Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


SOLDANI-BENZI, Massimiliano: Italy, 1684, Bronze (cast), 87 mm
Obv: Bust of Francisco Redi     FRANCISCVS . REDI . PATRITIVS . ARETINVS  (Francesco Redi, Patrician of Arezzo)
Rev: Bacchanal with figures of Bacchus and Silenus with maenads and satyrs    CANEBAM (I Have Sung)
Signed:  M. SOLD.
Ref: Molinari, 145; Vannel and Toderi, 36; Johnson 140, fig. 126;  Jones, Art of the Medal, 90/227;  Europese Penningen # 1350;  Weiss BW384

Francesco Redi (1626-1697) was an Italian physician, naturalist and poet. He studied philosophy and medicine at Florence and Pisa, where he received a doctorate in both subjects. Redi was chosen as a personal physician by the Dukes of Tuscany and was chief physician to Ferdinand II and Cosimo III de' Medici. In the field of medicine or natural history, Redi is best known for his refutation of the theory of spontaneous generation. He is equally celebrated as a philologist and poet.  Redi's poem,  Bacco in Toscana was the inspiration for the Bacchanalia, alluded to in the reverse of this medal. (Freeman).

This is one of a group of three medals, having a similar obverse, that the grand duke commissioned from Soldani in 1684 and 1685 to celebrate Redi as poet, philosopher and scientist.

LINK to the painting  Bacchus by Peter Paul RUBENS (from Web Museum)
LINK to painting Bacchus by Caravaggio (from wikipedia)


Redi did not write systematic treatises, even though he was interested in numerous problems of zoology, botany, chemistry, anatomy, embryology and toxicology. His first work, Osservazioni intorno alle vipere (Observations On Vipers), published in 1664, was a study of the toxicity, the origin and the mode of injection of snake venom. 

Redi's masterpiece, published in 1668, is the Esperienze intorno alla generazione degl'insetti (Experiments On The Generation of Insects), a book which soon became a landmark in the history of modern science. Redi disproved the age-old theory of insects' spontaneous generation by means of an epoch-making experiment, one which introduced a new method of scientific research into science.

This method, which has remained the method of experimental biology ever since, consists of repeating the same experiments in different ways, modifying only one parameter at a time, and carrying out suitable tests. Redi prepared eight jars with different kinds of meat, four of which were left open and four sealed. The outcome was unambiguous: only the first four jars, in which flies had laid eggs, generated maggots which later became flies. The meat in the sealed jars, on the contrary, decomposed but did not generate any living organisms. Moreover Redi introduced an ingenious variation into his experiment in order to exclude the possibility that maggot's life cycle could be affected by their being in sealed jars: he repeated it with two others series of jars, allowing air, but no flies, to enter the test jars: he simply covered these jars with a fine filter. This crucial experiment disproved for all time the spontaneous generation of insects.   (galileo.imss.firenze.it/multi/redi/eopere)