JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 

Many medals have been issued celebrating Jews and their accomplishments. One of the earliest, thought to be by the eminent Italian medallist, Pastorino de Pastorini, and considered to be an extraordinary historical document of one of the most prominent Jewish families of the sixteenth century, is shown in figure 45. It is a uniface medal, made in Portugal about 1528, of the niece of her more famous aunt of the same name, Gracia Mendes Nasi. The finely sculptured piece portrays a young woman wearing a rich broach. Around the figure is a Hebrew inscription of her name

 Edict of Toleration Medal
Figure 45. Gracia Nasi, the Younger Medal

Pastorino de Pastorini ?, Belgium, ca. 1558, Bronze cast uniface medal, 62 mm. (Image courtesy of Busso Peus Nacht.)

Gracia Mendes Nasi, the elder, was a diplomat, philanthropist and business-woman and one of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. The family originally was from Spain but fled to Portugal in 1492 when the Catholic monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, expelled the Jews from Spain. In 1497, along with all the other Jews living in Portugal at that time, they were forcibly converted to Catholicism, becoming Conversos (also called Crypto Jews, Marranos and Secret Jews). Later in life, Gracia Nasi devoted much of her time to helping hundreds of Conversos escape from the Inquisition.

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