Ludovico Ariosto

Bees Issuing from Hive on Fire

Bronze, 37.8 mm Ø, 21.1 g
By Pastorino de' Pastorini, c. 1552-1553.
Obverse:  Bust of Ludovico Ariosto facing left, laureate, bearded, wearing a shirt and coat. Around, LVDOVICVS ARIOST POET (Ludovico Ariosto, Poet). On truncation, signed · P · (incised). Surrounded by a beaded border.
Reverse:  Bees issuing from the top of a hive, the base of which is on fire. Around, PRO BONO / MALVM (Evil In Return For Good). Surrounded by a beaded border.

Ludovico Ariosto was born in Reggio on September 8, 1474, but was raised in Ferrara. Best known as a poet, he also coined the term umanista (student of human affairs or human nature), which eventually evolved into the English words of humanist and humanism. In 1503 he came under the patronage of Cardinal Ippoltio d'Este. His most well known work, the epic poem Orlando Furioso, was first published in 1516 in 40 cantos and was further enlarged for an edition of 1532 to 46 cantos. However, his patron failed to appreciate this work and he was compensated poorly. When the cardinal went to Hungary in 1518, he wished for Ariosto to accompany him. Ariosto excused himself and was promplty dismissed from service. Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, (and the cardinal's brother) then took Ariosto under his patronage. In addition to being a poet, Ariosto was a diplomat and was also appointed governor of Garfagnana. He died on July 6, 1533.

The obverse portrait and clothing are similar to the right-facing bust found as the frontispiece of the 1532 edition of Orlando Furioso, though the laurel wreath is an addition. The reverse design and inscription refer to unjust returns, and had appeared in early editions of Orlando Furioso. On the medal, it alludes to the cardinal's lack of appreciation. In this case, the bees, who had provided honey, are now expelled from their home by the fire that has been lit beneath their hive.

The medal likely dates to Pastorino's early years in Ferrara, where he joined the service of the Duke of Ferrara in 1552. It has been suggested that it may have been commissioned by one of Ariosto's sons or one of his brothers or sisters. Opinion on the quality of the medal has been divided. Cornelius von Fabriczy noted the following: "The busts of two great celebrities Ariosto and Titian belong to his best works, thanks to their unassuming simplicity and the absence of that affected pose which detracts from the impression conveyed by so many of Pastorino's male portraits." On the other hand, George Hill opines that the portrait "is, as one might expect, uninspired." He also discusses the reverse, saying: "It is one of the few of the artist's medals that has a reverse. His reverses are banal, and he was wise not to trouble himself to make many."


Dr. Busso Peus Nachf. 414, 23-24 April 2015, lot 535.

Astarte VIII, 11 October 2001, lot 78.


Toderi and Vannel 2000, no. 1839

Attwood 2003, no. 538