Estimated at up to £10,000, it was bought by The Cloisters Museum in New York for £18,000.
The history, authorship and iconography of these medals is complex. However, they are thought to copy one of the two large gold medals of Constantine and Heraclius recorded in the inventory of the important early collector Jean Duc de Berry (1340-1416).
Pieces from the duc’s collections were made available to French artists. This image of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610-641) in a covered triumphal chariot drawn by three horses became the inspiration for one of the illuminations in the Belles Heures, the celebrated Book of Hours commissioned by the duc around 1409.
As it is now in the medieval art collections of The Cloisters Museum, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the medal represented a perfect acquisition.
The original gold Heraclius medal was stolen from the royal collections and melted down in 1831. The silver version, bought by Sir Timothy – former director of the Scottish National Gallery – in Paris in the early 1970s, is one of only two known repoussé versions, the others being solid casts.
The sale on June 13 was followed two days later with two of the marble mourners from de Berry’s tomb being pre-empted by the Louvre at Christie’s in Paris.
The buyer’s premium was 20%.