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102793 | GREAT BRITAIN. Battle of Waterloo copper electrotype Medal.

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    102793  |  GREAT BRITAIN. Battle of Waterloo copper electrotype Medal. Issued circa 1861. Commemorating the great victory of the Quadruple Alliance over Napoleon in 1815 (132mm, 680.90 g, 12h). By B. Pistrucci and produced by 'Mr. Johnson of Alexandra Terrace, Bayswater.'


    Conjoined laureate and draped busts left of the allied sovereigns: George III, King of Great Britain, Franz II, Emperor of Austria, Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, and Wilhelm III, King of Prussia; around, allegorical and mythological allusions to the Treaty of Peace, which resulted from the Battle of Waterloo: above, Apollo driving quadriga left, restoring the day; to upper right, the rainbow Zephyr and Iris following to right; to upper left, Gemini indicating the month in which the battle occurred; to right, Hercules seated right upon rock, suppressing the Furies within the Cimmerian caverns below; to left, Themis, the protector of the Just, seated left; to lower left, the Fates spinning the future, indicating that human actions will be governed by Justice alone; below, Night, the mother of the Fates, receding into darkness // Two equestrian figures, in classical attire and with the features of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard von Blücher, being guided to the battle by Victory; around, the Battle of the Giants, being silenced from above by the thunder of Jupiter, driving facing quadriga. Edge: Seam as made.


    BHM 870; Eimer 1067a; Bramsen 2317; Julius 3368. Essentially as Made. Light brassy-brown surfaces, with some slightly darker hues around the devices. A great example of this majestic issue, and a rarer version existing as a single piece rather than as two halves.


    Ex David Nicholas Silich Collection.


    Following the monumental victory of the quadruple alliance (Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia) over Napoléon, cause for a great celebration was in course. The latter had plunged much of western Europe into chaos, and his subsequent banishment to St. Helena meant that peace could return. It was then decided that an equally magnificent medal ought to be produced in order to celebrate such a worthy victory, with Benedetto Pistrucci eventually tasked to create the dies in 1819, a few years after the initial concept. For the next three decades, this medal would seemingly consume much of Pistrucci's attention. While he had other duties in the world of engraving, such as for the various coinage designs of Great Britain, the great Waterloo medal continued at a veritable snail's pace. After many delays, Pistrucci finished the dies in 1849, with nearly all of the key figures involved in the victory having since passed away, save for the Duke of Wellington. One problem remained, however, in that the magnum opus was so great that Pistrucci, as well as other mint officials, worried about the hardening process involved in finishing the dies for striking. Should there be an issue during this annealing process, the entire three-decade-long artistic pursuit could be lost in an instant. Indeed, the dies remain to this day in their original state.


    Alternatively, Pistrucci suggested that impressions be made in gutta-percha, a plastic substance. This seemingly occurred just before Pistrucci's death in 1855, which allowed him to claim the balance of the commission owed to him for the production of the medal. Given the unhardened nature of the dies, however, strikings could not be produced. As such, a 'Mr. Johnson of Alexandra Terrace, Bayswater' was assigned the task of producing eletrotypes of the medal so that the public could finally, some 36 years following the battle, glimpse upon the design, or even purchase one of the electrotypes. Given the electrotype process, original examples produced tend to vary in diameter, ranging from 130-140mm, with the thickness of the rim being the main area of variance. As such, weights can vary by 100 g or so given the range in diameters. Many obverse and reverse "shells" were left unfused, allowing them to be placed upon a backing for mounting upon a wall—both sides face up to be viewed by the owner. A much smaller subset were filled and fused together, such as this example, allowing for the closest one can achieve to that which was originally conceived not long after the victory at Waterloo. In the years since, various mints and authorities have issued "restrikes" of the type, though this is erroneous, as there was never an original strike, in the truest sense of the word. These, too, vary with respect to diameter, and are never as large and impressive as Johnson's originals from around 1861. There also exists much confusion as to the dating of the original electrotypes. Many sources will cite the erroneous date of 1849 (some even suggesting 1815—the date of the battle), but these are incorrect. The battle occurred in 1815, the process for the creation of the dies took an extremely large amount of time, and the dies were finished in 1849—but nothing of substance (with respect to what is seen on the market) took place until 1861, or shortly thereafter. For the entire story on this wondrous medal, please refer to "Pistrucci's Great Waterloo Medal," by G. K. Beulah in issue 7 (Winter 1985) of The Medal.


    Upload: 1 April 2024.


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