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Gopnik's Daily Pic: The first commemorative medal

By Blake Gopnik

The latest feed from my morning musings about art and objects at

(The National Gallery of Art)

Daily Pic: A commemorative medal from 1438, by the great Italian artist Pisanello, celebrates the arrival of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus in Italy, to discuss collective war against the Turks and the healing of the schism in the church. This is the first commemorative medal ever made, which means Pisanello is at the root of a tradition that leads squarely to the Franklin Mint. (But don't blame him.) It is yet another treasure of the National Gallery that visitors risk missing, as they rush to Leonardo and Monet.

As art historians Alex Nagel and Chris Woods have argued, by faithfully depicting a Greek from the east, Pisanello may have felt he was also looking back in time at the Greece of Socrates and Praxiteles.

By Blake Gopnik  | October 14, 2010; 12:39 PM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
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