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The House of Este in Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilia

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 d'Este - Leonello, Borso and Ercole.

Map of Italy in 1499

Niccolò III d'Este, 1393-1441 Margrave of Ferrara
- Father of Leonello, Borso and Ercole I d'Este -

Touch the picture to see the reverse.
Cast bronze medal n. d. (about 1437-41) by Amadio da Milano.
Ø 50,4 mm, 64,7 g.   Armand I 10/30; Hill Corpus 73; Kress 29; Pollard (2007) 47.
Obv.: NICOLAI MAR - CHIO ESTENSIS FERrarie   (Legend is incus!)
Rev.: shield from markgravate Ferrara: eagle (Este) | lilies (french increase 1431)
Amadio da Milano was a Milanese goldsmith, seal-engraver and medallist, who was active at the court of Ferrara in 1437-82.   The technique of his medals is unusual. The inscriptions were cut on a separate movable ring of metal, placed round the model, and the whole pressed into the mould.

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.

"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.
Further medals by Pisanello can be seen in the Münzkabinett Berlin
Look at the portrait in front of a rose hedge by Pisanello around 1444 (Tempera on wood, 29x19cm Accademia Carrara, Bergamo).

Borso d'Este, reigned 1450-1471   Duke of Ferrara in 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.

Cast bronze medal n. d. (before 1441) by Amadio da Milano.
Ø 50,6 mm, 47,8 g.   Armand I, 16/2; Börner 29; Kress 28.
Obv. start at 7h :   ᕠ DOMINVS ᕠ BORSIVS ᕠ MARCHIO ᕠ ESTENSIS ᕠ
Rev. start at 4h :   ᕠ AMADE ᕠ MEDIOLANi ᕠ ARtiFEX ᕠ FECiT
Marigold with two long leaves; hanging from a rosette above of the flower,
a door-knocker with bar ending in dragon's head.
Amadio da Milano was a Milanese goldsmith, seal-engraver and medallist, who was active at the court of Ferrara in 1437-82.   The technique of his medals is unusual. The inscriptions were cut on a separate movable ring of metal, placed round the model, and the whole pressed into the mould.

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.

Cast bronce medal 1460 by Jacopo Lixignolo.    Ø 80 mm.   Hill 1930, p.26, no.94; Kress 35.
Specimen in the Musei Civici di Arte Antica, Ferrara, shown by

Rev.:   OPVS IACOBVS LIXIGNOLO MCCCCLX  -  Landscape with unicorn.
The unicorn is dipping its horn into a stream purifying its water.

Cast bronze medal 1460.   by Petrecino of Florence.     Ø 96,2 mm.   Hill 1930, No.96; Kress 36.
Rev.:   OPVS - PETRECINI DE FLORETIA MCCCCLX  -  In a rocky landscape, a hexagonal font with open lid, showing a ring within; crosses incised on sides of font; above, the sun's face shining.

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

Ercole I d'Este, 1471-1505 Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilia
- 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.

Cast bronze medal 1472 by Lodovico Coradino.     Ø 56,5 mm.
Armand I ?; Hill 1930 29/102c.   Specimen on display in The British Museum, London.

Bust left wearing a cap with edge turned up all around and a jewel is placed at the side. Another jewel is placed on the breast of his elaborate gown. At the arm-section MCCCCLXXII engraved.
Young Hercules, nude but for cloak hanging behind him, standing to front, looking right, resting right hand on spear, holding in left hand kite-shaped shield charged with a ring in the middle of which is a flower; on left, in the sea, three fluted Corinthian columns.

Uniface cast lead medal n. d. (1473) by Sperandio of Mantua.     Ø 113 mm, 367 g.
Armand I 68/21; Kress 116; Pollard (2007) 85.   Specimen in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Busts confranted: on right Ercole with cap, on left Eleonara with coif, both wearing a chain with pendant. Above a four-winged cherub's head, below: OPVS SPERANDEI.
Ercole married 1473 Eleonora of Aragon (1450-93), daughter of Kg. Ferdinand I. They had six children.
The oldest daughter Isabella (1474-1539) married Francesco II. Gonzaga (1466-1519), Markgrave of Mantua.
The second daughter Beatrice (1475-97) married Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508).
The next was son Alfonso, Duke of Milan, who became Ercole's successor (see below).
The fifth child, Ippolito I d'Este (1479-1520), became a cardinal in 1493.

Bronze medal n. d. (1490-5). Style of Niccolò Fiorentino.     Ø 50 mm, 61,42 g.
Armand II 44/3; Kress 267; Pollard(2007) 304.   Specimen in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Vs.   ·HERCVLES·DVX - FERAriae·MVtine·ETcetera  -  Bust to left, elderly, wearing cap and armour.
Rs.   ·MINE - RVA·  -  Minerva standing to front, resting on spear and shield.

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·Ꮺ·DVX·II·Ꮺ·   -   Bust to the left, cap with buckle.
Rev.:  ·REGIVM· - ·LEPIDIᏪ   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 Ꮺ ·DVCI Ꮺ   -   barheaded bust to the left.
Rev.:   Ꮺ COMVNITAS Ꮺ 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.
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.
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)

Isabella d'Este (1474-1539)
- daughter of Ercole I d'Este   and   wife of Francesco II Gonzaga -
Isabella was beautiful, intelligent and well educated. She represented her husband during his absence with diplomatic skills to the benefit of Mantua. When Francesco 1519 died of syphilis, Isabella served as regent for her son Federico II. In the time of Francesco and Isabella Mantua reached to a glittering highlight, in particular by Isabella's activities as patron. She was painted by artists such as Raphael, Andrea Mantegna, Titian and Leonardo da Vinci. Isabella knew best how to use art for the prestige for the house Gonzaga.

Gold medal with enamel and diamonds n. d. (c. 1498) by Gian Cristoforo Romano.   Ø 69 mm.
Armand III 3/49; Hill (1930) 221; Kress 76; Pollard(2007)118; Gesichter der Renaissance 240/92.
Here the only surviving gold specimen preserved in the coin cabinet of Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna.

Obv.:   ISABELLA ESTENsis MARCHionissa MAntuae  -  Bust to the right with elegantly curled hair.
Rev.:  BENEM ERE - NTIVM ERGO   "For Those Who Serve Her" (as a reason for giving away the medal)
A winged female figure in antique robe holds a palm branch in her left hand and a staff in her right hand.
A snake rises in front of her, with the zodiac sign Sagittarius on top.
The figure was interpreted as the personification of astrology (Hill), Hygieia (Habich), Virgo and most credibly as Victoria (as described in the inventory from 1542).
The medal encouraged two court poets to sonnets. As a thank you, an early cast in gold was created, but it has not survived.

Compare Isabella's portraits by several artists, thanks Wikipedia.

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.
• Armand, Alfred: Les Médailleurs Italiens des quinzième et Seizièmme siècles. Vol.1, Paris 1883
• Kress: Renaissance Medals from the Samuel H.Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art. London 1967

Part 2 (continuation)
Alfonso I d'Este, reigned 1505-1534
Alfonso's second wife :  Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519)

Part 3 (continuation)
Ercole II d'Este, reigned 1534-1559
Brother of Ercole II :  Cardinal Ippolito II. d'Este (1509-1572)
Alfonso II d'Este, reigned 1559-1597
Development of the coat of arms of the House of Este

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