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A Guide to the Exhibition of English Medals
Medals serve for two purposes, for the illustration of history and as records of the contemporary state of art. Some series, like that of Italy, have more interest for their artistic merit than their historical import. This may also be said in a great degree of the French medals; but in the English and Dutch series the interest lies rather in the historical value than in the artistic qualities, the medallic art of neither country attaining at any time any high degree of excellence. The medals which are described in this Guide, although to some extent examples of contemporary art, must therefore be considered interesting chiefly as records and illustrations of the history of England for a period of over three hundred years. For this reason a classification of the medals by artists has not been attempted, and a simple chronological order has been preferred. This, however, has been relaxed in a few instances, as in that of the personal medals, which for the most part are placed at the end of the reign in which the persons portrayed flourished; and in a few cases where it has been considered advisable to class together the medals of a particular artist, in order that the merit of his work could be better studied and compared. This has been done in the case of the medals by Stephen of Holland, Simon Passe, and some of those by Thomas and Abraham Simon. The military and naval decorations form a separate series, and are therefore described at the end of the Guide; by this means making the arrangement more useful to those who take special interest in this particular branch. A small selection could, however, only be made from the series in the Museum collection, on account of the limited space for exhibition. In many cases where English medals fail to illustrate important events, selections have been made viii from the Dutch and other series in order to render the historical record as complete as possible. With very few exceptions, there are no medals of interest in the English series dating before the reign of Henry VIII. During the fifteenth century a few counters were struck, which directly or indirectly refer to events in English history; but these are for the most part of French work, and the medal which is placed first in this Guide, although bearing the portrait of an Englishman, John Kendal, is undoubtedly of Italian work, and was probably executed at Venice. The Dassier series of the early sovereigns, being a production of the last century, cannot be said to have a place in the early medallic records of this country, and is not included in this exhibition. The series of English medals may therefore be said to commence with the reign of Henry VIII., of which period, besides a number of interesting jetons and medalets, there are some well-executed medals of the King himself, such as No. 3, his portrait evidently after a painting by Holbein, another recording his supremacy over the Church (Nos. 45), and several remarkable badges. There are also other medals, chiefly personal, which bear the portraits of Sir Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell Earl of Essex, Anne Boleyn, and Michael Mercator, himself a medallist as well as a diplomatist. The short reign of Edward VI. gives but few examples, of which two are exhibited, one bearing only a portrait of the king, which appears to be a cast in lead from a silver plate; and the other, his coronation medal, the type of which was taken from the "Head of the Church" medal of Henry VIII. The only other interesting works of this reign are the Christ's Hospital badges and medalets, the School having been founded by Edward in 1553. Of Mary there is also little worthy of note beyond some excellent portraits of herself and Philip, and a medal which refers to the condition of England during her reign. These were executed by Trezzo at Madrid, and are the first signed medals of the English series. The illness of Elizabeth in 1572, her struggle with the Papal party, as well as her acceptance of the protection of the Netherlands, and the defeat and destruction of the Spanish Armada, afforded subjects for commemoration. The medals relating to the destruction of the Armada are certainly among the finest pieces ix ever produced in England, and are good examples of the art of the time. The period of Elizabeth ends with a series of medallic portraits by Stephen of Holland, most of which bear the date 1562, and all apparently executed about that year. The undisputed accession of the House of Stuart to the English throne and the peaceable reign of its first king limit the subjects for medallic illustration. The medals of the reign of James are purely personal, with few exceptions, such as the Gunpowder Plot (No. 45), and the alliance between England, France, and the United Provinces, for the protection of the latter against the power of Spain (Nos. 4647). The rest present us with several portraits of the King and of various members of the royal family, and of leading personages, of whom are the Marquis (afterwards Duke) of Buckingham, Richard Sackville Earl of Dorset, Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the public library at Oxford, and others. There is also a series of royal badges, a species of memorial which becomes much more general in the next reign. These are followed by a selection of engraved portraits of royal personages and others by Simon Passe, who excelled in this style of work. ......Buy Now (To Read More)
Ebook Number: 49274
Author: British Museum. Department of Coins and Medals
Release Date: Jun 25, 2015
Contributor (Author): Grueber, Herbert A. (Herbert Appold), 1846-1927
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