start page Charles V TOUR :   Sigismund I of Poland

Spanish contemporaries
Duke of Alba ,   *1507   †1582
Hernán Cortés ,   *1485   †1547

Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba ,   *1507   †1582
From an early age on, Alba started on a brilliant carreer in the Spanish military and became the most distinguished general of his times. He was keenly ambitious so that Charles V, later Philip II, always doubted him in spite of his stauch loyalty.
The duke accompanied Charles V to Tunis (1535) and Algier (1541). In the Schmalkaldian War he won the battle at Mühlberg (1547) and thus helped the Emperor to the peak of his power. He besieged Metz in 1552, then occupied by France, in the emperor's name, but the siege failed. In Italy he defeated the troups of France's ally Pope Paul IV. In 1567 Philip II sent Alba to the rebellious Netherlands at the head of an army. In answer to this, the governess Margaret of Parma resigned, and Alba was assigned her task. However, his bloody actions did not help appease the state of affairs. Holland and Zeeland broke away and Alba was relieved from office in 1573. In 1580 Alba enforced Philip II's hereditary claim to Portugal and he died there as governor in 1582.

Silver medal 1567.     Ø 36,5 mm; 23,70 g.   Hill -; Kress -.
Obv.:   FERDINandus·TOLETanus·ALBÆ·DVX·BELGii·PRÆFectus·
"Ferdinand de Toledo, Duke of Alba, governor-general of Belgium"
Bust wearing cuirass and the Golden Fleece on a cord.

Rev.:   Alba's crowned arms, the Order of the Golden Fleece and its neck chain, 9 banners. Date.

Bronze cast medal 1571 by Jacques Jonghelinck.   Ø 40 mm.
Armand II, p.246, 12 ; Scher 163 (in silver)

Obv.:   FERDINandus·TOLETanus·ALBÆ DVX·BELGii·PRÆFectus
Bust wearing cuirass and the Golden Fleece. Date on the truncation.

Rev.:   DEO ET REGI - VITÆ VSVS   (completed by the engraving at the bottom)
"The purpose of life is service to God and the king"
A burning candle supported by a lion and two cranes.
The burning candle represents the duke's life, being consumed in the service of God and king and sustained by Might (the lion) and Vigilance (the cranes). The crane on the left holds a stone in its raised foot. The ancients believed that the crane balanced on one foot carrying a stone in the other as a precaution. Should the bird relax too deeply, the falling stone would startle it into wakefulness.
At the same time Alba commissioned a statue of himself from Jonghelinck to be erected in the citadel in Antwerp, showing him standing triumphant over a monster symbolizing Rebellion and Heresy. After Alba´s departure, his successor quitly had the statue melted down.
[from Scher, "The Currency of Fame, Portrait Medals of the Renaissance", 1994]
Compare the picture (106x84 cm, 1549) of Antonis Mor (1519-76), Musée royaux des Baux-Arts, Brussels.

Hernán Cortés ,   *1485   †1547
Cortés went to Hispaniola (Santo Domingo) as a 19-year old and took part in the conquest of Cuba. From there he sailed to Mexico in 1519 with 500 soldiers. He had the 11 ships burnt on their arrival and continued into the inner territories to conquer the Azteks' realm. Cortés had to return to Spain twice in order to defend himself against accusations from adversaries at court. He was honoured by the king in 1528. In 1541 he took part in Charles V's campaign against Algier.

The Currency of Fame, Portrait Medals of the Renaissance The Currency of Fame, Portrait Medals of the Renaissance
Bronze cast medal by Christoph Weiditz, 1529.     Ø 56 mm.
"Don Ferninando Cortés, 1529, at the age of forty two"
"The justice of the Lord touches all, and His power has strengthened my arm"
On top, an arm in a cloud from which rain is falling, the fist clenching part of the cloud.
Christoph Weiditz went to the royal court in Spain in 1528-29. There he met Cortés when being back from Mexico. Apart from the medal a drawing of Cortés is found on page 77 of Weiditz' so-called Trachtenbuch, conserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.
Compare the small picture of Cortés (13x9,5 cm) of the huge collection of small portraits of archduke Ferdinand (1529-95).

More portrait medals from Christoph Weiditz on this site:
• on Mercurino Gattinara
• on Wolfgang von Montfort [only in German]

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