Duchy of Ferrara, Alfonso I d'Este, Testone


Duchy of Ferrara, Alfonso I d'Este, Testone (obverse) Duchy of Ferrara, Alfonso I d'Este, Testone (reverse)

Alfonso d'Este (1505-1534) was a peaceful and art-loving man who tried to keep his realms out of the many quarrels of his time. But constant attacks, mainly from Venice and the Papal States, caused him to recruit a powerful army. Being a talented cannon engineer himself, he provided his army with the best artillery in Italy and thus managed to keep his duchy's independence. Even if we would not know all this, we would be able to interpret it from the design on this testone. The obverse shows a portrait of Alfonso. The reverse depicts an armed warrior with a serpent as a symbol for his cunningness coiling around the stump of a tree at his feet. The man holds the head of a lion in his hands, while flies come out of the lion's mouth. This is an allegory on how a victoriously ended war (the beheaded lion) bears sweet fruit (the honey collected by the bees). This, at least, was the opinion of the time …


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