We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Italian Renaissance Learning Resources - The National Gallery of Art

Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art


Piece of metal (or sometimes other material) that is usually coin-like, with an image and/or inscription, usually on both sides. It is generally a commemorative object. Large ancient Roman presentation pieces of bronze, silver and gold, produced between the 2nd and the 5th century AD, are generally called medallions; the term is also somewhat loosely applied to particularly large Renaissance and later medals. Medals are usually discs of gold, silver, copper alloy (bronze or brass) or lead, bearing images. . . . Traditionally, the images included on the obverse a portrait with identifying inscription, and on the reverse a text or some sort of figure or scene associated with the subject of the portrait. . . . The medal’s primary function is to honour, commemorate, glorify, criticize or even satirize its subject through an extended pictorial and verbal message that usually covers both of its surfaces. It is reproduced in varying numbers and distributed, in the manner of a book or print, to what may be a large public.

Stephen K. Scher