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Medal -  Vittorino Rambaldoni da Feltre

Vittorino Rambaldoni da Feltre

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1446 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pisanello (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a bronze medal made in Italy, about 1446. This medal is made by Antonio Pisanello (c. 1390-c. 1455). The obverse of this medal shows Vittorino da Feltre (1378-1446), humanist educator at the Gonzaga Court, and the reverse shows a pelican in her piety or a phoenix.

This medal provides a characterization of the revered schoolmaster, who had brought from Padua many new influences in learning including the educational precepts of Pier Paolo Vergerio which combined ancient moral virtues, acquired through the study of literature, with christian duty.

A bird, usually assumed to be a pelican appears on the reverse, shedding blood for the sake of its young, and symbolising Christ. But the bird does not look like a pelican, and Vittorino's pupil and biographer Francesco Prendilacqua states that Pisanello painted a portrait of Vittorino among the ancient philosophers with a phoenix at his feet and also young. The phoenix, he explained, represented Vittorino's self-sacrifice as a teacher. One version of the phoenix legend tells that it was from the blood of its parent's self-inflicted wound that the single young phoenix was born. The bird shown here also seems to be standing above something which could be the nest of precious spices on which it will die or the flames on which it will be sacrificed. On the other hand the presence of two chicks and the parent still alive nourishing them is more suggestive of the pelican.

The date 1447 for the medal, corresponding to that of Vittorino's pupil Cecilia is convincing as Marchese Ludovico Gonzaga, as another former pupil at the Casa Giocosa, to commemorate gratefully the teacher who had recently died.

Pisanello (Antonio Pisano) (b.ca. 1395; d. 1455) who was born in Pisa or Verona, by 1395 was an Italian painter, draughtsman and medallist. His richly decorative frescoes, courtly and elegantly painted portraits and highly original portrait medals made him one of the most popular artists of the day. He travelled extensively and worked for several Italian courts, at Mantua, Ferrara, Pavia, Milan and Naples. Many of his paintings have been lost or damaged, making a reconstruction of his career difficult. He is now better known as a medallist. Two-sided Renaissance portrait medals were a form developed by Pisanello, and commemorated individuals or events and functioned as gifts and mementoes. They were inspired by the Roman coins, with their portraits of rulers and allegorical representations on the reverse, excavated all over Italy and eagerly collected by humanist scholars.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


ca. 1446 (made)


Pisanello (artist)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions


Diameter: 6.03 cm

Object history note

Purchased in Paris (Piot sale, 1864, 25-30 April, £3 2s. 6d.).

Descriptive line

Medal, bronze, Vittorino Rambaldoni da Feltre, by Pisanello, Italy, ca. 1446

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

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1864. 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. 43
Cf. Scher, Stephen K., ed. The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance. New York: 1994, pp. 53-54. Catalogue of the exhibition held National Gallery, New York, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, January 1994-January 1995.
Turckheim-Pey, Sylvie de. Medal entries. In : Pisanello: Le Peintre aux Sept Vertus. Paris: 1996, pp. 404, 405. Catalogue of exhibition held Musée du Louvre, Paris, 6 May 1996-5 August 1996
[Handlist entry]. The Medal: Mirror of History. Exhibition held British Museum, London , 17 May-9 September 1979
Hill, G. F. A Corpus of Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini. London: British Museum, 1920. no. 38



Subjects depicted

Pelican in her piety


Coins & Medals; Bronze; Portraits


Sculpture Collection

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