start page Charles V TOUR :  Bentivoglio in Bologna

- the translation should be improved -

The House of Este in Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilia
Part 1:

The family of Este carried the title 'Margrave of Este' since 1171. They established in Ferrara in the 13th century. They also became rulers in Modena and Reggio Emilia. The construction of the Castello Estense in Ferrara began in 1385. The university was founded in 1391. The Este court became a cultural center. Ferrara reached its climax in the time of the three sons of Niccolò III (1393-1441) - Leonello, Borso and Ercole.

Map of Italy in 1499

Leonello d'Este, 1441-1450
- Margrave of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilia -
*1407. His father Niccolò III called the humanist Guarino da Verona, the most famous educator of his time, for Leonello's education. Leonello was an illegitimate son, and had to justify his power by his individual virtues rather than merely his parentage. Contemporaries described him as a righteous and peaceful ruler, and as a completed prince. He brought renowned scholars and artists to his court, including the painter and medalist Pisanello (Antonio Pisano).
Leonello died unexpectedly at the age of 43. His successor was not his minor son Nicolò (*1438), but his brother Borso.

copyright: Coll. Stephen K. Scher, New York
Touch the picture to see the reverse.
Cast medal 1444 from Pisanello.     Ø 99 mm   Coll. Stephen K. Scher, New York
Medal on the occasion of Leonello's 2nd marriage in 1544 with Maria,
daughter of Alfonso I, King of Naples and Sicily.

Obv.:  ·GEner·Regis·ARagonum· | LEONELLVS·MARCHIO·ESTENSIS· | ·Dominus·FERRARIE·REGII·ET·MVTINE·
"Son in law of the King of Aragon, Leonello Margrave of Este, Lord of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio"
Rev.:   OPVS· PISANI· PICTORIS·   "Work of the painter Pisano"
Cupid holding a lion (Leonello = "little lion") in front of a roll of music and tames him with singing lessons.
Above the lion an eagle in the back view, indicating the noble origin Leonellos.
A stele with the year 1444 shows a plump sail at a mast.
The British Museum presents another cast medal by Pisanello together with some comments about the relation between Leonello's curly hear like a lion's mane and Alexander the Great wearing his lion skin.
Further medals by Pisanello can be seen in the Münzkabinett Berlin by clicking on "27 objects found. VIEW".
Look at the portrait in front of a rose hedge by Pisanello around 1444 (Tempera on wood, 29x19cm Accademia Carrara, Bergamo).

Borso d'Este, 1450-1471
- brother of Leonello d'Este -
*1413. Borso had not received any special education like Leonello. During the peaceful reign of his brother he led a group of mercenaries as condottiere. After Leonellos death succeeded Borso; the legitimate, but much younger half-brother Ercole was displaced from the succession.
The policy of Ferrara changed immediately. In the alliance with Venice, Borso opposed Milan and Naples. Borso was ambitious and vain, but recognized as a capable ruler. Borso could move Emperor Frederick III in 1452, to rise him to a Duke of Modena and Reggio. Borso then asked Pope Pius II to raise him to the Duke of Ferrara, but the pope wanted the recognition of the papal fiefdom over Ferrara and an assurance of loan. Finally Pope Paul II raised him to the Duke of Ferrara in 1471. Borso died of malaria, unmarried and without descendants.

A medal by A. da Milano probably dates from before the death of Borso's father Nicolò, 26 Dec.1441.


Ducato o. J. (1471), Ferrara.     Ø 23 mm, 3,48 g.   CNI X 431/13; RM 127/1; Friedb.261.
Obv.:   BORSIVS·DVX·ZC' FERRARE ZC'·   "Borso, Duke ... and Ferrara"
(minted after the elevation to the Duke of Ferrara, thus 1471)   -   effigy with beret to the left.

Rev.:   SVREXIT·XPS·REX·GLORIE   "Christ is risen, the glorious king"
Christ with a blessing hand and a banner rising from the grave as a resurrection. Exergue: *+*
(This ducat was also coined with the coat of arms instead of the portrait.


Medal 1460.   by Jacopo Lixignolo.     Bronze, Ø 82 mm.   Kress 35; Hill 1930, S.26, Nr.94.
Obv:   BORSIVS·DVX·MVTINE·ET·REGII·MARCHIO·ESTENSIS·RODIGII·Q·COMES·ET·C
Rev.:   OPVS IACOBVS LIXIGNOLO MCCCCLX  -  Landscape with unicorn.

Compare with the portrait, tempera on canvas, 48x36 cm, painted by Baldassare d'Este
(Castello Sforzesco, Mailand).

Ercole I d'Este, 1471-1505
- half-brother of Borso and Leonello d'Este -
Ercole I (*1441), a legitimate son from the third marriage of Niccolò III, was educated at the court of Alfonso, King of Naples. He took over the rule in Ferrara 30-year-old in 1471. He immediately turned away from the policy of his half-brother Borso and broke the alliance with Venice. Ferrara lost the salt war concerning its customs stations at the Po against Venice and Pope Sixtus IV (1480-82). Since then, Ercole remained neutral, even when King Charles VIII invaded Italy.
Under his reign, the duchy experienced economic and cultural prosperity. Ferrara was rebuilt and expanded according to the latest findings in the art of fortifications. The most famous buildings date from this period. The connection of the medieval center with a modern city complex and wide streets was regarded as exemplary throughout the Renaissance. Ercole promoted art, music and theater. He admired the church reformer Girolamo Savonarola, who came from Ferrara.
Ercole I married in 1473 Eleonora, daughter of Ferrante of Aragon, king of Naples. The children from this marriage were married according to the foreign policy interests. Ercole's successor Alfonso married Lucrezia Borgia; Isabella married Francesco II Gonzaga, margrave of Mantua; Beatrice married Ludovico Sforza, later Duke of Milan.


Ducato n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 23 mm, 3,48 g.   CNI X 435/10; RM 129/3; Friedb.265.
Obv.:   HERCULES·DVX·FERRARIE·   -   bust to the left.
Rev.:   SVREXIT·XPS·REX·GŁoriE·   -   Similar to the ducat before. Under the grave a cross.


Testone n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 28 mm, 9,70 g.   CNI X 436/26; RM 131/6.
Obv.:   HERCVLES·DVX·FERRARIAE·II·   -   bust left without pearl circle.
Rev.:   On horseback to the right a naked man with forward pointing hand.


Testone n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 28 mm, 7,74 g.   CNI X 436/20; RM 129/4.
Obv.:   ·HERCVLES·FERRAR·DVX·II   -   bust right without pearl circle.
Rev.:   Seven headed hydra on a fire.
The revers shows the legendary Hydra of Lerna, a huge serpent with several heads that lived in the marshes of Lerna (Peloponnese). As two new heads grew for each beheaded head, Herakles could not cope with them until his companion Iolaos burned the throats with glowing logs. The illustration symbolizes the draining of the marshes located to the north of Ferrara, where Ercole created a new district (Addizione Erculea), which contemporaries regarded as the most modern city in Europe. This program of urban development, like the development of the university, was part of Ercole's politics, which made Ferrara one of the most important cultural centres.
With this teston, he identifies himself directly to his heroic ancient name father.


Grossone n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 26 mm, 3,79 g.   CNI X 437/32; RM 133/10.
Obv.:   +[HE]RCVLES·DVX·FERRARIE   -   armored bust with pearl circle.
Rev.:   +DEVS·FORTITVDO·[ME]A   "God is my strength"
St. George on horseback fights the dragon with a lance.
Ligated letters on the Obv. / Rev.: [HE] / [ME]


Mezzo testone n. d., Modena.     Ø 25 mm, 3,90 g.   CNI IX 191/7; RM 136/14; MIR 624.
Obv.:   ·HERCVLER·DVX·INVICTISS:   -   head to the left.
Rev.:   DEVS·FORT·MEA·   "God is my strength"
Hercules tears a lion.   Exergue:  ·C (arms from Modena) M·


Ducato, Reggio Emilia.     Ø 22 mm, 3,46 g.   CNI IX 661/1; RM -; MIR 1260; Friedb.979.
Obv.:   ·HERCV - LES·DVX   -   Hercules lifts the giant Antaeus.
Rev.:  S·ProSPER - EPIscopus·REGII  -  St. Prosper (Bishop of Reggio in the 5th century), with Mitra and Nimbus, stands in front, blessing with his right hand, a crook in his left hand, at right the arms of Reggio.
Gaia, the Earth, supported her son, the giant Antaeus, in the fight against Hercules. Therefore,
Heracles could win only after he had lifted Antaeus from the earth and separated him from his mother.


Testone leggero, Reggio Emilia.     Ø 24 mm, 3,69 g.   CNI IX 661/3; RM 137/15; MIR 1261.
Obv.:   ·HERCVLES· ♌ ·DVX·II·♌·   -   Bust to the left, cap with buckle.
Rev.:  ·REGIVM· - ·LEPIDI♌   ancient name of the region, after consul Marco Lepido, 2nd century BC.
Coat of arms of Reggio (Red Cross in the silver field) in the form of a horse head.


Testone leggero o. J. (1496/1502), Reggio.    Ø 24 mm, 3,09 g.   CNI IX 602/6; RM 137/16.
Obv.:   ·DIVO·HERC ♌ ·DVCI ♌   -   barheaded bust to the left.
Rev.:   ♌ COMVNITAS ♌ REGII :·   -   City coat of arms as before.


Bagattino n.d., Reggio.   (1º tipo: figura giovanile)  Ø 17 mm, 2,64 g.  CNI IX 664f/32-56; RM 138/17.
* HERCVLES - DVX *   //   ·REGIVS·EMILIA·VETERES
Bagattinos were made of base metal (copper or bronze).


Bagattino n. d., Reggio.   (3º tipo: figura senile)   Ø 16 mm, 1,84 g.   CNI IX 670/84; RM 138/19.
*HERCVLES·DVX*·     //   *REGIVM·OLIM·EMILIA·:
Compare the outlines in the coat of arms of the last three coins.
'Tartsche shield' s a shield shape with a lateral saving for the spear of shield leading knight.

Compare the bust in marble by Sperandio da Mantova 1475
(58x38x16 cm, Musei Civici di Arte Antica, Ferrara)

Alfonso I d'Este, 1505-1534
- son of Ercole I d'Este -
Alfonso (*1476) succeeded Ercole I in 1505. At first he had to overcome a conspiracy of his brother Ferrante d'Este and his half-brother Giulio.
Alfonso commanded the papal troops of the League of Cambrai (1508) against Venice. When Pope Julius II decided to fight his former allies France with the Holy League (1511), Alfonso remained on the French side. This brought him excommunication as well as territorial losses (Modena and Reggio). Now he fought with France against Venice and against the Pope. Alfonso's military success was based on the excellent fortifications of Ferrara and his artillery, especially on the Ferrara-made guns, the best of his time. (In both Titian's paintings of Alfonso, the latter stands next to a cannon.) Alfonso supported the campaign of Charles V against Pope Clement VII in 1526-27 and recovered Modena and Reggio. In 1530, after the Peace of Barcelona (1529) and Charles' Emperor's coronation in Bologna, Clement VII confirmed Alfonso's property rights in Ferrara, Modena and Reggio.
Alfonso I and his brother Cardinal Ippolito I were, like their father, eminent Renaissance patrons of the arts in competition with the other upper Italian cities.
Alfonso's first wife was Anna Sforza, sister of Gian Galeazzo Sforza. In 1501 he married Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexanders VI. Their eldest son Ercole became his successor.


Uniface medal (1477), Ferrara.     lead, Ø 66 mm.  Arm II, 89,1; Pollard [2007] 63; Kress 41.
ALFONSVS MARCHIO ESTENSIS   -   Picture of the year-old child to the left.


Doppio ducato n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 27 mm, 6,89 g.   CNI X 443/2; RM 139/2; Friedb.268.
A very early version shows a beardless bust (RM n.1).
Obv.:   ·ALFONSVS·DVX·FERRARIAE·III·   -   Barhead bearded bust in harness to the left.
Rev.:  ·QVE·SVNT·DEI·DEO (= et QUAE SUNT DEI DEO)
"(Give) God what is God (and the Emperor, what is the Emperor)"
The Pharisee shows Christ the tribute money for the Emperor.


Testone n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 28 mm, 9,76 g.   CNI X 446/31; RM p.140 n.3.
Obv.:   ·ΛFONSVS·DVX·FERRΛRIΛE·III·  -  Armed beardless bust to the left.
Rev.:   ·DE·FORTI·DVLCEDO·  "Of strong sweetness"
extract from   DE COMDENCTE EXIVIT CIBUS et DE FORTI EGRESSA EST DULCEDO
"von dem Essenden ist ausgegangen eine Speiß and out of the strong came forth sweetness"

Half-naked Samson with a helmet holds in his right a lion's head with an outstretched mouth, from
which 5 bees swarm; With his left hand he points to a snake that winds around a tree stump.

Pope Julius II appointed Alfonso I gonfaloniere of the church on April 19, 1509. But already in 1510
he was dismissed from his post again and even excommunicated.
In this short period, the Testone (RM n.4) was issued with an extended title:
·ΛLFONSVS·DVX·FER·III·Sacrae·Romanae·Ecclesiae·CONFalonier   "... the Holy Roman Church Gonfaloniere"
Here the effigy carries a beard, and there are now seven instead of 5 bees.


Testone leggero (1505-12), Reggio.   Ø 25 mm, 2,90 g.  CNI IX 671/3; RM 150/23; MIR 1272.
Obv.:   ·ALFONSVS·DVX·   -   long-haired beardless bust to the left.
Rev.:   · - ·S·PROSP· - ·EPS·REGII·   -   City Saint Prosper blessing, viewed from the front.
2 1/2 of these light testones had the value of a real testone.


1/2 Lira da 10 soldi, n .d. Ferrara.     Ø 29 mm, 6,0 g.   CNI X 448/46-49; RM 143/9.
Obv.:   ALFONSVS·DVX·FERRARIAE·III· ♌   -   bearded short-haired head to the left.
Rev.:  FIDES·TVA·SALVAM·TE· ·FECIt·   "Your faith has saved you"
kneeling Magdalena anoints Jesus feet, a pot of ointment between His feet, a covered table behind.
Sailko has photographed the obverse at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme Rome for Wikipedia.


1/2 Lira da 10 soldi, n. d. Ferrara.     Ø 27 mm, 5,96 g.   CNI X 448/50; RM 143/10.
Obv.:   ♌ΛLFONSVS·DVX·FERRΛRIΛE·III·   -   armored bust left.
Rev.:  ·FIDES·TVA· - ·TE·SALVAM·FECIT·  -  kneeling Magdalena anoints Jesus feet, table at the side.


1/2 Lira da 10 soldi, n. d. Ferrara.    Ø 28 mm, 5,97 g.   CNI X 448/53; RM 144/11; MIR 277.
Obv.:   ALFONSVS·DVX·FERRARIAE·III· ♌   -   bust exactly as before.
Rev.:  ♌ ·DE· - MANV·LEONIS· ♌  -  A shepherd saves his sheep with his bare hands in front of a lion.


1/2 Lira n. d. (ca. 1522), Ferrara.    Ø 28 mm, 5,73 g.  CNI X 449/59; RM 144/12; MIR 278.
Obv.:   ⚘ΛLFONSVS·DVX·FERRΛRIΛE·III   -   bust exactly as before.
Rev.:   Representation of the flight from Egypt: the Virgin and Child on the donkey.


1/2 Lira n. d., Ferrara.    Ø 28 mm, 5,63 g.  CNI X 449?/61; RM 145/13; MIR 279.
Obv.:   ΛLFONSVS·DVX·FERRΛRIÆ·III·   -   bust as before.
Rev.:  DomiNVS·PROTECTOR·VITAE·MEAE·   "God is the protector of my life"
St. Georg stabs the dragon while riding to the right.

See a detail of Titian's 3/4 body painting (circa 1523, copy in the Metrop. Museum of Art, N.Y.).



5 Soldi ca. 1522, Ferrara.     Ag, Ø 23 mm, 2,40 g.   CNI X 450/69; RM 146/15; MIR 282.
Obv.:   ALFONSVS·DVX·FERRARIE·III   -   Bearded bust to the left.
Rev.:   ·Deus·IN NOMINE·TVO·SALVVM·ME·FAC   "God, in your name, save me"
in the field:   IHS (Jesus monogram), below branch with three leaves.


Denaro, Ferrara.     Cu, Ø 18 mm, 1,33 g.   CNI X 451/95; RM 146/16; MIR 284.
Obv.:   ΛLFONSVS·DVX·FERΛRIE·III ▾   -   head left.
Rev.:   ▾ NOBILITΛS·ESTENSIS ▾   -   eagle with spreaded wings.
This coin was the smallest nominal. It was 1/12 soldo worth (20 soldo = 1 lira).


Testone o.J., Modena.     Ø 28 mm, 5,94 g.   CNI IX 201/4; RM 147/18.
Vs.:   ALPHONSVS·DVX·FERRARIAE·III   -   Bärtiger Kopf nach links.
Rs.:   ·S·GEMINIANVS·MVTINAE·ANTISTES
"St. Geminianus, hoher Priester von Modena" (Lat. Mutina)
Der Hl. Geminianus ergreift einen Knaben an den Haaren, als dieser vom Turm der Kathedrale stürzt.


Giulio n. d., Modena.     Ø 25 mm, 2,99 g.   CNI IX 202/15; RM 148/21.
Obv.:   ·ALFONSVS·DVX·FERRARIAE·III   -   bearded head to the left.
Rev.:   ·S·GEMINIANVS·MVTINENSIS·PONtifex   "St. Geminianus, bishop of Modena" (Lat. Mutina)
St. Geminianus seating in the bishop's chair in front view, blessing and holding a crook.


Second wife of Alfonso I: Lucretia Borgia


Uniface cast medal ca. 1502,   made in the neighbourhood of Giancristoforo Romano,   Ø 57,8 mm.
Kress 79; Arm. II, 89,2; Hill Corpus 232.

·LVCRETIA· - ESTeNsis·DE BORGIA·DVCissa
This portrait was doubtless made for the marriage in 1502; Lucrezia is here Duchess of Bisceglie, not yet of Ferrara. It is often attached to a portrait of Alfonso d'Este by another hand. Later the present bust was re-used with a new inscription describing her as Duchess of Ferrara, etc. At to the authorship, all that can be said is that it is Mantuan, in the neighbourhood of Giancristoforo Romano.   [Kress 79]

Ref:   [CNI and RM: page & no. eg. 87/6 = p.87 no.6]
• Corpus Nummorum Italicorum [CNI], vol.X, look at Ferrara   -   CNI-Index vol. X
• Corpus Nummorum Italicorum [CNI], vol.IX, look at Modena and Reggio   -   CNI-Index vol. IX
• Ravegnani Morosini, Mario [RM]: Signorie e Principati. Monete italiane con ritratto 1450-1796. 1984
    House of Este in Ferrara, Modena and Reggio: vol.I, p.120 ff.

Part 2 (continuation):
Ercole II d'Este, 1534-1559
Alfonso II d'Este, 1559-1597

start page Charles V   /   Karl V. TOUR :  Bentivoglio in Bologna