In 1966–67 the Bowdoin College Museum of Art acquired nearly one thousand distinguished medals and plaquettes, generously donated by Amanda Marchesa Molinari, in memory of her husband, Cesare Molinari d’Incisa. Modeled after ancient precedents, medals and plaquettes, which emerged during the Renaissance, celebrated political, religious, and cultural leaders, as well as commemorating transformative events. The Molinari collection, one of the most distinguished in the United States, features masterpieces designed by leading Renaissance, Rococo, and Neoclassical artists, including Pisanello, Matteo de Pasti, Francesco da Sangallo, Guillaume Dupré, Nicolas Marie Gatteaux, and David d’Angers. Now with the support of an anonymous donor, the BCMA prepares, for the first time, to make this important resource available electronically on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of this gift.
This coming spring, high-quality reproductions of the Museum’s Molinari medals and plaquettes will be added to the Museum’s website. These images will be fully catalogued and, in keeping with the Museum’s policy, will be made available, free of charge, for download for research, teaching, and publication. Representing celebratory pieces created between approximately 1450 and 1910 from numerous nations—Italy, France, England, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Scandinavia, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Mexico—the collection showcases the exercise of political power, the emergence of physiognomic likeness in the wake of the rise of Humanism, and the art and technology of metallurgy. The development and release of illustrated electronic records about these medals and plaquettes will enable scholars to develop still other avenues of study.
With the assistance of BCMA intern Ben Wu, class of 2018, the new scans will enable preparation of a new online scholarly catalogue, building upon the Museum’s previous publication by Andrea Norris and Ingrid Weber, Medals and Plaquettes from the Molinari Collection at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME, 1976) and drawing upon the model provided by “Art Treasures, Gracefully Drawn: James Bowdoin III and America’s Earliest Drawings Collection” (http://www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum/catalogues/old-masters/index.shtml). Detailed indexing will enable viewers to search and sort the medals and plaquettes by artist, subject, nation, and date. Other categories, including chemical analysis of the metals used to create these objects, will be added over time.
Patrons visiting the Museum in person to see the medals and plaquettes, selections of which we look forward to installing later this year, will also benefit from our new digital resource, as it paves the way for the creation of new electronic tools that will enable visitors to magnify these works on screen and to view images of each recto and verso with ease.
Going forward the Museum intends to add still more historic medals, plaquettes, and coins to its online database, including numismatics contributed by the celebrated collector Mark Salton. The Museum’s work in this area will, in turn, set the stage for the further development of electronic resources designed to highlight the many exceptional collections shared with the Museum by visionary collectors over the course of its history.