Featured Vas Electionis of Paul III, by Benvenuto Cellini

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by ycon, May 2, 2018.

  1. ycon

    ycon Renaissance Man

    My first gold coin, and my third coin with dies engraved by Benvenuto Cellini arrived in the mail today from Heritage. This coin was minted after the election of Alessandro Farnese as pope Paul III. Taking advantage of the fact that new popes traditionally issued mass pardons, Cellini had commited murder during the interregnum, after the death of Clement VII, ostensibly to avenge his brother.

    Like the other coins I have purchased, Cellini describes this coin in his autobiography (together with requisite drama and bravado) (LXXV):

    “Messer Latino Juvinale came to call on me, and gave me orders to strike the coins of the Pope. This roused up all my enemies, who began to look about how they should hinder me; but the Pope, perceiving their drift, scolded them, and insisted that I should go on working. I took the dies in hand, designing a S. Paul, surrounded with this inscription: 'Vas electionis.' This piece of money gave far more satisfaction than the models of my competitors; so that the Pope forbade any one else to speak to him of coins, since he wished me only to have to do with them. This encouraged me to apply myself with untroubled spirit to the task; and Messer Latino Juvinale, who had received such orders from the Pope, used to introduce me to his Holiness. I had it much at heart to recover the post of stamper to the Mint; but on this point the Pope took advice, and then told me I must first obtain pardon for the homicide, and this I should get at the holy Maries day in August through the Caporioni of Rome.”​

    lf.jpg lf-1.jpg
    Papal States. Paul III (1534-1549) gold Scudo d'Oro XF (AU50 NGC) Rome mint, 3.33g, B-905, Fr-65. S PAVLVS VAS | ELECTIONIS, St. Paul standing facing, fleur below, head slightly right with halo, epistles in right hand, sword in left / PAVLVS III | PONT • MAX, pontifical arms. Dies by Benvenuto Cellini.

    There are many other versions of the Vas Electionis coins, as Cellini implies ("the models of my competitors"). Below are a couple that have been sold by CNG (not my coins), for comparison. Cellini's superior skill in modelling the small figure of st Paul is apparent.

    [​IMG]ITALY, Papale (Stato pontificio). Paul III. 1534-1549. AV Scudo d’oro (26mm, 3.40 g, 1h). Rome mint. · PAAVLVS · III · · PONT · MAX ·, papal arms / S · PAVLVS · VA S ELECTIONIS (crossed lion’s paws), San Paulo standing facing, holding sword in right hand, Gospel book in left. CNI XV 84; Muntoni 23; Berman 905; Friedberg 65. VF. CNG, Triton XVII, Lot: 1260.

    ITALY, Papale (Stato pontificio). Paul III. 1534-1549. AV Scudo (24mm, 3.43 g, 4h). Rome mint. Coat-of-arms surmounted by crossed keys and tiara / St. Paul standing facing, holding sword and gospel. Muntoni 26; Berman 905; Friedberg 65 (Vatican). Good VF, areas of weak strike, lightly toned. CNG 105, Lot: 1139.

    The attribution of my coin to Cellini has sometimes been questioned, but I think it can be quite persuasively shown to be his based on stylistic evidence. Below is a very rare coin Cellini executed for Clement VII to celebrate peace with Charles V. They are shown together bearing the cross (look at the incredible wood-grain on there!!!). This coin was already scarce in Cellini's time, as it was slightly overweight for its denomination. This specimen is in Vienna; there is at least one more in the coin cabinet of the Vatican.

    celliniclement.jpg ITALY, Papale (Stato pontificio). Clement VII with Emperor Charles V. AV Doppio Ducato. Rome mint. VT· OMNIS • TERRA· ADORET· TE Clement, bearded with cope and tiara L., Emperor Charles V, bearded with crown and mantel, wooden cross between them. Exergue CLEMENS .'. R. VNVS· SPS • ET. VNA • FIDES • ERAT· IN. EIS St. Peter and St. Paul haloed, facing in three-quarter view: the first with keys and book; the second with book and sword. Münzkabinett, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

    The features that define Cellini's style as a celator are, for me, his treatments of hands and faces. He conveys complicated hand positions--especially grasping and bent hands--through distinct semi-parallel lines that define the planes of the fingers. The way he depicts faces is also very distinctive: the nose, mustache, eyes and eyebrows are defined by minimal, close knit, descriptive lines. This is easier to understand by comparing the faces of Sts. Peter and Paul on the above coin with that of St. Peter on the coin below.

    Rome. Clement VII (Giuliano de’Medici), 1523-1534. Doppio Carlino, AR 5.01 g. CLEMENS·VII PONT· MAX Bearded bust left with ornate cope with figures of saints and medallion. Rv. Mintmark of Giacomo Balducci. QVARE – DVBITASTI (Matthew 14:31) Christ lifting St. Peter from the Sea. Muntoni 43. Berman 841. Rare. VF, profile of Clement slightly doubled. (My coin)

    Here is another version of the Quare Dvbitasti (not my coin) on which you can clearly see St. Peter's hand on the waves. Notice the similarity in execution to the hands on the Vienna coin, and on my coin of Paul III.

    Rome. Clement VII (Giuliano de’Medici), 1523-1534. Doppio Carlino, AR 5.50 g. CLEMENS·VII PONT· MAX Bearded bust left with ornate cope with scrolling leaves and medallion. Rv. Mintmark of Giacomo Balducci. QVARE – DVBITASTI (Matthew 14:31) Christ lifting St. Peter from the Sea. Muntoni 43. Berman 841. NAC 90, Lot 626.

    I hope you enjoyed this write up. Post your first gold coins, or anything else you feel is appropriate!

    Here are the write-ups of my other Cellini coins:
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  3. Iosephus

    Iosephus Well-Known Member

    Great coin and write-up!

    Here's a medal of Paul III:
  4. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Great write up and coin.
    ycon likes this.

    RAGNAROK Naebody chaws me wi impunity

    Congrats, wonderful gold masterpiece and cool write up!
    ycon likes this.
  6. Mark OhReallyUs

    Mark OhReallyUs New Member

    What a great coin! I actually just sent you an offer through Heritage
    ycon likes this.
  7. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    That's a different league, by all means. True jewels!
    When I was very young I read a book by Dumas ("Ascanio") and Cellini is an important character in the book. I knew he was an important sculptor, but I had no idea he was a die engraver too.
    ycon, DonnaML and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  8. ycon

    ycon Renaissance Man

    I was flattered! But I like it too much to part with! :D
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