Marriage of Napoleon I and Marie Louise
- Place of origin:
Manfredini, Luigi, born 1771 - died 1840 (medallist)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case CA7
This bronze medal celebrates Napoleon’s second marriage to Marie Louise, daughter of Francis I of Austria, in 1810 (following Napoleon’s divorce from Josephine de Beauharnais). It is by the leading Italian medallist and metalworker at the time, Luigi Manfredini. Manfredini was born in Bologna but had moved by 1798 to Milan, where he worked at the Mint until his death in 1840. He became head engraver in 1808, producing numerous medals for Napoleon, including this one which was designed by Andrea Appiani (1754-1817), the leading Neoclassical painter in Italy who worked in the Neo-Greek style.
Often cast in bronze or lead, but sometimes struck in silver or even gold, the portrait medal commemorated individuals and often associated events. Many specialist sculptors from the Renaissance onwards were attracted to this small-scale art form. Inspired by Roman coins, with their portraits of rulers on the obverse and sometimes allegorical representations on the reverse, medals were used as gifts and mementoes and eagerly collected. The medal format proved ideal for this type of personal and intimate object.
Luigi Manfredini (1771-1840) established a reputation as the leading Italian medallist of the first half of the 19th century. He studied at the Accademia Clementina, Bologna, under the sculptor De Maria. From 1798 he was associated with the Milan Mint. Manfredini’s contribution to the field of medals has been thoroughly documented, particularly in publications by Arnaldo Turricchia.
Luigi was one of four brothers. Giuseppe Manfredini enjoyed a particular reputation as a jeweller and clockmaker and apparently opened a foundry in Paris sometime in 1803-4, producing ornaments in bronze, gold and silver, specifically for clocks. In 1807 Luigi Manfredini established, with his brothers Giuseppe, Antonio and Francesco, the Manufacture Royale de Bronze de Fontana - the Fontana foundry - on the site of a former convent near the Porta Cosima, Milan. This was under the protection of the Viceroy, Eugène de Beauharnais. Here they produced bronze busts of Napoleon and reductions of sculpture by Canova as well as decorative pieces including tripods and surtouts de tables. Luigi Manfredini was in charge of the foundry. He was also responsible for choice of materials, the resulting colour contrasts, and the decoration. He was the most influential of the four brothers and was appointed Professor dell’Arte della Medaglia at the Brera Accademia di Belle Arte, Milan, in 1801.
Luigi continued to model the portrait heads on the medals struck at the Milan mint. Examples of Napoleon as King and Emperor, 1812 and Marie Louise with a diadem, 1815, demonstrate his fine rendering of their profiles in Neoclassical style. A controversy arose over the medal struck to celebrate Napoleon’s victory at Ratisbon in 1809. The reverse showed a giant crushed by a mountain and was interpreted as an allusion to Napoleon’s despotism. Perhaps this controversy led to a change of direction and more time and energy to devote to the production of furniture at the foundry. The association of the Manfredini brothers with the Milan mint came to an end in 1810.
On the Restoration in 1815, Luigi Manfredini returned to Milan and continued to design the coinage for Francis I of Austria and Marie-Louise as Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla. By 1821 the Manfredini brothers had opened the Magazzino Manfredini, in the Piazza San Paolo, sull’ Corsia dei Servii, Milan. A public announcement lists their stock as ‘argenterie lavorate d’ogni genere per uso de’ particolari, ed anche per Chiese, in bianco et in dorato vermiglio. Bronzi dorato, cioè Pendoli, Candelabri, Tripodi, Lumiere, Parterre, Candelieri, Figure, Vasi, Guarniture.’
In terms of work on a larger scale, Manfredini’s masterpiece is a magnificent gilt bronze and lapis lazulae tripod and basin, the first of four he created, in 1811. This was presented by the City of Milan to Napoleon for the christening of the Roi de Rome, his son by his marriage to Marie-Louise (it is now in The Hofburg Schatzkammer, Vienna). It is the most accurate reproduction and adaptation of the antique tripod which was excavated in Herculaneum on 18 July 1748, described by Winckelmann as ‘among the most beautiful things that have been discovered’. Manfredini’s tripod represents the quest for archaeological authenticity of the purest classical revival style favoured by Napoleon and typical of decorative art of the French Empire.
Place of Origin
Manfredini, Luigi, born 1771 - died 1840 (medallist)
Materials and Techniques
Diameter: 40 mm, Depth: 4 mm at edge
Object history note
Given in the name of Baurat Hartwig Fischel by his son Paul J Gordon-Fischel, Chessington, Surrey, in 1983.
Medal, bronze, Marriage of Napoleon I and Marie Louise, by Luigi Manfredini, Italian, 1810
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Arnaldo Turricchia, Luigi Manfredini e le Sue Medaglie, Rome, 2002
Arnaldo Turricchia, ‘Le medaglie di Luigi Manfredini nella collezione Padoa’, in VII Mostra della Medaglia e Placchetta d’Arte, Rome, 1988
Antony Griffiths, ‘Drawings for Napoleonic Medals’, in Mark Jones, ed. Designs on Posterity: Drawings for medals, London, 1992, pp.106-116
Coins & Medals; Portraits; Royalty; Sculpture