Gianello della Torre

Fountain of Science

Lead, 81.5 mm Ø, 234.3 g
Attributed to Jacopo Nizzola da Trezzo, 1548.
Obverse:  Bust of Gianello della Torre facing right, bearded, wearing doublet and coat. Around, IANELLVS · TVRRIAN · CREMON · HOROLOG · ARCHITECT (Gianello della Torre of Cremona, Horologist and Architect).
Reverse:  The Fountain of Science, consisting of a draped female statue with a bowl on her head from which water pours forth. To the left and right, a group of men, some catching the falling water in vessels, while one scoops water from the reservoir. Above and in exergue, VIR TVS NVNQ DEFICIT (Virtue Never Fails).

Gianello della Torre, born in 1500 in Cremona, Italy, was an architect and engineer working first in Milan, then in the service of Emperor Charles V, then finally for King Philip II of Spain. Gianello died in 1585 in Toledo, Spain. The obverse inscription, identifying Gianello as a clock-maker, refers to a celebrated clock he made for the emperor in 1529.

Pollard asserts that the inscription makes clear that the reverse design portrays the Fountain of Virtue rather than the Fountain of Science. However, the old man on the far left holds a compass, and the old man directly to the right of the fountain holds a rule. These instruments would seem to point to the traditional interpretation as the Fountain of Science, with scientific knowledge flowing from it and these streams, as von Fabriczy writes, being "caught and eagerly swallowed by those thirsting for knowledge."

Hill was undecided in attributing this medal to Leone Leoni or da Trezzo. In praising the medal, he wrote: "It is one of which neither might be ashamed. The portrait, it is true, is not attractive; but the subject is to blame, and there is no lack of character in the features. But the reverse, the 'Fountain of the Sciences', with a stately figure supporting an urn from which flows the streams of knowledge, to be eagerly caught by figures bending at her feet - this is a nobly monumental design, that which the academic art of the sixteenth century has produced nothing better." More recently, it has typically been attributed to da Trezzo, with Attwood noting that "most subsequent authorities have detected in its monumental classicism the hand of Jacopo." Pollard also agrees with an attribution to da Trezzo based on style and location.

Dating the medal has also been a matter of conjecture, with a date of c. 1550 typically being suggested. Pollard notes that the specimen in the Bargello collection does contain a date of 1548 on the bust's truncation.


Fritz Rudolf Künker 282, 28 September 2016, lot 4522 (Luc Smolderen collection).