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Jacopo Stradas Magnum ac Novum Opus

DFG Project Jacopo Strada‘s Magnum ac Novum Opus: A Sixteenth-Century Numismatic Corpus


When in the Thirty Years War the Kunstkammer of the Dukes of Bavaria at Munich was plundered by the Swedes, one of its most prestigious items, Jacopo Strada’s corpus of numismatic drawings, his Magnum ac Novum Opus continens descriptionem vitae, imaginum, numismatum omnium tam Orientalium quam Occidentalium Imperatorum ac Tyrannorum, cum collegis ac coniugibus liberisque suis, usque ad Carolum V. Imperatorem, was split up. Four volumes of Republican coins were acquired by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and are now in the British Library, twenty-nine volumes of Imperial coins ended up in the library of Duke Ernst the Pious of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. Though they never reached Munich, two further volumes of very similar drawings in the Austrian National Library in Vienna may likewise have been intended for this corpus. It was a very prestigious work, which was described in the very first items of the 1592 inventory of the Munich Kunstkammer: reputedly Strada had been paid a ducat for each of the ca. 9,000 drawings, each carefully executed in pen, ink and wash. Originally commissioned by Strada’s early patron, Hans Jakob Fugger, the volumes had been acquired by Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, together with Fugger’s entire library and collection. In 1571 the Duke had the drawings bound in splendid bindings decorated with his portrait and his coat of arms.

Though an extremely prestigious object, this veritable corpus of coins of the Roman Empire has never been studied. Reason for this may be that, with the advent of more scientific methods towards the end of the seventeenth century, the reliability of the drawings as sources for genuine ancient coins began to be doubted. Another reason may be that Duke Albrecht did not acquire Strada’s own coin descriptions, which are preserved in the two manuscript copies of his A<ureorum> A<rgenteorum> A<ereorum> NumismatΩn Antiquorum ΔΙΑΣΚΕΥΕ preserved in Viennan and Prague. This was an equally voluminous, separate but complementary work, which contained structured and methodical descriptions and notes on the provenance of each coin Strada had studied. The existence of both Strada’s coin-drawings and his coin-descriptions allow a detailed analysis of Strada interpretation of the coins he had seen, and thus provides a rare opportunity to study the methods of a Renaissance antiquary in great detail.

Indispensable condition for such a comparative study is that images and text be brought virtually together. Therefore the first aim of the project is to digitize both the images and the texts, to provide them with the necessary metadata, and to link the images with the relevant texts. The database of the Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture known in the Renaissance, partner in the project, makes this possible, and in future will allow other researchers and the general public direct access to its results. Moreover a detailed comparison of the textual volumes with the drawings, in conjunction with the relevant archival sources, allows some attempt to reconstitute Strada’s original intention for the Magnum Opus, the order of which was confused when Duke Albrecht, apparently without consulting Strada, ordered the drawings to be bound.

The second step, in which the Census is of equal importance, is the attempt to link Strada’s drawings and descriptions to existing ancient Roman coins. This allows an analysis of the way in which Strada handled his sources, both in his textual interpretation and in his visual rendering. This is of particular importance because of the size of the drawings, which exceeds up to five times the size of the objects they purport to document. Together with Strada’s printed numismatic essay, the Epitome Thesauri Antiquitatum (Lyon 1553), the prefaces to his numismatic manuscripts and passages from his correspondence with his patrons, this will throw light upon his methods. These methods will be placed in the context of precept and practice of earlier and contemporary antiquaries: specific attention will be paid to the possible influence of the Accademia della Virtù in Rome, an informal academy of intellectual noblemen, clerics and artists dedicating itself to the study of Vitruvius and classical architecture and to antiquarian studies in general: both Fugger and Strada had contacts with various members of this circle. Likewise Strada’s practice will be related to the preoccupations of Strada’s patrons, who included the Emperors Ferdinand I and Maximilian II in addition to Fugger and the Duke of Bavaria. Strada’s Magnum ac novum opus was conceived in the same environment as the huge complex of collections built up in Munich under Fugger’s supervision, in which Strada himself was actively involved: it will be attempted to define the place of Strada’s corpus within this complex more closely.

The project will result in a digital interactive edition of the images Strada’s Magnum ac Novum Opus and the text of his A. A. A. NumismatΩn Antiquorum ΔΙΑΣΚΕΥΕ, which will be available as part of the Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture known in the Renaissance. In addition a monograph will present a representative selection of Strada’s drawings in conjunction with his descriptions and the sources on which he based these; the volume will further provide

  • a careful physical description of the material
  • a history of its origin, discussing both its commission and its manufacture in Strada’s workshop and its later history, this will involve an attempt to reconstruct the order of the drawings as Strada intended it
  • an appendix will provide transcriptions and translation of a selection of relevant texts

In addition the volume will contain a number of essays discussing

  • Strada’s artistic personality as evinced in his drawings
  • the place of the Magnum ac novum opus in the history of numismatics as a scientific discipline and in the context of sixteenth-century antiquarian studies in general
  • the place of ancient coins and of numismatic documentation in humanist and princely collecting and in court-patronage.


Period: 2015-2018

Project leadership
Prof. Dr. Martin Mulsow

Project partners
Forschungsbibliothek Gotha
Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the Renaissance

Research fellows

Dr. Volker Heenes
Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt
Postanschrift: Schloss Friedenstein, 99867 Gotha
+49 361 737-1732  volker.heenes(at)

Dr. Dirk Jacob Jansen
Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt
Schloss Friedenstein, 99867 Gotha
+49 361 737-1731  dirk_jacob.jansen(at)

Seat: Hauptmarkt 40, 99867 Gotha

Kontakt / Contact

Sitz / office:
Georgenstr. 47, 10117 Berlin
2. OG / second floor
tel.: ++ 49-30-20 93 66 250
fax: ++ 49-30-20 93 66 251

Anschrift / postal address:
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte / Census
Unter den Linden 6
D - 10099 Berlin

Online-Ausstellung / Online Exhibition