Lot 74
  • 74

Attributed to Valerio Belli (circa 1468-1546) Italian, probably Rome, first half 16th century

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Intaglio with a Sacrifice to Janus
  • rock crystal, in a turned silver and purple silk snuff box
  • Attributed to Valerio Belli (circa 1468-1546) Italian, probably Rome, first half 16th century

Catalogue Note

This beautiful and recently rediscovered intaglio is the model for a number of known Renaissance medals. It appears on the reverse of a silver medal of Isabella of Portugal in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and on the reverse of a medal of Jacopo Sannazaro in the Musei Civici, Brescia. It is also known from medals formerly in the Sylvia Adams Collection and the Max Falk Collection. The model has been published as attributed to Valerio Belli (Donati and Casadio, op. cit., nos. 3 and 224). Valerio Belli was notably commissioned to make a dagger for the writer and commentator Pietro Aretino, as a gift for Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. Tantalisingly, the present model also appears as a bronze roundel with traces of gilding inset into the pommel of a dagger in the Museo Bardini, Florence (inv. no. 341, Vannel, op. cit., p.150, no.182). The commission is documented in several letters between Pietro Aretino and the Federico II on September 10, October 2 and 23, 1529 (Luzio, op. cit., D'Arco, op. cit.).  Valerio Belli also obtained Parmigiano's famous Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror from Pietro Aretino. Although both the dagger commission and exchange of Parmigiano's painting likely occurred during the same period, it is not certain if these events are related. Aretino arrived in Venice as an exile from the Roman court circa March 25, 1527 and Valerio Belli moved away from Venice to Vincenza in March 10, 1530 to work on several important commissions from Rome. best comparison for the present rock crystal is the Medallion, a Roman Sacrifice in the British Museum (Waddesdon Bequest, inv. no. WB. 86), which likewise shows a frieze of all'antica figures before a devotional altar, with a temple structure in the background.

H. Burns, M. Collareta and D. Gasparotto, Valerio Belli Vicentino (1468c-1546), Vicenza, 2000, p.318, no. 15;  V.Donati and R. Casadio, Bronzi e pietre dure nelle incisioni di Valerio Belli vicentino, Ferrara, 2004, p. 180, no. 3 & no. 224; L.Alessandro, Pietro Aretino nei primi suoi anni a Venezia e la corte dei Gonzaga, 1888, p.83-84, Letters XXI & XXII; C.D'Arco, Delle arti e degli artefici di Mantova,  Vol II, 1857, p.106, Letter 136; G.Toderi and F.Vannel, Medaglie e placchette del Museo Bardini di Firenze, 1998, p 150 n.182