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The House of Este in Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilia

Map of Italy in 1499

Ercole II d'Este, 1534-1559
- son of Alfonso I. d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia -
Ercole II (*1508) allied with France, but closed peace with Spain in 1558, which had won predominance in Italy.
He married Renée, a daughter of King Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany in 1528. Her sympathy with the Reformation was evident, for example, by the visit of persecutors like Calvin. Her correspondence with Protestants triggered an inquisition process against her and Ercole had to put his wife under house arrest. A year after Ercole's death, she was allowed to leave for France, where she became active for Protestants again.
Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, brother of Ercole II, built the Villa d'Este in Trivoli near Rome.

Testone (Quarto scudo) 1534, Ferrara.     Ø 29 mm, 9,62 g.   CNI X 455/8; RM 156/4.
Obv.:   HER·II·DVX·FERRARIE·IIII·   -   armored effigy left.
Rev.:  SI·TOT·PRO·NOBIS·QVIS·CONTRA·NOS   "If many are for us, who can be against us?"
Mary with child surrounded by saints, above the Holy Spirit, below the date 1534.

1/2 Scudo 1546, Ferrara.     Ø 35 mm, 17,44 g.   CNI X 455/13; RM 155/3.
Obv.:   +HERcules·II·FERrariae·MVTinae·ET REGii·DVX·IIII·CARNVTum·I·
"Herkules II, 4th Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio and 1st of Carnutum"   [Carnutum = Chatres]
(The newly created Duchy of Chatres was a dowry of his wife Renée in 1528.)
Armed effigy to the left, dies attributed Bartolomeo Nigrisoli.

"Vengeance is mine, I will repay" (... says the Lord = Romans 12:19)
Hercules in the lion's skin directs the view to the sun, while with the left he holds a warrior
who has thrown his weapons to the ground. Exergue: date 1546.
Gian Paolo Manfrone, commander of the Republic of Venice in 1546, had conspired against Ercole II and was condemned to death. However Ercole pardoned him to life imprisonment.

Hercules was considered one of the 9 great heroes of antiquity in the Renaissance. Representations of his actions can be found in almost all the princely courts of Italy. He was celebrated as a philosopher among the warriors, who disciplined himself to use his powers for the benefit of mankind. Pietro Andrea de Bassi, a protege of Nicolò d'Este, had written a treatise on the deeds of Hercules in the 30s of the 15th century. In this, he sent this hero into the present, and celebrated him as the perfect prince, who, with prudence and courage, could get rid of all the adversities of life which might threaten the subjects.
Nicolò d'Este named his son after the great hero. His name was to be inherited in the family as a programmatic claim that the welfare of their subjects was particularly dear to the Estonians.

Testone (Quarto scudo) 1559, Ferrara.     Ø 29 mm, 8,62 g.   CNI X 456/16; RM 157/6.
Obv.:   HERCVLES II FERRARIE DVX IIII   -   effigy with draped harness to the right.
On the shoulder · P · (pastorino, engraver), at the bottom 1559 in cartouche.

Rev.:  SVPERANDA - OMNIS FORTVNA ferendo est   "every misfortune is to be subdued by patience" (Virgil)
Patientia chained to a pedestal at the foot; on the pedestal a container or water clock;
from this, water drips on the chain until it breaks. Below an A in a cartridge.
Legend and figure of the reverse form together a so-called "Impresa".

Bianco (10 soldi) n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 25 mm, 4,94 g.   CNI X 461/56; RM 159/10.
Obv.:   HERCVLES·II·DVX·FERRARIAE·IIII·   -   armored bust to the left.
"You who judge the world love justice!"
Sitting Justitia with halberd and scale.
This is one of the first coins issued in the value of 10 soldi.

Bianco (10 Soldi) n. d., Modena.    Ø 28 mm, 4,92 g.   CNI IX 209/56; RM 163/19.
Obv.:   HERCVLES·II·DVX·MVTINAE·IIII·   -   effigy in armor to the right.
Rev.:   ✿MONETA·COMVNITATIS·MVTINAE·  -  arms of Modena (blue cross on golden field).

Bianco, Reggio Emilia.    Ø 29 mm, 4,98 g.   CNI IX 709/169 (tav.43/4-5); RM 165/24var; MIR 1306.
Obv.:   ·HER·II·DVX·REGII·ᕠ· - ·IIII   -   bearded bust to the right.
Rev.:   ᕠREGII·ᕠ·LOMBΛRDIΛE   -   arms of Reggio Emilia (red cross on white field)

Giulio, Reggio Emilia.     Ø 25 mm, 2,80 g.   single known specimen; RM -.
Obv.:   HERCVLES·II·DVX·REGII·IIII·   -   head left.
Seated saint from the front, raised right hand, crook in the left hand.

Cavallotto 1550, Reggio Emilia.     Ø 24 mm, 2,87 g.   CNI IX 697/88; RM 169/33.
Obv.:   HER·EST·II·DVX·REGII·IIII·1550·   -   effigy with draped harness to the left.
Rev.:   ·APTA·PRAECVRRE·FLEXV·   -   Roman directs Quadriga to a pyramid-shaped target.
The Quadriga, symbol of victory, is suitable to reach the goal.

Grossetto n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 19 mm, 1,35 g.   CNI X 463/77 tav.31/19; RM 161/14.
Obv.:   ·HER·II·DVX·FERRAR·IIII·   -   draped bust left.
Rev.:   ·PERFICIT· - ·ET·9FICIT·  Perficit et Conficit
Saturn in Egyptian clothes from the front. He holds a snake biting into the tail.
The motto of the revers can be translated as "taken and brought to completion". It applies to the serpent, the ancient Egyptian symbol of eternity, which thus forms a circle without beginning or end. The serpent is carried by Saturn, who was already represented with this attribute by the ancient Greeks.   [RM]
This Grossetto was valued 2 soldi.

Grossetto n. d., Reggio.     Ø 17,7 mm, 0,95 g.   CNI IX 718/256; RM 171/38; MIR 1322.
Here in silver, otherwise in copper ("mistura") as sesino.

Obv.:   ·HER·II·DVX·REGII·IIII·   -   armored bust left.
Rev.:   +·NOBILITAS·ESTENSIS·   -   sitting unicorn to the left.
The fabled unicorn stands for generosity, steadfastness, honest love.
It is also found in several places in the city of Ferrara.

Cast bronze medal n.d. by Alfonso Ruspagiari.     Ø 66 mm, 117,19 g.   Attwood (2003) 647a.
Specimen in The British Museum, London.

Bust right, bearded, wearing a lion skin, with a strap over his left shoulder. To left, a club.
Rev.:   SVPERANDA OMNIS FORTVNAI   "All fate is to be conquered"
A woman, veiled and wearing antique drapery, holding in her right hand a palm branch, and with a clock suspended from her right arm, standing in a landscape. In the background, to left distant buildings, and to right a castle with a watermill below surrounded by trees.

Cast bronze medal 1554 by Pompeo Leoni.     Ø 66 mm, 70,67 g.   Attwood (2003) 117a.
Specimen in The British Museum, London.

Obv.:   HERCVLES ESTENSIS II FERR DVX IIII   -   Bust left, bearded, wearing a doublet, a coat, a jewel suspended from a ribbon around his neck and a cap.
Signature on the back: ·POMPEIVS·

Rev.:   SVPERANDA OMNIS - FORTVNA·  "All fate is to be overcome"  -  Patience, draped and veiled, with arms crossed, chained by the left ankle to a rock, on which stands an urn surmounted by an armillary sphere. Liquid from the spout of the urn falls onto the chain. To the left a landscape.

Ippolito II d'Este (1509-1572)
- younger son of Alfonso I. d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia -
Ippolito d'Este was the younger brother of Ercole II d'Este. He was created cardinal by Pope Paul III in 1538 and was appointed papal legate in France in 1561. A cultivated and wealthy man, Ippolito built the Villa d'Este in Tivoli near Rome and was a patron of the arts and of medalists, with six different medals of him known.

Cast bronze medal by Gian Federigo Bonzagni.     Ø 46 mm, 32,2 g.   Armand I 222/4;
Kress 374 (only obverse); Börner 492; Attwood (2003) 962; Pollard (2007) 429; Toderi-Vannel II 2189.

Obv.:   HIPPOLYTVS·ESTENsis·Sacrae·Romanae·Ecclesiae·PRESByter·CARDinalis·FERRARiensis·
Bust to the left, in cape with hood. Below the signature FEDericus PARMensis
Rev.:   ⁎NE TRANSEAS⁎SERVVM⁎TVVM⁎   "Pass Not Away From Thy Servant"
Abraham kneeling before the three angels/men (Genesis 1). Tree and building behind Abraham.

Alfonso II d'Este, 1559-1597
- son of Ercole II d'Este -
Alfonso (*1533) fought as a young man for King Heinri II of France against Habsburg. After he had become the successor in Ferrara, Alfonso took part in the campaign of his brother-in-law Maximilian II against the Osmans (1566). He was unsuccessfully candidate for the Polish throne in 1574.
After three childless marriages he sat his cousin Cesare d'Este (*1562, †1628) from an illegitimate side branch to inherit. The Emperor recognized the succession, but not the Pope. Pope Clement VIII declared Ferrara as a finished fief of the church (1598) and took it over into the Papal States.

Cast bronze medal (1558) by Domenico Poggini     Ø 47,9 mm, 40,02 g.
Armand I 260/36; Kress 340; Pollard(2007)388    Specimen in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Obv.:   ALPHONsus ESTENsis FERRARiae PRINCEPS   -   Bust to right of Alfonso.
Rev.:   LVCRETIA MEDices ESTENsis FERRariae PRINCEPS   -   Bust to right of Lucrezia.
Alfonso married Lucrezia de'Medici (1545-62) in June 1558, a daughter of Duke Cosimo I of Florence.

Mezzo scudo 1564, Ferrara.     Ø 36 mm, 16,6 g.   CNI IX 467/2 tav.31/23; RM 180/4.
Obv.:   ALFONSVS II FERRARIAE DVX   -   effigy with draped harness left;
below year 1564; at the shoulder P 36 (opus Pastorino & value 36 bolognini).

Rev.:   ANIMI SVPER OMNIA   "especially the feelings"
Thrusting and helmeted Mars to the left, lance and palm branch in his left hand,
his right hand holds a helmet over the head of a kneeling woman, which gives him a cornucopia.
In the exergue: the family coat of arms (eagle) between two branches.

Mezzo scudo n. d., Ferrara.    Ø 33 mm, 15,78 g.  CNI X 478/93 tv.32/16; RM 181/6; MIR 312/1.
Obv.:   ALFON II FER MVT REG E C DVX  -  Bearded bust in armor to the right / double struck.
Rev.:  ADDIT - SE SOCIAM  -  Standing woman leaning against a Hercules club, holding a flower.
Addit se sociam timidisque supervenit Aegle (Vergil) "Aegle came and joined the timid".

Cavallotto 1567, Reggio.     Ø 23 mm, 2,5 g.   CNI IX 733/18; RM 190/25.
Obv.:  ·ALFONSVS·II·DVX·REGII·V·  "Alfons II., 5th Duke of Reggio"  - Bust left, date at the bottom.
Rev.:   ⚚CALCABITVR·ASPER·PHASIS·EQVO   "the swirling Phases will be crossed on horseback" Several horses jumping to the right.

Quarto di scudo 1571, Reggio.     Ø 31 mm, 7,17 g.   CNI IX 735/34; RM 189/24.
Obv.:   ALFONSVS·II·DVX·REGII·V·   -   armed bareheaded effigy left.
pace belloque fidelis = "faithful in peace and war" (the motto from Reggio).
a naked standing man holding cornucopia and city's coat of arms.

Testone 1596, Ferrara.     Ø 28 mm, 8,01 g.   CNI X 471/29; RM 183/11.
Obv.:   * ALFO·II·FER·MVT·REG·ET·C·DVX*     C for Carnuntum = Chartres (see above)
armored effigy right.

Rev.:   NOBILITAS - ·ESTENSIS * - 1596   -   Symbol of the nobility of Este: eagle, left.

Grossetto n. d., Ferrara.     Ø 20 mm, 1,28 g.   CNI X 480/113; RM 185/14.
Obv.:   · ALFON I·I·FER·MVT·REG Є DVX·   -   effigy right.
Rev.:   SANCTVS·GEORGIVS   -   standing St. George stabs his lance into the dragon.

The portrait coins presented here show on their revers an amazing variety of figurative motifs.
Only coins from Modena and Reggio occasionally used their coat of arms, a simple cross.

The development of the coat of arms of the House d'Este

The following ducat of Borso d'Este shows his coat of arms in place of his portrait.

Borso d'Este (1450-1471): obverse of a Ducat, n. d. (1450-52), Ferrara.

The coat of arms of the house Este consists of a silver eagle on a blue background.
• In 1431 Niccolò III (1393-1441) received the 'Three golden lily
   framed on a blue background' from King Charles VII of France
   as increase of his arms (see the ducat above).
• In 1452 Borso (1450-71) was proclaimed Duke of Modena and
   Reggio by Emperor Frederick III. By this, the arms increased
   with the crowned double eagle (see coin below).
   The family coat of arms became to be an inescutcheon.
• In 1471, Pope Paul II elevated Borso to the Duke of Ferrara and
   the Vicar of Ferrara. The arms increased by the crossed keys in
   the middle column.
•• During Ercole's II time (1534-59) the tiara is added above the keys.
The result is presented on the subsequent ducat of Alfonso II.

Ongaro (Ducat from the Hungarian type) n. d., Ferrara.
Ø 21 mm, 3,44 g.  CNI X p.476 n.74; Friedb.273.
Obv.:  ALF·II·FErrariae·MVtinae· - REgii·ETC·DVX·  -  full body in armor right, with sword and scepter.
Rev.:   ·NOBILITAS·ESTENSIS·   -   crowned arms from Este.

The main line of the dynasty extinguished in 1597. The designated heir, Cesare d'Este, whose father was an illegitimate son of Alfonso I, was able to take possession of Modena and Reggio, because emperor Rudolph II recognized him. Ferrara, on the other hand, was taken over by Pope Clement VIII as a settled fief and was incorporated into the Papal States.

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

Back to Part 1
Niccolò III d'Este, reigned 1393-1441
Leonello d'Este, reigned 1441-1450
Borso d'Este, reigned 1450-1471
Ercole (Hercules) I d'Este, reigned 1471-1505
Ercole's daughter :  Isabella d'Este (1474-1539)
Back to Part 2
Alfonso I d'Este, reigned 1505-1534
Alfonso's I second wife: Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519)

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