Benedetto Pistrucci

Benedetto Pistrucci (29 May 1783 – 16 September 1855) was an Italian gem-engraver, medallist and coin engraver, probably best known for his Saint George and the Dragon design for the British sovereign coin. Pistrucci was commissioned by the British government to create the large Waterloo Medal, a project which took him thirty years to complete.

Born in Rome in 1783, Pistrucci studied briefly with other artists before striking out on his own at age 15. He became prominent as a cameo carver and was patronised by royalty. In 1815, he moved to Britain, where he would live for most of the rest of his life. His talent brought him to the attention of notables including William Wellesley-Pole, the Master of the Mint. Pole engaged Pistrucci to design new coinage, including the sovereign, which was first issued in 1817 to mixed reactions. Although Pole probably promised Pistrucci the post of Chief Engraver, the position could not be awarded as only a British subject could hold it. This slight became a long-term grievance for Pistrucci.

Talented but temperamental, Pistrucci refused to copy the work of other artists. When in 1823 George IV demanded that an unflattering portrait of him on the coinage be changed with a new likeness to be based on the work of Francis Chantrey, Pistrucci refused and was nearly dismissed. The Mint did not dismiss him, lest the money already spent on the Waterloo Medal be wasted. Pistrucci kept his place with the Mint for the rest of his life, eventually completing the Waterloo Medal in 1849, though because of its great size it could not be struck. After Pistrucci's death, the George and Dragon design was restored to the sovereign coin, and is still used today.

Cameo of Benedetto Pistrucci
Cameo of Pistrucci (ca. 1850, by his daughter, Elisa)

Early life and career (1783–1815)

Benedetto Pistrucci was born in Rome on 24 May 1783, second child and son of Federico Pistrucci, Senior Judge of the High Criminal Court under the papal government, and Antonia (née Greco). His elder brother Filippo displayed artistic tendencies from a young age, but Benedetto showed mainly a disinclination to study. Federico Pistrucci wanted his sons to follow in his footsteps and sent them to Latin schools. Benedetto began his education in Bologna, where the family had property, but the Pistrucci family was forced to move to Rome in 1794 when Napoleon invaded Italy, and the boys were enrolled in the Roman College.[1]

Napoleon had put a price on Federico Pistrucci's head, as he had prosecuted Bonapartist rebels, so the family fled Rome when the French advanced towards it, stopping in Frosinone, where the boys were again put into an academic school. Filippo satisfied his father with enough academic achievement that he was allowed to take a job with a painter named Mango. Deprived of his brother, Benedetto became despondent and was eventually allowed to work at Mango's. There, he quickly displayed his artistic talent.[1] Mango told Benedetto of his brother Giuseppe Mango, a cameo engraver in Rome. With the Pope and the French having made peace, the family was able to return there, and Benedetto Pistrucci began his training as a cameo carver. He advanced quickly, also taking lessons from Stefano Tofanelli, and soon Giuseppe Mango was selling Pistrucci's carvings as his own.[2] Realising that his works were being sold as counterfeit antiques, Pistrucci began placing a secret mark, the Greek letter λ (lambda) on his creations.[3]

Benedetto pistrucci, bacco, sardonice, 1800 ca
A Pistrucci cameo (1800)

Pistrucci's obvious talent made his fellow apprentices envious, and one provoked a fight with him, stabbing him in the abdomen before Pistrucci fended off the attack. Recovering at home, he taught himself to model with wax.[4] Federico Pistrucci decided his son would be better off with a new master, and secured a position for him with Giuseppe Cerbara, but the boy refused, believing that he would have to work in poor conditions. A place with gem-carver Nicolo Morelli was secured,[5] and Pistrucci also attended the scuola del nudo art academy at the Campidoglio, where in 1800 he took the first prize for sculpture.[3] Pistrucci felt Morelli was seeking to profit from his ability while giving him little training, and left his position at the age of 15, working from the family home. He was able to pay rent, as from the beginning he had ample commissions for cameos.[5]

Pistrucci's early clients included two of Rome's major art dealers, Ignazio Vescovali and Angelo Bonelli, and Napoleon's three sisters, Elisa, Pauline and Caroline.[3] Pistrucci gained prominence by winning a competition to make a cameo of Elisa (the Grand Duchess of Tuscany), working nearly nonstop for eight days to complete it. The Grand Duchess was so impressed by his work that she gave him studio space at her palace.[2] Pistrucci felt secure enough with this patronage that in 1802, he married Barbara Folchi, daughter of a well-to-do merchant; they had nine children together.[3] He continued working in Rome, turning out portrait cameos and engraved gems, until 1814.[2]

Benedetto pistrucci, menade, sardonice, 1810 ca
Cameo, 1810

Bonelli returned from a successful trip to Britain in 1814 and proposed that Pistrucci go back with him, arguing that the artist's future was there.[3] Pistrucci was willing, and after making provision for his family left Rome with Bonelli. They first stopped in Perugia so that Pistrucci could say farewell to his brother Filippo, but found him willing to accompany them. By Turin, Filippo Pistrucci had decided that Bonelli was not to be trusted, and so informed his brother. When they reached Paris in December 1814, the brothers refused to accompany Bonelli further, and after making threats, the dealer departed. Filippo soon returned to Italy, but Benedetto Pistrucci found his name and art were known in Paris, and set to work. He was there when Napoleon returned from Elba, beginning the Hundred Days, but worked on, unaffected by the war. He saw Napoleon in a garden, and always having a ball of wax with him, quietly modelled the emperor, the last portrait of him done in Europe. After the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, Pistrucci began preparations to move on to Britain,[6] but it was not until 31 December that he arrived there.[3]

Rise to prominence (1815–1819)

George III sovereign MET DP100392
Reverse of the 1817 sovereign

On arrival at Dover, Pistrucci had difficulty with Customs, possibly caused by Bonelli's malice. Once he was able to, he journeyed to London. He had letters of introduction to several people, and Charles Konig, Keeper of Minerals at the British Museum, proved a loyal friend. Through Konig, Pistrucci met the famous naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, who commissioned the artist to do a portrait of him. While Banks was sitting for Pistrucci, the connoisseur Richard Payne Knight came by, anxious to show Sir Joseph a cameo fragment he had purchased, and which he dated to Ancient Greece. After Banks praised it highly, Pistrucci, on examining it, identified it as his own work, displaying the secret mark he had placed on it. The incident increased Pistrucci's reputation in London.[7]

Pistrucci was introduced to Lord and Lady Spencer by Banks. Lady Spencer showed Pistrucci a model of Saint George and the Dragon by Nathaniel Marchant and commissioned him to reproduce it in the Greek style as part of her husband's regalia as a Knight of the Garter. Pistrucci had already been thinking of such a work, and he produced the cameo.[8] The model for the saint was an Italian waiter at Brunet's Hotel in Leicester Square, where he had stayed after coming to London.[9]

Sir Joseph commissioned Pistrucci to craft a cameo of King George III. As the King was ill with porphyria, Pistrucci modelled the likeness from Marchant's three-shilling bank token, and cut it in red jasper for a fee of 50 guineas. Banks showed the cameo to William Wellesley-Pole, elder brother of the Duke of Wellington and the Master of the Mint, who was greatly impressed by the quality of what he saw. At this time, the Royal Mint was preparing to issue new gold and silver coins as part of the Great Recoinage of 1816, and in June of that year, Pole decided to hire Pistrucci to make models in stone for the new coinage that could be converted into steel dies by the Mint's engravers.[9]

Pole had Pistrucci create three portraits of the King in different sizes. Only two were used, one for the obverse of the half crown, and the other for the shilling and sixpence. Both were modified by Thomas Wyon of the Mint, who engraved the designs in steel. What was dubbed the "bull head" of the King on the 1816 half crown was disliked by the public, and it was replaced by another in 1817. The criticism incensed Pistrucci, who blamed Wyon for bungling the design, and who set about learning to engrave in steel himself.[10]

After completing Lady Spencer's commission, by most accounts, Pistrucci suggested to Pole that an appropriate subject for the sovereign, a new gold coin equal to one pound that was to be struck, would be Saint George. Until the early 20th century, gold coins were struck for circulation, rather than as bullion pieces. Kevin Clancy, in his volume on the history of the sovereign coin, doubted whether the Spencer commission was truly the inspiration for the George and Dragon design which that coin has long featured, and that the idea might not even have come from Pistrucci. Clancy argued that such motifs were common at the time and that the story originated with Pistrucci, whom he deemed an unreliable witness on his own past.[11][12]

For a fee of 100 guineas (£105), Pistrucci created the sovereign's design, engraving it himself. He depicted the saint atop a fiery steed which is trampling the wounded dragon. George has a broken spear in his hand; part is in the dragon and the remainder on the ground. Pistrucci's original design, used for circulation in 1817–1819 and reprised by the Royal Mint in 2017, has the ribbon of the Order of the Garter surrounding the George and dragon design, with its motto HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE.[12] The design, with Saint George bearing a sword rather than a spear, is ordinarily seen on the sovereign, and was also used for the crown from 1818. Clancy noted of the design process for the crown, "what emerges is the presence of Pole at each turn. He bombarded the young artist with suggestions and instructions on how the design should be changed from the shape of the sword to the perceived ferocity of the dragon."[13] Pistrucci had placed his full last name on both sides of the crown, for which he was criticised by the public, and some said the saint would surely fall off his horse with the next blow.[14]

After the death in 1817 of Thomas Wyon Sr, the father of the man who had adapted Pistrucci's designs, Pole most probably offered Pistrucci the post of chief engraver at the Royal Mint, with a salary of £500 per annum. and a house within the grounds of the Mint. However, it soon appeared that a law passed under William III barred foreigners from the post, and so Pole left it vacant, while granting Pistrucci the salary and emoluments of the office. Sir John Craig wrote in his history of the Royal Mint: "The arrangement was not put into writing, and misunderstanding was easy for a foreigner. Pole categorically denied any commitment beyond the grant for the time being of a salary for coinage designs as cheaper than payment of fees. The Italian persistently contended that he was seduced into Mint service by a promise of formal appointment to the chief engravership".[15] According to H.W.A. Linecar in his book on British coin designs and designers, "the arrangement might have worked very well, even though it was against accepted procedure, had Pistrucci been other than he was."[16]

In 1819, Pistrucci was awarded the commission to design the Waterloo Medal, a huge piece some 5.3 inches (130 mm) in diameter that the government planned to award to the victorious generals and national leaders who had defeated Napoleon. Such a medal had been proposed by the Prince Regent (later George IV) soon after the battle. Pistrucci's price was £2,400, and the down payment allowed him to bring his family from Italy. The medal was originally supposed to be to a design by John Flaxman, but Pistrucci refused to engrave the work of another artist, and Pole allowed him to design his own medal, a decision that antagonised London's art establishment against Pistrucci. A gigantic undertaking, the medal would take Pistrucci 30 years to complete.[3][17]

Conflict at the Mint (1820–1836)

Sovereign George IV 1821 131476
A George IV sovereign, with the head so disliked by the King

After the death of George III in 1820, Pistrucci prepared the coinage bust of the new King, George IV. The King despised Pistrucci's work for its bloated expression[18]—according to Clancy, "its full features implying something of the appetites of the monarch".[19] The King and Pistrucci also came into conflict over the Coronation medal, with the King objecting to being placed on the same level as the allegorical representations of his kingdoms. Pistrucci stated, "I shall elevate His Majesty", and did so. The King's toupee also caused difficulty in the engraving process.[20] On the coinage, the sovereign was modified to remove its garter, and the saint's broken spear was replaced by a sword. Thus, it became very similar to the design used on modern-day sovereigns[21] but for the lack of a streamer on Saint George's helmet. This version of the reverse was struck from 1821 to 1825,[a] but Pistrucci's design would be thereafter absent from the sovereign from 1825 to 1874, after his death.[22]

Aware of King George's dissatisfaction at the coinage effigy, the Mint played for time.[23] Pole's resignation in 1823 deprived Pistrucci of a friend and supporter at the Mint.[24] Sculptor Francis Chantrey had prepared a bust of the King which the monarch liked, and ordered that it be placed on the coinage. Pistrucci would not copy the work of another artist, and refused. The new coinage of 1823–1825 was engraved by Pistrucci's assistant, Jean-Baptiste Merlen, and by William Wyon;[25] Pistrucci was thereafter excluded from work on the coinage. The Mint considered sacking Pistrucci, but realised that if it did, the £1,700 advanced for fees and expenses on the Waterloo medal would probably be wasted, and he kept his position and pay on condition he focused on the completion of the medal. Despite this, by 1826, only a portion of one side had been completed.[26] Though the banishment of the George and Dragon design from the sovereign after 1825 was more part of a general redesign of the coinage than an attack upon Pistrucci, according to Clancy he "cannot have masked the sense he must have felt of tides turning against him".[19]

There was conflict at the Mint between Pistrucci and William Wyon, that sometimes involved Merlen.[27] According to Graham Pollard in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Pistrucci's temperament did not foster good relations with his colleagues at the mint; the insecurity of his position there was deepened by a spasmodic but bitter campaign conducted through the newspapers by his partisans and those of William Wyon."[3] Pistrucci appealed to each new Master of the Mint for appointment to the post of chief engraver. In 1828, the incumbent Master, George Tierney, worked a compromise that satisfied no one. Wyon was appointed as chief engraver, and Pistrucci as chief medallist, with the salaries of the top two engraving positions divided between them. Of Pistrucci's salary of £350, £50 was conditional on his training an apprentice. Pistrucci in succession named two of his sons, but the allowance was stopped after 1830 as it had come to light that each resided abroad, and one was not a British subject and so was ineligible for regular Mint employment.[28] Pistrucci's understanding of the arrangement was that he would create such medals as might be ordered by government departments, with each medal a separate fee in addition to the annual salary.[29][30]

This effectively left Pistrucci with little to do at the Mint.[30] He created several medallic works, for example a small memorial medal for the King's brother, Frederick, Duke of York in 1827 that was popular, in royal circles, mounted in rings.[31] He was asked to design the Coronation medal after King William IV came to the throne on George's death in 1830, but declined as he was asked to copy a bust by Chantrey, and the King refused to sit for him.[32] He created, in 1830–1831, the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, the first non-campaign medal of the British Army. He took twelve months to do so, a period of time Craig found unduly long.[28] He continued to cut cameos, and to work, slowly, on the Waterloo Medal. Pistrucci's biographer, Michael A. March, tied his disinclination to work on the Waterloo Medal to his unhappiness about his position at the Mint, and he may have concluded that he would be sacked if he finished the medal. In 1836, the new Master, Henry Labouchere, stated that he felt the medal could be finished in 18 months, and offered Pistrucci payment if he would take on four apprentices and finish it. Pistrucci declined.[33]

Later career and death (1837–1855)

The Waterloo Medal MET DP118486
The Waterloo Medal MET DP118487
The Waterloo Medal

Pistrucci enjoyed a friendly relationship with Princess Victoria of Kent, the niece and heiress presumptive of King William, and cut several cameos of her. After she succeeded to the throne as Queen Victoria in 1837, Pistrucci was selected to sculpt her Coronation medal, which he did; the Queen granted him several sittings. Although the Queen was pleased, there were mixed reviews. When questions were asked in the House of Commons, Labouchere stated that Pistrucci may have been ill.[34] Joseph Hume opined that the reverse was no better done than the cheap medals sold in the streets for a penny each.[30] In 1838, Pistrucci made the silver seal of the Duchy of Lancaster, using a new process by which the punch or die could be cast in metal directly from the original wax or clay mould, rather than having to be copied by hand engraving.[35] The following year, Pistrucci left for Rome to take up a position as chief engraver at the papal mint, but returned to London a few months later, deeming the salary too low.[36]

By the early 1840s, the Audit Office was questioning the amount spent on Pistrucci. In 1844, the Master of the Mint, William Gladstone restored Pistrucci's salary to the full £350 and offered him £400 to complete the Waterloo Medal.[37] Pistrucci moved his residence from the Mint on Tower Hill to Fine Arts Cottage, Old Windsor, and set to work in full earnest. He was slowed by injuries from a fall, and it was not until the beginning of 1849 that he submitted the matrices of the medal, and was paid the remaining balance of £1,500.[38] The matrices were so large no one at the Royal Mint was willing to take the risk of hardening them and possibly ruining three decades' work. So only soft impressions were taken, with no medals in gold, silver and bronze as intended, though replicas have since been minted from other dies.[17] Even if the government had struck the medals, there was almost no one to present them to, for of the intended recipients, all were dead but the Duke of Wellington.[37]

The conflict between Pistrucci and William Wyon continued into the late 1840s, and sometimes featured in the press, contributing to the feeling that all was not well at the Mint. A Royal Commission on reform of the Royal Mint was appointed in 1848. Pistrucci submitted a report, in which he settled some old scores. The reforms abolished the positions of chief engraver (Wyon died in 1851) and chief medallist, with Pistrucci appointed a modeller and engraver to the Mint, to receive a salary in addition to payment for any work done.[39]

Pistrucci in 1850 moved from Old Windsor to Flora Lodge, Englefield Green, near Windsor, where he lived with his daughters Maria Elisa and Elena, both gem engravers. He continued to accept private commissions for cameos and medals. Pistrucci died there of "inflammation of the lungs", on 16 September 1855, and is buried at Christ Church, Virginia Water, Surrey.[40]

Appraisal

George V sovereign MET DP100408
Reverse of a 1911 (George V) sovereign, showing the main element of Pistrucci's original George and the Dragon design of 1817

Pistrucci is probably remembered most for his George and Dragon design for the sovereign.[2] Not greatly liked at the time of its origin, it has come to be celebrated.[19] The Deputy Master of the Mint who restored the design to the sovereign in 1871, Charles Fremantle, stated his view that "it is hardly possible to over-rate the advantages accruing to a coinage from an artistic and well-executed design".[41] By 1893, it was on all of Britain's gold coins; The Art Journal described Pistrucci's design as having "triumphantly borne the test of time".[42] Marsh noted, "it is indeed a tribute that his wonderful design should still adorn the gold coinage of our current Queen Elizabeth II. It is one of the finest ever in our coinage history, and has certainly stood the test of time. Long may it continue."[43] Pistrucci's design has also appeared on a non-circulating £20 silver coin in 2013[44] and on the crown in 1818–1823, 1887–1900, 1902 and 1951.[45]

Roderick Farey, in his biographical articles on Pistrucci, described him as "an Italian with a fiery disposition, he had numerous arguments with the authorities but no-one could doubt his genius firstly as a cameo cutter and later as an engraver and medallist."[2] Those disputes, and a perceived slowness to complete his works (especially the Waterloo Medal) have been sources of the criticism by later writers. Howard Linecar, in his book on British coin designs and designers, wrote, "there is little doubt that Pistrucci held the cutting of these dies as a bargaining counter in his relentless efforts to obtain the post of Chief Engraver at the Royal Mint ... On balance it is perhaps fair to say that Pistrucci, having probably been promised that which he could not have ... squeezed the last drop of blood out of the situation."[46] According to Clancy, "With great talent can often come controversy and throughout his career Pistrucci was acclaimed and reviled in equal measure, maintaining a series of tense relationships with his colleagues, the most pointed of which [was] with his fellow engraver William Wyon."[11] Craig concluded, "Apart from the George and Dragon design, which was less esteemed then than now ... this artist's Mint works, unlike his private commissions, were failures".[47]

The Waterloo Medal is regarded by many as a masterpiece on a par with his St George and the Dragon.[17] Pollard stated that the Waterloo Medal, "shows Pistrucci's command of the types (or figures) of cameos, an understanding of the figurative language of the Roman Renaissance, and an appreciation of the antique sculptured relief—his types, none the less, were always original".[3] Marsh also praised the medal:, "no better piece of intaglio engraving or design has surely ever been seen before or since. It contains as much as thirty ordinary-sized medals, and this alone is more than most medalists achieved in a life time."[43]

Farey concluded his study of Pistrucci,

By his own admission, Benedetto Pistrucci argued readily with his peers and lost work by refusing point blank to copy the efforts of another artist. He remains an enigmatic figure whose genius is represented especially in the Waterloo medal and survives unsurpassed to this day in his portrayal of St George and the Dragon.[48]

Gallery

Benedetto pistrucci, menade con tirso, sardonice, 1810 ca

Cameo, 1810

George III crown MET DP100442

1819 crown

Coronation of George IV MET DP100571

Coronation medal for George IV (1821). Note the elevated King.

Coronation of Victoria MET DP100575

The Victoria Coronation design (1838) criticised by Joseph Hume

See also

  • Billing, Archibald & Pistrucci, B. The science of gems, jewels, coins, and medals, ancient and modern (inc. biography of Pistrucci) (London: Bell & Daldy, 1867) pp. 135–211. Illustrated.
  • "Pistrucci, Benedetto" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. Contains list of works as well as biography.

Notes

  1. ^ And again from 2009.

References

  1. ^ a b Marsh 1996, pp. 3–4.
  2. ^ a b c d e Farey September 2014, p. 51.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i ODNB.
  4. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 5.
  5. ^ a b Marsh 1996, p. 7.
  6. ^ Marsh 1996, pp. 12–13.
  7. ^ Marsh 1996, pp. 13–15.
  8. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 15.
  9. ^ a b Farey September 2014, p. 52.
  10. ^ Linecar, pp. 93–94.
  11. ^ a b Clancy, p. 58.
  12. ^ a b Rodgers, pp. 43–44.
  13. ^ Clancy, p. 62.
  14. ^ Farey September 2014, pp. 52–53.
  15. ^ Craig, pp. 295–296.
  16. ^ Linecar, p. 95.
  17. ^ a b c Farey October 2014, p. 51.
  18. ^ Peck, p. 390.
  19. ^ a b c Clancy, p. 67.
  20. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 27.
  21. ^ Lobel, p. 453.
  22. ^ Rodgers, pp. 44–47.
  23. ^ Rodgers, p. 44.
  24. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 28.
  25. ^ Marsh 2002, p. 12.
  26. ^ Craig, p. 296.
  27. ^ Linecar, pp. 97–98.
  28. ^ a b Craig, p. 297.
  29. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 57.
  30. ^ a b c Dyer & Gaspar, p. 489.
  31. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 35.
  32. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 39.
  33. ^ Marsh 1996, pp. 30,40.
  34. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 43.
  35. ^ Marsh 1996, pp. 44–45.
  36. ^ Marsh 1996, pp. 45–46.
  37. ^ a b Craig, p. 298.
  38. ^ Marsh 1996, p. 48.
  39. ^ Dyer & Gaspar, pp. 496, 502, 504.
  40. ^ Marsh 1996, pp. 59–60.
  41. ^ Clancy, p. 73.
  42. ^ Clancy, p. 75.
  43. ^ a b Marsh 1996, p. 61.
  44. ^ Mussell, p. 234.
  45. ^ Lobel, pp. 487–492.
  46. ^ Linecar, pp. 96–97.
  47. ^ Craig, pp. 298–299.
  48. ^ Farey October 2014, p. 52.

Bibliography

  • Clancy, Kevin (2017) [2015]. A History of the Sovereign: Chief Coin of the World (second ed.). Llantrisant, Wales: Royal Mint Museum. ISBN 978-1-869917-00-5.
  • Craig, John (2010) [1953]. The Mint (paperback ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-17077-2.
  • Dyer, G.P.; Gaspar, P.P. (1992), "Reform, the New Technology and Tower Hill", in Challis, C.E. (ed.), A New History of the Royal Mint, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, pp. 398–606, ISBN 978-0-521-24026-0
  • Farey, Roderick (September 2014). "Benedetto Pistrucci (1782–1855), Part 1". Coin News: 51–53.
  • Farey, Roderick (October 2014). "Benedetto Pistrucci (1782–1855), Part 2". Coin News: 51–53.
  • Leonard Forrer. Benedetto Pistrucci: Italian medallist & gem-engraver, 1784-1855 (Spink, 1906).
  • Linecar, H.W.A. (1977). British Coin Designs and Designers. London: G. Bell & Sons Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7135-1931-0.
  • Lobel, Richard, ed. (1999) [1995]. Coincraft's Standard Catalogue English & UK Coins 1066 to Date (5th ed.). London: Standard Catalogue Publishers Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9526228-8-8.
  • Marsh, Michael A. (1996). Benedetto Pistrucci: Principal Engraver and Chief Medallist of the Royal Mint, 1783-1855. Hardwick, Cambridgeshire: Michael A. Marsh (Publications). ISBN 978-0-9506929-2-0.
  • Marsh, Michael A. (2002) [1980]. The Gold Sovereign (Golden Jubilee (Third) ed.). Hardwick, Cambridgeshire: Michael A. Marsh (Publications). ISBN 978-0-9506929-4-4.
  • Mussell, John W., ed. (2016). The Coin Yearbook 2017. Exeter, Devon: Token Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-908828-30-9.
  • Peck, C. Wilson (1960). English Copper, Tin and Bronze Coins in the British Museum 1558–1958. London: Trustees of the British Museum. OCLC 906173180.
  • Pollard, Graham. "Pistrucci, Benedetto". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 3 July 2017. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  • Rodgers, Kerry (June 2017). "Britain's Gold Sovereign". Coin News: 43–47.

External links

Preceded by
Conrad Küchler
Coins of the pound sterling
Obverse sculptor

1817
Succeeded by
Jean Baptiste Merlen
1783 in art

Events from the year 1783 in art.

1855 in art

Events from the year 1855 in art.

Chief Engraver of the Royal Mint

Chief Engraver of the Royal Mint is a senior position at the British Royal Mint who is responsible for overseeing the preparation of coin dies.

Chief Medallist of the Royal Mint

Chief Medallist of the Royal Mint was a senior position at the British Royal Mint responsible for the overseeing of medal production. Historically the position was created in 1828 as a compromise to allow Italian engraver Benedetto Pistrucci to be more involved in the mint's engraving process without becoming the Mint's chief engraver. Being a foreign born Italian, appointment of Pistrucci to the prestigious role of Chief Engraver would have proved too scandalous and therefore despite performing the duties of chief engraver he was awarded the title of Chief Medallist. The role of Chief Engraver previously held by Thomas Wyon was awarded to his cousin William Wyon who along with Pistrucci were required to share the wages of both the Chief Engraver and second engraver, much to their disliking. In his role of Chief Medallist, Pistrucci was left feeling bitter at the injustice against him, producing little work of note apart from his Waterloo Medal.

Conrad Heinrich Küchler

Conrad Heinrich Küchler (c. 1740 – 1810) was a German engraver who from 1793 until his death worked as a designer of coinage and medals for the manufacturer and mint owner Matthew Boulton.

Double sovereign

The Double sovereign is a gold coin of the United Kingdom, with a nominal value of two pound sterling or 40 shillings. It was first minted using the design by Benedetto Pistrucci in 1820 under the reign of George III and never entered circulation, instead being considered a pattern coin. As a precursor to the modern decimalised £2 coin it shares a similar diameter of 28.4 mm.

Gilbert Blane

Sir Gilbert Blane of Blanefield, 1st Baronet FRSE FRS MRCP (29 August 1749 – 26 June 1834) was a Scottish physician who instituted health reform in the Royal Navy. He saw action against both the French and Spanish fleets, and later served as a Commissioner on the Sick and Wounded Board of the Admiralty.

Great Recoinage of 1816

The Great Recoinage of 1816 was an attempt by the British Government to re-stabilise the currency of Great Britain following economic difficulties precipitated by the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

Half sovereign

The half sovereign is an English and British gold coin with a face value half that of a sovereign: equivalent to half a pound sterling, ten shillings, or 120 old pence. Since the end of the gold standard, it has been issued only in limited quantities as a commemorative coin with a sale price and resale value far in excess of its face value. The main reason for this is because they are used, along with other coins of this type, as bullion coins.

Common date half sovereigns tend to be worth slightly more than melt value (around £130 as of 2017).

Indian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (for Europeans of Indian Army)

The Indian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (for Europeans of Indian Army) was a medal to recognize long and efficient service by Europeans in service of the East India Company's Army.

Jean Baptiste Merlen

Jean Baptiste Merlen (1769 - 1850) was a French engraver and medallist.

Employed at the Paris Mint, then the Royal Mint from 1820, his most famous work was the obverse portrait of George IV from 1821, after an original work by Sir Francis Chantrey. The King had disliked the 'overweight' effigy Pistrucci had designed, preferring the Chantrey portrait. Merlen was given the task of engraving the Chantrey image after Pistrucci refused to redesign the effigy following the work of another artist. Merlen's effigy is also notable for being the first to show a male monarch bareheaded, i.e. neither crowned or laureate (in the style of Roman emperors) since the reign of Edward VI.

Merlen also designed several reverses, the most widely used being a crowned shield surrounded by a wreath, variants of which were used in issues of William IV and later Queen Victoria. His designs for the reverses of maundy money remained in use until 1887.

Ottawa Mint sovereign

The Ottawa Mint sovereign is a British one pound coin (known as a sovereign) minted between 1908 and 1919 at the Ottawa Mint (known today as the Ottawa branch of the Royal Canadian Mint. This has augmented debate among Canadian numismatists because some view these pieces as Canadian while others view them as British and thus distinct from the decimal series of Canadian coinage. Since the opening of the Ottawa Mint, the Dominion of Canada’s government wanted to produce decimal gold coins. As it was a branch of the Royal Mint, it was obligated to mint sovereigns on request. When sovereigns were requested, it was usually for export causes.

Sovereign (British coin)

The sovereign is a gold coin of the United Kingdom, with a nominal value of one pound sterling. Struck from 1817 until the present time, it was originally a circulating coin accepted in Britain and elsewhere in the world; it is now a bullion coin and is sometimes mounted in jewellery. In most recent years, it has borne the well-known design of Saint George and the Dragon on the reverse—the initials (B P) of the designer, Benedetto Pistrucci, may be seen to the right of the date.

The coin was named after the English gold sovereign, last minted about 1603, and originated as part of the Great Recoinage of 1816. Many in Parliament believed a one-pound coin should be issued rather than the 21-shilling (£1, 1S) guinea struck until that time. The Master of the Mint, William Wellesley Pole, had Pistrucci design the new coin, and his depiction was also used for other gold coins. Originally, the coin was unpopular as the public preferred the convenience of banknotes, but paper currency of value £1 was soon limited by law. With that competition gone, the sovereign not only became a popular circulating coin, but was used in international trade and in foreign lands, trusted as a coin containing a known quantity of gold.

The British government promoted the use of the sovereign as an aid to international trade, and the Royal Mint took steps to see that lightweight gold coins were withdrawn from circulation. From the 1850s until 1932, the sovereign was also struck at colonial mints, initially in Australia, and later in Canada, South Africa and India—they have been struck again in India since 2013 (in addition to the production in Britain by the Royal Mint) for the local market. The sovereigns issued in Australia initially carried a unique local design, but by 1887, all new sovereigns bore Pistrucci's George and Dragon design. Strikings there were so large that by 1900, about 40 per cent of the sovereigns in Britain had been minted in Australia.

With the start of the First World War in 1914, the sovereign vanished from circulation in Britain, replaced by paper money, and it did not return after the war, though issues at colonial mints continued until 1932. The coin was still used in the Middle East, and demand rose in the 1950s, which the Royal Mint eventually responded to by striking new sovereigns in 1957. It has been struck since then both as a bullion coin and, beginning in 1979, for collectors. Though the sovereign is no longer in circulation, it is still legal tender in the United Kingdom.

Taylor Combe

Taylor Combe FRS (1774 – 7 July 1826) was an English numismatist and archæologist.

Twenty pounds (British coin)

The British twenty pound (£20) coin is a commemorative coin, first issued by the Royal Mint in 2013. It is minted in .999 fine silver. Twenty pound coins are legal tender but are intended as souvenirs and are almost never seen in circulation.

Two pounds (British gold coin)

A Two Pound coin was an occasional feature of the British currency from 1823 until 1996, but has been minted every year since 1997. With the exception of proof coins issued in 1824, 1825, 1826, and 1831, the design of the reverse always featured the George and Dragon of Benedetto Pistrucci, with the year in the exergue under the design.

The coin was normally issued in cased "proof" condition, although the issues of 1823, 1887, 1893, and 1902 did circulate. The normal weight of the denomination was 16 grams, with a usual diameter of 28 millimetres.

The first appearance of the denomination was in 1820 during the final year of the reign of George III. This rare piece was not struck for circulation but only as a pattern. The obverse shows the bust of the king facing right and wearing a wreath, and bears the legend GEORGIUS III D G BRITANNIARUM REX F D 1820. The reverse has no legend and shows the Pistrucci design.

The coin first appeared as a 'currency' or circulating coin in 1823 during the reign of George IV. The legend on this coin reads GEORGIUS IIII D G BRITANNIAR REX F D. The date and Pistrucci's George and the Dragon appear on the reverse and DECUS ET TUTAMEN ANNO REGNI IV on the edge. The obverse portrait of the king was designed by Jean Baptiste Merlen. This designer is known primarily for his reverses, with the portrait of the 1823 Two Pounds being the only obverse he engraved, using as a basis a model by Sir Francis Chantrey. Apparently, Pistrucci was unwilling to work from the model of another artist. The quality of the strike was exceptional, producing what some consider to be the most beautiful two pound piece ever produced. The reverse of this coin by Pistrucci has been the basis for the design of this denomination right up to the present day (2009 being the most recent).

The 1824-1826 proof coins feature a smaller head of the king, with the legend GEORGIUS IV DEI GRATIA and the date, while the reverse shows a crowned shield within a mantle cape with the legend BRITANNIARUM REX FID DEF. The 1826 coin has the edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN ANNO REGNI SEPTIMO.

In 1831 a proof coin of this denomination was produced for the start of the reign of king William IV. The obverse shows a right-facing head of the king with the legend GULIELMUS IIII D G BRITANNIAR REX F D, while the reverse shows a crowned shield with the legend ANNO 1831. There is no edge inscription.

The next appearance of the denomination was not until the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. The Jubilee head was used with the obverse inscription VICTORIA D G BRIT REG F D, while the reverse shows Pistrucci's design of St George slaying the dragon with the only legend being the date in the exergue. The edge of this coin is milled, and it weighs 16 grams. This coin was also (rarely) produced in the mint at Sydney, Australia, which is identified by the letter "S" above the centre of the date.

The Pistrucci reverse was used again in 1893, when the obverse used the "Old Head" of the queen, with the legend VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF IND IMP, and the edge is again milled.

Waterloo Medal (Pistrucci)

The Waterloo Medal was designed by Italian-born sculptor Benedetto Pistrucci. He worked on it from 1819 to 1849, when the completed matrices were presented to Britain's Royal Mint. The medal was commissioned by the British Government in 1819 on the instructions of George IV while Prince Regent; copies were to be presented to the generals who had been victorious in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, and to the leaders of Britain's allies. As most of the intended recipients had died by 1849, and relations with France had improved, the medals were never struck, though modern-day editions have been made for sale to collectors.

In 1816, the Prince Regent had first suggested a medal to be presented to allies and commanders from Waterloo. The Royal Academy proposed work by John Flaxman, one of its members, but Pistrucci, whose responsibility it was to engrave the dies, refused to copy another's work, and brought forth designs of his own. The Prince Regent and William Wellesley-Pole, Master of the Mint were impressed by Pistrucci's models, and he gained the commission.

Pistrucci fell from grace at the Royal Mint in 1823 by refusing to copy another's work for the coinage, and he was instructed to concentrate on the medal. He likely concluded that he would be sacked if he completed it, and progress was extremely slow. Health issues also played a part. He stayed on at the Mint, the medal uncompleted, despite repeated calls from Masters of the Mint to finish the project. In 1844, the Master, W. E. Gladstone, reached an accord with Pistrucci and the medal matrices were eventually submitted in 1849. Due to their great size, 5.3 inches (130 mm) in diameter, the Mint was unwilling to risk damaging the matrices by hardening them, and only electrotypes and soft impressions were taken. Pistrucci's designs have been greatly praised by numismatic writers.

Waterloo Medal (disambiguation)

The Waterloo Medal was a medal given to British Army members who served on the Battle of Waterloo.

The Waterloo Medal may also refer to:

Waterloo Medal (Brunswick), given by the Duchy of Brunswick

Waterloo Medal (Nassau), given by the Duchy of Nassau

Waterloo Medal (Pistrucci), designed by Benedetto Pistrucci

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