Cornelio Musso

Unicorn in a Landscape

Bronze, 59.5 mm Ø, 90.8 g
Unknown artist of the Veneto, c. 1562.
Obverse:  Bust of Cornelio Musso facing left, bearded, wearing a hooded cassock. Around, · CORNELIVS · MVSSVS · EPVS · BITVNT · (Cornelio Musso, Bishop of Bitonto).
Reverse:  A unicorn dipping its horn into a river, from which two snakes flee. Behind, a landscape with trees, figures, and animals, including a shepherd tending his flock. In exergue, a coat of arms between two cornucopias. Around, · SIC · VIRVS · A · SACRIS (Thus is Poison from the Holy [Springs Removed]).

Cornelio Musso, born in Piacenza in 1511, was a Franciscan monk and a renowned orator and homilist. He was made Bishop of Bitonto in 1544, delivered the inaugural oration at the Council of Trent (1545), and was sent as papal legate to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I in 1560. Musso died in 1574 and was buried in the Basilica of Santi Apostoli in Rome.

The reverse scene illustrates the legend that the horn of a unicorn can purify water from the poison of serpents, and refers here to Musso's work against corruptions in the Church. The shepherd tending his flock can be seen to represent Musso and his pastoral care.


Varesi 76 (Pavia), 5 May 2020, lot 822.

Numismatica Ars Classica 53 (Milan), 7 November 2009, lot 579.


Toderi and Vannel 2000, no. 279

Attwood 2003, no. 443

Pollard 2007, no. 571

Scher 2019, no. 162