Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mastery of Design: A German Gnadenpfennige, 1572

German Gnadenpfennige
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Sixteenth Century German medals of sovereigns which were mounted in gold were called Gnadenpfennige.  These were traditionally presented by the rulers depicted on the medals as a token of their appreciation, trust and affection. Such gnadenpfennigae first appeared in the 1560s in Tyrol and Bavaria, and soon the tradition spread very quickly to all the German kingdoms. The fashion for these gold-framed medals faded in during the first quarter of the Seventeenth Century.  However, for a good fifty years, they were worn by both men and women on long gold chains.

Here’s such a gold enameled medal set in an enameled gold openwork frame with enamel ornaments on both sides. The medal’s frame hangs onto three suspension chains joining at the top in a ring. Three pearls are suspended from the openwork frame at the bottom. The scroll work decoration is adorned with green trefoils and four alternating white and blue rosettes, and eight alternating red and white C-scrolls.

On the obverse, a portrait bust of Wilhelm V in profile faces right on a dark blue enamel background surrounded by an inscription. On the reverse, the coat of arms of Bavaria is depicted with an inscription.

The piece was made in Germany in 1572 by Valentin Maler (1540-1603).   It bears the marks:

VINCIT VIM VIRTUS ANNO 1572  (“Virtue Defeats Violence - Year 1572”)

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