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Pope Alexander VII (obverse), and the Piazzo del Popolo (reverse)

Accession Number
1984/1.282

Title
Pope Alexander VII (obverse), and the Piazzo del Popolo (reverse)

Artist(s)
Gioacchino Travani

Object Creation Date
1662

Medium & Support
bronze

Dimensions
13/16 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (2 x 6.3 x 6.3 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28, 2009
The reverse of this medal depicts another papal civic project: Alexander VII’s renewal of the Piazza del Popolo in Rome. The piazza owed its importance to the three streets that led from the square into the heart of the city. The pope sought to harmonize and aggrandize this public space by commissioning two identical churches to be built where the three streets intersected. Alexander VII did not live to see his project completed, but this medal anticipates the piazza’s final appearance; the two domed churches appear in the middle ground and the three streets recede dramatically into the distance. The artist reinforced the symmetry of the paired churches by arranging the scene around a central obelisk, which heightened the sense of rational order and breathtaking grandeur desired by the pope for the urban fabric.

Subject matter
A portrait of Alexander VII wearing the papal tiara graces the front of this medal. On the reverse appears the renovated Piazza del Popolo in Rome, a civic works project initiated by Alexander VII. The piazza owed its importance to the three streets that led from the square into the heart of the city. The medal anticipates the piazza’s appearance after the renovation by placing two domed churches in the middle ground with the three streets receding dramatically into the distance. The artist reinforced the symmetry of the paired churches by arranging the scene around a central obelisk, thereby heightening the sense of rational order and breathtaking grandeur imposed by the pope’s will upon the urban fabric.

Physical Description
The front (obverse) of this medal represents a portrait of a man in profile wearing a papal tiara and a cope. The reverse depicts a city square dominated by an obelisk with a pair of identical domed churches in the background. Inscriptions run around the edge of the medal on both sides.

Primary Object Classification
Metalwork

Primary Object Type
coin

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
bronze (metal)
casting (process)
heads (animal components)
medallions (medals)
obelisks (monumental pillars)
popes
squares (open spaces)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display