenz (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Diameter: 4.44 cm

Object history note

Provenance: Tross. 140 medals and reliefs were purchased from M. Henri Tross of Paris for £500 by J.C. Robinson for the Museum in 1867.

Historical context note

This plaquette derives from an engraving by Bartel Beham

Descriptive line

Medal, lead, depicting an allegory of Vanitas, by Lorenz Rosenbaum, South Germany, ca. 1535-1540

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1867. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 17
Weber, I. Deutsche, Niederländische, und Französische Renaissance Plaketten. Munich, 1975, p. 122-123, no. 144



Subjects depicted

Bones; Skull; Vanity; Hourglass


Children & Childhood; Coins & Medals; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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