ITALY, Mantova (Duchi). Federico II Gonzaga.
1519–1540. CU Quattrino (16mm, 1.90 g, 9h). VIRGILIVS • MARO, laureate and draped bust if Virgil left / Large EPO; flower below. CNI IV 18; Rossi, Gonzaga
43; Bignotti 2 (Federico I). Good VF, brown patina. Very rare.
Ex Owen Parsons Collection (Baldwin’s 12, 27 May 1997), lot 1115 (part of).
Inheriting the Marquisate from his father in 1519, it was Federico’s support of Carlos V and imperial forces which allowed the Sack of Rome in 1527. Attempting to further his possessions, Federico signed a marriage contract the heir to the Marquisate of Monteferrat, only to renege when it appeared that the health of the current Marquis had improved. He then attempted a contract between the aunt of the Holy Roman Emperor, Julia de Aragon, only to renege again upon the sudden death of the Marquis of Monteferrat. Federico returned to his former negotiations and, following the death of the last legitimate male heir of the Palaiologos family, became the Marquis of Montferrat as well.
The obverse of this coin depicts the great Roman poet Virgil, while the reverse legend on this coin could possibly be expanded “epicorum poetarum optimo.” Virgil was born in the village of Andes (modern Virgilio), near Mantua. The choice by the Gonzagas to honor not only a native son, but also a celebrated classical writer is not surprising for a family at the center of the vibrant artistic scene of the Renaissance.