101904 | GERMANY & ITALY. GERMANY. "Totentanz" satirical cast iron Medal.
101904 | GERMANY. Satirical cast iron Medal. Issued 1916. Totentanz (Dance of Death) series: Death chokes Italy (69mm, 94.88 g, 12). By W. Eberbach.
FÜR • LATEINISCHE • BUNDES • / TREUE / 1915 / TRIENT 1916 FRIAUL (for Latin loyalty 1915, Trentino 1916 Friuli), Death on its knees facing slightly left, choking the Lupa Romana (representing Italy) / Legend in five lines: AN / SIDNEY / SONNINO / DEN • REDEGE / WANDTEN (to Sidney Sonnino, the eloquent one); all within scaled polylobe. Edge: Some filing marks as made, otherwise plain.
The Art of Devastation, p. 263, no. 59; Frankenhuis 1499. Choice Mint State. Deep charcoal gray surfaces, with a delightful matte nature; a few light flecks on the reverse are mentioned merely for completeness. A rare piece from an increasingly desirable series. Compare to a similar example that realized a total of $2,640 in the 2021 Stack's Bowers ANA auction (lot 40404).
Similar to the satirical medallic issues of Karl Goetz, Walther Eberbach was inspired by the events of World War I to create a series of rather morbid medals to propagandize the German war effort. The theme upon which he decided to focus was the Totentanz, or "Dance of Death." This series of issues, a divergence from the ephemeral topic of vanitas, portrayed Death as a skeleton, quite gleefully taking joy in the demise of his enemies—the allied powers—rather than a subtle reflection upon life and death. This frank morbidity is expressed by Eberbach himself in a letter to Julius Menadier, in which he writes "...I want whoever holds the pieces in their hands years later to be overcome by the shudder grimness." It's safe to say that, in this desire, Eberbach was astoundingly successful.
After initially joining World War I one the side the Triple Alliance/Central Powers, Italy, under her foreign minister, Sidney Sonnino, signed the Treaty of London in secret, which saw her switch sides and join the allied powers. Additionally, should the allies be successful, the treaty included plans to dismantle the Austro-Hungarian Empire, at least in part to Italy's benefit. The suggestion of this medal is that Italy (represented by the Lupa Romana—the fabled she-wolf that suckled the twins, Romulus and Remus) was receiving her payback for signing such a treaty, namely in the battering which she suffered at the hands of Austria-Hungary in the Trentino Offensive/Battle of Asiago in May–June 1916.
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