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Lot 719





Estimate: 1'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 1'000 CHF Price realized: 2'000 CHF
The Knights of St. John in Malta. Alof de Wignacourt, 54th Grand Master, 1601-1622. Zecchino. n.d. 1601-1622. AV 3.35 g. F.ALOFIVS.DE. - WIGNACOVRT The Grand Master kneeling l., receiving from St. John, nimbat and standing r., staff with the flag of the Order; below flag, M/H and rosette. Rev. DA MICHI.VIRTVTE. - CONTRA.HOSTES.T. Within mandorla, Christ, nimbate, standing facing, holding Book of Gospels in his l. hand, his r. hand raised in benediction; in field l. four stars, r. five stars. Azzopardi, Malta 733; Fr. 10; Restelli-Sammut 79, 4 and pl. XXI, 4; Schembri 74, 2 and pl.12, 2.
Scarce. Almost extremely fine
Provenance: Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel - Fixed Price List 360 (1974), 64.
Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, 1601-1622.
Wignacourt was a good naval commander, an excellent diplomat, and, in addition, seems to have been liked by all members of the Order; at the death of Garzes he was apparently unanimously elected his successor. He managed to end all internal dissensions and directed many successful and lucrative raids against the Ottomans in Greece and around the Aegean. This enraged the Turks so much that they launched an invasion in 1614, but this was driven off with no great trouble. The Grand Master also made a major improvement to Malta’s infrastructure by building an aqueduct to supply Valletta with water. One distinguished visitor to Malta during this period was the artist Caravaggio who fled there in 1607 after killing a man in Rome in 1606. He produced a number of great paintings during his stay (including a superb portrait of Wignacourt) but he had to leave Malta on the run by 1608 when he seems to have badly damaged a Knight in a somewhat obscure brawl. His Decollation of St. John in the Co-cathedral of St. John in Valletta is the only painting he signed. Monetarily Wignacourt’s reign presents no real novelties, though he did reform the coinage in 1609, introducing dates and denominational marks on some of the silver. However, since by 1609 large numbers of false German and Hungarian talers were found to be in circulation on Malta it was decreed on 20 August that all coins of these types had to be brought in to be assayed: the counterfeits would be melted down and the good pieces stamped with the arms of the Grand Master as a guarantee. As of today only a few Dutch Leeuwendaalders are known with these countermarks: this collection contains a hitherto unpublished taler of the Archduke Ferdinand II (1564-1595) with such a countermark (below, lot 118).

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