My last article featured a great example of a Roman silver portrait Denarius of Julius Caesar, which was up for sale at Empire Auctions in Toronto recently, and it was hammered down at $9500 plus a 15% buyers premium or almost $11,000 before taxes!
I would think that by now our readers must have a some idea of my fascination with, and love for, historical and commemorative medals. There is something about the incredible artistry and execution of these works of medallic art that has captured my imagination for decades. The medal pictured above is a classic example of that love.
First, a little background on the origins of this remarkable art form. “The medal finds its roots in the coins of Imperial Rome, which carried the portrait of the Emperor on one side and a scene of commemoration on the other, but it evolved into the form more recognizable today in renaissance Italy in the early fifteenth century” wrote Christopher Elmer in the introduction of his 2010 catalog “British Commemorative Medals and their values.” The artists making these medals were free from the constraints and controls involved in the production of coinage allowing the art form to blossom. The relatively small production runs and general size of medals gave way to more and more impressive issues.
The medal pictured here was produced in 1694 to commemorate the British campaigns of that year in Holland. It was executed by a German medalist by the name of Philip Heinrich Muller (1654-1719).
The English, along with their allies, recaptured the city of Huy, relieved the siege of Peterwardein and passage of the Rhein over the Turks and their allies. The obverse features seven Genii, represented as a cherub army, each holding a standard of the countries or states involved in the military campaigns; Austria, England, Holland, Poland, Savoy, Spain and Venice. The reverse shows Victory standing amongst three seated river gods. It is made of silver and is about two inches in diameter and is in truly remarkable condition.
This medal, which spent many years in my personal collection, has recently been sent over to England to auction at Dix, Noonan and Webb for their December 14th sale. One in silver sold earlier this year in a German auction for more than 4,000 Euros and we have to go back 11 years to find a record of another example having sold.
Historical and commemorative medals have been produced to mark everything from royal Coronations, births and deaths to important people, places and things, to awards for academics, arts, athletics and everything in between. Next time you have a chance to see medals for sale or on display, please take a moment to enjoy them and you hopefully will understand my passion for them.
Be well and be safe, enjoy the holidays and keep hunting for treasures!