- Place of origin:
Knopf, Heinrich (maker)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 8
A Gnadenpfennig, or 'honour medal', was a type of German portrait medal commissioned by the sitter and distributed to friends and supporters as a reward for their loyalty. Their distinctive oval shape can be traced to the early 1580s and proved extremely popular. Gnadenpfennige were worn by men and women on long, heavy, gold chains, and more than one Gnadenpfennig could be suspended from the same chain.
Johann Philipp von Gebsattel (1557-1609) became Bishop of Bamberg on the 4th of February 1599 and was officially invested the following January. His rule as bishop was controversial and papal representatives accused him of supporting Lutherans and Calvinists, co-habiting with women and living and behaving as though he were a secular prince. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that Gebsattel is represented as a well-dressed secular gentleman on this medal, an image also explained by his refusal to be ordained a priest. Heinrich Knopf, the goldsmith who designed Gebsattel's medal, was active in Nuremberg and Bamberg between 1601 and 1613. He also designed Gnadenpfennige for Gebsattel's successors.
Silver-gilt Gnadenpfennig with a medal of Johann Philipp von Gebsattel, Bishop of Bamberg. The oval medal is mounted in an open scroll-work frame suspended by three chains. A pearl or gemstone, now missing, probably hung from the ring at the base of the frame. On the obverse (front) of the medal is the profile portrait head of a man facing right, fashionably dressed with a ruff. A Latin inscription running around the edge identifies him as Johan Philip, Bishop of Bamberg, aged 44. On the reverse are two shields which represent, respectively, the arms of the bishopric of Bamberg (a lion rampant) and of the Gebsattel family (a ram's head). The shields are surmounted by a crest of an imperial crown and the attributes of a bishop, a cross and a crozier. Gebsattel's personal motto appears along the upper edge of the medal.
Place of Origin
Knopf, Heinrich (maker)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
1601. IOAN[NES]. PHILIP[PUS] EP[ISCOPU]S. BAMBER[GENSIS]. AETATIS .44
1601 Johann Philipp Bishop of Bamberg aged 44
DOMINE. NOLO. VIVERE. NISI. TECUM. MORIAR
Oh Lord, I do not want to live unless I die with you.
Height: 8.7 cm, Width: 4.4 cm, Depth: 0.4 cm, Weight: 0.03 kg
Object history note
Johann Philipp von Gebsattel (1557-1609) was a canon at Würzburg and Bamberg cathedrals. He became Bishop of Bamberg on the 4th of February 1599 and was officially invested the following January, when the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II presented him with his bishop's robes and staff of office. Religious politics in Bamberg were notably turbulent, even by the standards of the period. Bishop Neithard, the man whom Gebsattel would succeed, plotted before his death to have Gebsattel stabbed or thrown from a window (Weiss: 2000, p.312). Gebsattel himself was a constant headache to the Catholic authorities in Rome. Numerous reports prepared by papal representatives criticise his style of spiritual leadership. One, dated 3 November 1608, lists 19 charges against Gebsattel. These include employing only heretics, supporting Lutherans and Calvinists, frequently co-habiting with women and living and behaving as though he were a secular prince (Weiss: 2000, p.331). It is perhaps unsurprising that Gebsattel is represented as a well-dressed secular gentleman on this medal, an image also explained by his refusal to be ordained a priest. He is buried in the Michaelskirche, Bamberg.
Heinrich Knopf, the goldsmith who designed Gebsattel's medal, was active in Nuremberg and Bamberg between 1601 and 1613. He also designed Gnadenpfennige for Gebsattel's successors (Börner: 1981, pp. 142-3, cat. nos 11 to 17).
The Museum purchased the medal from Henri Tross, Paris, on 7th February 1867, for seven pounds and four shillings.
Historical significance: This is a well-preserved example of a form and type of commemorative medal which became extremely popular in late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth-century Germany. Three other Gnadenpfennige of Gebsattel, made to Knopf's design, are also known, together with a Gnadenpfennig of him carved in mother-of-pearl. See Börner: 1981, p. 142, cat. nos 9 and 10, and Kugel: 2000, no. 35 (and colour illustration).
Historical context note
A Gnadenpfennig, or 'honour medal', was a portrait medal commissioned by the sitter and distributed to friends and supporters as a reward for their loyalty. Their distinctive oval shape can be traced to a 1582 example by the Augsburg medal-maker Balduin Drentwett, made for Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn. The oval form proved extremely popular, perhaps because its elongated profile was more sympathetic to contemporary fashions in dress. It was not long before all oval medals, whether commemorative or not, came to be known as 'Gnadenpfennige' in Germany (Börner: 1981, pp. 34-5).Gnadenpfennige were worn by men and women on long, heavy, gold chains. More than one Gnadenpfennig could be worn at a time: see the engraved portrait of the Saxon town councillor Justinus Schellhase, reproduced in Börner: 1981, opposite p.8. Schellhase wears two Gnadenpfennige, suspended next to one another from three heavy chains that hang across his chest. Once they fell from fashion, Gnadenpfennige were sometimes collected. Another Gnadenpfennig, similar to the one in the V&A, depicts Gebsattel at age 46 and is dated 1603, aged 46. Now in Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, inv. n.1543, it appears in the 1712 inventory of the Brandenburgische Kunstkammer.
silver gilt, Germany, 1601, Heinrich Knopf (active 1601–13)
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Kugel, Alexis, with Rudolph Distelberger and Michèle Bimbenet-Privet. Joyaux Renaissance, une splendeur retrouvée. Paris: J. Kugel, 2000, cat. no. 35 and illustration.
Börner, Lore. Deutsche Medaillenkleinode des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig: Edition Leipzig, 1981.
Weiss, Dieter J. Das exemte Bistum Bamberg, 3: Die Bischofsreihe von 1522 bis 1693. Germania Sacra, new series, 38.1 (Die Bistümer der Kirchenprovinz Mainz). Berlin / New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2000. ISBN: 3110166445
Labels and date
Silver-gilt; medal of Johann Philip von Gebsattel, Bishop of Bamberg.
GERMAN: the medal dated 1601'
This is the full text from Bury, 1982, Case 13, Board F, n.4, p.82
Tross Collection, Paris 
Honour medal (Gnadenpfennig)
Heinrich Knopf (active 1601–13)
A Gnadenpfennig was a German portrait medal set as a pendant to wear round the neck on a chain. It was often madefor a new ruler and given to loyal supporters for their services. In this instance, however, the medal celebrates Johann Phillipp von Gebsattel being made Bishop of Bamberg in 1599. [December 2009]
Coins & Medals; Jewellery; Metalwork