Obverse Bust to left, a portrait of Carlo Fontana, in the robes of the Knights of Christ. Around, eqves carolvs fontana et | atis sve a. xxxxiii. Reverse Modelled in low relief, depicting Architecture holding a pair of dividers in one hand, and a scroll in the other, the instruments of the other Fine Arts (the palette and brushes of Painting; the drill, mallet, and chisels of Sculpture) littered on the ground beneath her feet. Around, svperemin et omnes.
A portrait medal of Carlo Fontana (1638-1714), aged forty-three, wearing the robes of the Knights of Christ, the papal order awarded to successful artists. After Bernini’s death in 1680, Fontana had been put in charge of the secular papal buildings; he soon became the leading architect in Rome. The obverse is also found with the lettering divided e | tatis and initials on the truncation G.A.L. (variously interpreted to signify Antonio Galeotti or Giovanni Andrea Lorenzani) with various dents, abrasions, and flattenings. Our example, lettered et | atis, has no signature, and is unblemished. It is likely that the pieces signed G.A.L. are “after casts” (surmoulages) made in the 1690s, when Fontana was at the height of his fame, busy remodelling the baptismal Chapel of St. Peter’s, shortly to be appointed architect of St. Peter’s (1697). As such, they could have been circulated by either Galeotti or Lorenzani, whose recorded activities date from the 1690s. The author is however surely another medallist, someone capable of executing unusually fine sculptural detail, and working at a date closer to Fontana’s forty-third birthday.