"Singular in each, unparalleled in all"
Obverse Bust to right, a portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), with cloak draped over shoulder. Around, EQVES IOA LAVRENT BERNINVS ETATIS SVE; in exergue, ANNO 76 1674. Signed on the truncation, F. CHERON. Reverse Allegorical figures of painting, sculpture, architecture and mathematics. Around, SINGVLARIS IN SINGVLIS IN OMNIBVS VNICVS. Signed in exergue, F. CHERON.
This medallic portrait of the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was commissioned from Charles Jean-François Chéron by Louis XIV, to commemorate Bernini’s brief tenure at the French court (June-November 1665), during which he had designed projects for the new Louvre and carved a marble bust of the King. “Chéron’s portrait appears to depend on no known prototype, so it may be assumed that Bernini sat to the medallist, or commissioned draughtsman, specifically for this purpose” (Timothy Clifford). The reverse shows, in allegorical form, the arts in which Bernini excelled: sculpture, architecture, and painting, with the motto “Singular in each, unparalleled in all”. At the centre of the medal, a female personification of Sculpture carves a marble bust. Before Sculpture stands Architecture, holding the instruments of her profession, and in dialogue with Mathematics; at the left is Painting, holding a palette and brushes, with her covered mouth defining painting as “a silent art”. The mask hanging from Painting’s neck may be an allusion to Bernini’s scenographic activities.