Laura Maria Caterina Bassi (1711–1778), professor of philosophy at the University of Bologna
2 3/4 in. (7 cm.)
Medium and Support
Gift of Amanda Marchesa Molinari
The portrait medal of Laura Maria Caterina Bassi is a celebratory symbol of her achievement as the first female professor at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the western hemisphere. The portrait of Bassi, designed by Antonio Lazari, was probably worn or displayed by people associated with the University. The inclusion of Minerva and the allegory of Philosophy on the reverse not only alludes to Laura Bassi’s defended thesis in philosophy but also assigns the qualities of both figures to her character.
170 LAURA MARIA CATERINA BASSI, professor of philosophy at the University of Bologna 1732
Obv. Bust to left, laureate. Around, LAVRA MAR . CATH . BASSI BON . PHIL . DOCT . COLLEG . LECT . PVB . | INST . SCIEN . SOC . AN . XX . MDCCXXXII Rev. Minerva with lamp and shield facing female figure with open book and laurel wreath; between them an owl on a globe. Around, * SOLI CUI FAS VIDISSE MINERVAM * ; on listel, . ANT . LAZARI . FEC . Gilt bronze, struck, 70 mm. Ring attached at top
Brescia calls the woman on the reverse Laura Bassi; Houston calls her Philosophy. The medal commemorates Bassi's completion of her laureate, appointment to the faculty of the University of Bologna and acceptance into the Society of Science and Letters, all at the age of twenty.
Bibl.: Houston, no. 306; Forrer 3, p. 350; Brescia i, p. 165, no. 1103; MM. 2, p. 413, pl. 202, 2; Michelangelo Gualandi, "Medaglia e ricordi dell' antico reggimento in Lode di Laura Bassi," Almanacco Bolognese, num. 13 (1842); C. Johnson, "Tre medaglie e tre donne 'colte' nell'Italia settecentesca," in Medaglia, anno. 3, no. 6 (1973), pp. 29-39 (at pp. 29-34), fig. 19.
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