Medal pendant

WB.179     1608–19 • Enamelled gold, pearls • medallion pendant

In the centre is Johann Sigismund, elector of Brandenburg (1572–1619). From 1615 he allowed both Lutheran and Calvinist worship in Brandenburg.

Curator's Description

Pendant oval medallion of Johann Sigismund, Margrave of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia; gold; cast and enamelled; obverse: bust to right; reverse: shield of twelve quarters with inescutcheon of the hereditary chamberlain, surmounted by Electoral bonnet; scroll border with enamel imitating emeralds; suspended by three chains from figure of Imperial Eagle with arms of hereditary chamberlain; inscribed.

This object was collected and bequeathed to the British Museum by Ferdinand Anselm Rothschild.

How big is it?

5.7 cm wide, 10.9 cm high, 0.5 cm deep, and it weighs 43g

Detailed Curatorial Notes

Text from Tait 1986:-

Origin: German, probably Berlin, 1608-19.

Provenance: None is recorded.

Commentary: The medal is discussed in Julius Menadier, ‘Schaumünzen des Hauses Hohenzollern’, Berlin, 1901, no. 94, and appears to date from the period when Johann Sigismund was Elector of Brandenburg (1608-19). Johann Sigismund was born in 1572, the eldest son of Joachim Friedrich (Administrator of Magdeburg and, from 1598, Elector of Brandenburg). His wife, Anna, was at the centre of the conflict over the successor to Duke William of Julich-Cleves, and consequently Johann Sigismund had an important political role to play in that struggle during the last decade of the sixteenth century which brought the great powers to the very brink of major hostilities. In 1608 he succeeded as Elector of Brandenburg and, in the following year, joined the Protestant Union along with the Landgrave Maurice of Hesse-Cassel, who had openly adopted Calvinism in 1609 and was a pensioner of France (see WB.173). Johann Sigismund's daughter, Maria Eleonora, was married to Gustavus Adolphus (1620) and another daughter, Katherine, to the Prince of Transylvania, Gábor Bethlen, in 1625 (see WB.197).

Another ‘gnadenpfennig’ depicting Johann Sigismund facing right is preserved in Berlin (see Börner 1981, no. 42, col. pl. 27). The armour is similarly enamelled but not the ground of the inscription; on the reverse the 'sceptre-shield' in the elaborate quartering of the coat of arms is also enamelled in blue. The 'cartouche' at the top of the three chains is also an eagle with outspread wings, though set with an amethyst in the centre; the enamelled frame is set with diamonds and rubies.

An earlier ‘gnadenpfennig’ of Johann Sigismund full face is dated 1610 and is preserved in Berlin (see Börner 1981, no. 40, col. pl. 26). Again the armour is enamelled in blue but the band of the inscription is enamelled in white. The gem-set enamelled mount is still complete with its three gem-set enamelled chains and openwork 'cartouche' together with the numerous mounted pearls. Yet again, on the reverse, the 'sceptre-shield' in the centre is the only quartering to be enamelled in blue, though the inscription is enamelled in white.

An identically designed frame but without the three pendant pearls is preserved in Berlin (see Börner 1981, no. 45, pl. 29); it is a gold ‘gnadenpfennig’ of the Margrave Johann Georg von Brandenburg (1577-1624). The medal is dated 1609 and the setting is thought to date from c.1610; this prince was Herzog zu Jägerndorf from 1606 to 1621.

For a further note on these gnadenpfennige, see WB.180.


  • Charles Hercules Read, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest: Catalogue of the Works of Art bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898’, London, 1902, no. 179
  • O.M. Dalton, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest’, 2nd edn (rev), British Museum, London, 1927, no. 179
  • Lore, Börner, ‘Deutsche Medaillenkleindode des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts’, Leipzig, 1981, p. 148, no. 43, col. pl. 28
  • Hugh Tait, 'Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum. 1., The Jewels', British Museum, London, 1986, no. 179, pl. XXVI, fig. 175.
  • References

    1. Read 1902: Read, Charles Hercules, The Waddesdon Bequest. Catalogue of the Works of Art Bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898, London, BMP, 1902
    2. Dalton 1927: Dalton, Ormonde Maddock, The Waddesdon Bequest : jewels, plate, and other works of art bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild., London, BMP, 1927
    3. Tait 1986: Tait, Hugh, Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum; I The Jewels, London, BMP, 1986

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