Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


SOLDANI-BENZI, Massimiliano: Sweden, ca. 1681, Bronze, 62 mm
Obv: Bust of Christina (r)    REGINA CHRISTINA
Rev: A bird of paradise flying high over clouds and a barren landscape.    MI NIHIL IN TERRIS (The World Is Not Enough for me)
Signed: Unsigned
Ref: Hild. 315/111;  Weiss BW568

Christina (1626-1689) was the daughter of Gustavus II Adolphus who died in the battle of Lutzen in 1632 when she was only six years old. She became queen of Sweden on her 18th birthday in 1644 and reigned as queen until 1654. Intellectually sharp and skilled in politics, one of her greatest achievements was in the agreement of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years' War. Her reign was cut short by her desire to become a Catholic, and she was forced to abdicate after only ten years because Catholicism was banned in her own country. Pope Alexander VII invited her to Rome, where Christina arrived in 1655. She still behaved as a queen, however, involving herself in attempts to gain a new kingdom. She was a very colorful personality in seventeenth-century Rome, as a patron of the arts (she encouraged the sculptor Bernini and the composer Alessandro Scarlatti) and player on the political stage.
Christina had a large collection of ancient coins and gems and commissioned a remarkable thirty-seven medals of herself in her lifetime. She intended the Florentine medal maker Massimiliano Soldani (1656-1740) to make over one hundred medals for her, as a 'medallic history' of her life. Despite being scarred by smallpox and having a deformed shoulder, Soldani shows her in his medals as a classical beauty, crowned with laurel, like a muse. (From www.thebritishmuseum)

The bird of paradise, which is depicted on the reverse of this medal, is closely related to the bowerbird and crow and belongs to the family Paradisaeidae. There are 43 species, 35 of which are confined to New Guinea. There are 3 species in the Moluccas and several species of the less spectacular riflebirds in eastern Australia. Spaniards in the 16th century coined the name bird of paradise when magnificent bird skins were brought to Europe aboard Magellan's ship, Victoria. The scene on the medal perhaps is meant to refer to Christina's devotion to the spiritual world over her place in politics.

LINK to Portrait and Biography of Christina of Sweden (from Wikipedia)