Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss



The Dassier family constituted a group of celebrated Swiss medalists from the late 17th to mid 18th centuries. The father, Domaine Dassier (1641-1719), was Chief-engraver at the Mint of Geneva from 1677 to 1720. His son, Jean Dassier (1676-1763), who succeeded his father as Chief-engraver on his father’s death in 1720, studied die-sinking under his father and later in Paris under Mauger and Roettiers. One of Jean Dassier’s sons, Jacques Antoine (1715-1759), learned the art of die-sinking under the celebrated goldsmith Germain of Paris. He was engaged as Engraver at the Royal Mint, London from 1741-1757. Another son of Jean Dassier, Antoine (1718-1780), worked with his father for a number of years, issuing a series of medals bearing the signature DASSIER ET FILS.

Dassier, Jean:  Jean Dassier (1676-1763) was one of the most prominent and celebrated engravers of the eighteenth century.  Highly regarded for his artistic skills, Jean Dassier was but one member of a noted Swiss family of medallists.  He trained under his father, Domaine Dassier (1641-1719), chief engraver at the mint in Geneva.  Jean later studied in Paris under Jean Mauger and Joseph Roettier(s).  After serving his father as assistant engraver at Geneva, Jean assumed the position of chief engraver following his father's death, a position he held until his own death over forty years later. Jean Dassier was the most prolific of the family, issuing several series of medals, including a series of small medals (jetons) Les metamorphoses d’Ovide, a series of medals representing celebrated men and women in France during the 17th century (les hommes illustres du siecle de Louis XIV), a series of medals depicting the principal Protestant Reformers, The Genevan Theologians, medals illustrating the history of Geneva and, when in England, a series of famous English men (The British Worthies) and a series of English Sovereigns from William I to George II. In conjunction with his son, he also issued a series of small medals illustrating Roman history.  Jean Dassier's three sons followed his footsteps in engraving, most notably Jacques-Antoine Dassier (1715-1759). The historian Forrer has claimed that Jean Dassier 'may be termed one of the greatest of eighteenth century Medallists' (Forrer, vol. 1: 339).

Dassier, Jacques Antoine: Jacques Antoine Dassier, the son of Jean Dassier, was a leading figure in the history of medallic art in his own right. He engraved a series of medals of famous contemporary men living in England as well as a number of other important pieces.

Examples of several of the medals engraved by Jean, Antoine and Jacques Antoine Dassier are presented in this section.

The biographical sketches cited for these medallists, as with other biosketches in this catalogue, were gleaned largely from Forrer's comprehensive Biographical Dictionary of Medallists. The descriptions and interpretations of the reverses of the medals that relate to English history were taken in large measure from Edward Hawkins' classic two volume book, Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland to the Death of George II, often verbatim, and from Medallic History of England printed by Wilson and Co. in 1802. Information related to these medals was also taken, in large part, from the recently published books devoted exclusively to the medals executed by the Dassier family: the very useful book by Dr. Peter Thompson (The Dassier Family and its Medals), and the excellent and comprehensive two volume set  written by William Eisler, describing the history and works of the Dassier family (The Dassiers of Geneva: 18th Century European Medallists).


other Swiss Medallists

Bovy, Jean François Antoine: Antoine Bovy (1795-1877) was born in Geneva, one of three sons of Jean Samuel Bovy, a jeweler. In 1824 he was sent to Paris to study under the direction of the celebrated statuary, Pradier, where he learned modeling and sculpture. In 1835 he was naturalized a Frenchman, won a gold medal for his engraving and won the Legion of Honor for his medal on the Buildings of Railways. During his long medallic career Bovy engraved many medals and is considered to be one of the great masters of the French medallic school, his works bearing comparison with those of Dupré, Warin and Duvivier. His large medal of John Calvin struck in 1835, commemorating the Third Jubilee of the Reformation in Geneva has been described as the "king" of all Calvin numismatic commemoratives.