Краснобаева Ю. Шедевры медальерного искусства эпохи Возрождения в собрании ГМИИ им. А.С. Пушкина, M., 2018 / Krasnobaeva J. Masterpieces of the Renaissance Medallic Art in the Collection of the Pushki
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts houses 500 Italian, German, Bohemian, Dutch and French medals and plaques made of bronze and silver and dating from the 15th to the early-17th centuries. Thanks to these items, it is possible to trace the emergence of the medallic art from the time when it first appeared in Italy and then gradually spread through Southern Germany into other European countries.
The earliest genre of commemorative medals was that bearing a portrait. The Pushkin Museum’s collection contains portrait medals by Antonio Pisanello and Matteo de’ Pasti. Among German works in the museum deserving of special attention is a medal-shaped coin bearing a portrait of Emperor Maximilian I (1508–1519) and medals bearing portraits of Emperor Karl V and Johann Friedrich, Elector of Saxony. Apart from portraits, these medal-makers also turned to subjects drawn from Greek and Roman mythology and to legendary events of Roman history. An exemplary work from this latter genre is a medal by an unknown medallist from Southern Germany on a subject treated in Livy’s History of Rome.
In Germany the Reformation saw the rise of medals with religious subjects: the most impressive examples of this genre are works by the Leipzig medallist, Hans Reinhart the Elder.
The Coins & Medals Department of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has a collection which includes not only medals but also plaquettes (the masterpiece in the collection is the “kiss-tablet” attributed to Donatello) and items of jewellery (in particular, a unique pendant bearing Emblem of Emperor Karl V).
All these works were originally held in German museums: a small group in the Berlin State Museums, but the majority in the Grassi Museum in Leipzig, where many of these medals formed part of its permanent exhibition in the years 1929–1943. This museum complex is made up of the Applied Arts Museum, Ethnography Museum and the Musical Instruments Museum. The complex was named in honour of Franz Dominic Grassi (1801–1880), a German merchant of Italian origin. In his will he bequeathed a large sum of money to the city of Leipzig which made possible the construction of the museum in 1892–1895. After the victory at the end of the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945) these objects ended up in the Pushkin State Museum in Moscow, where they have been preserved by more than one generation of curators. Our main task currently is to draw the attention of both academics and the general public to them.