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John Palaeologus VIII

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Verona (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1438-1443 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pisanello (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast bronze

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 63, The Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 1

This is probably the earliest surviving Renaissance portrait medal. It shows the Byzantine emperor who travelled to Italy to take part in the discussions between the western and eastern churches in 1438–9. The image provided a prototype for an eastern ruler in exotic garb. Some early European depictions of Mehmed II show him in the same dress.

Pisanello (Antonio Pisano) (b.ca. 1395; d. 1455) was born Pisa or Verona, by 1395. He was an Italian painter, draughtsman and medallist. His richly decorative frescoes, courtly and elegant 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.

Physical description

Medal in bronze of John Paleologus (1390-1448) Emperor of Byzantium .
Obverse: bust to right of the Emperor, in a high hat with a peaked brim.
Reverse: The Emperor on horse-back turned to the right stopping to pray before a wayside cross. To the left a page on a horse foreshortened from behind. Rocky background. The signature is given 'OPVS PISANI PICTORIS'.

Place of Origin

Verona (made)


ca. 1438-1443 (made)


Pisanello (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Cast bronze

Marks and inscriptions



Diameter: 10.27 cm, Depth: 0.8 cm, Weight: 0.342 kg

Object history note

From the Salting bequest.

Descriptive line

Medal, bronze, of John Palaeologus (1390-1448), by Pisanello, Italy (Verona), ca. 1438-1443

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

Scher, Stephen K, The Currency of fame: portrait medals of the Renaissance, New York, National Gallery of Art (U.S.), Frick Collection., 1994
Pisanello. Le Peintre aux sept vertus. (exh. cat), medal entries by Sylvie de Turckheim-Pey, Paris, 1996 (Musée du Louvre, Paris), pp. 209-210, cat. No. 119, illus. p . 202
Tania L. Jones, 'The Constantine and Heraclius Medallions', The Medal, no. 56, Spring 2010, pp.5-14
Waddington, Raymond B., 'Breaking News: Representing the Islamic Other on Renaissance Medals', The Medal, no. 53, autumn 2008, pp. 6-20.
'Salting Bequest (A. 70 to A. 1029-1910) / Murray Bequest (A. 1030 to A. 1096-1910)'. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Department of Architecture and Sculpture). London: Printed under the Authority of his Majesty's Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Limited, East Harding Street, EC, p. 18

Subjects depicted

Prayer; Portraits; Crosses; Horses; Hats; Horsemen; Armour; Emperors


Sculpture; Coins & Medals; Portraits


Sculpture Collection

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