Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss

THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO
 

PISTRUCCI, Benedetto: England, 1815, Bronze Electrotype, 134 mm

Obv: Conjoined busts (l) of George Augustus Frederick, Prince Regent (later George IV of England), Emperor Francis II of Austria, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, and King Frederick Wilhelm III of Prussia.   Around: Allegorical and mythological allusions to the treaty of peace which resulted from the Battle of Waterloo. Apollo's chariot over the portraits and the fleeing chariot of Night below them herald the victory of the forces of Good. To the right of Apollo are his companions, the goddess of the rainbow (Iris), and the god of the light wind (Zephyrus); to the left is the constellation of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, indicating the month of June when the battle took place. To the left and right of the central portraits are the figures of Justice (Themis) and Might (Hercules). The figure of Hercules is seated upon a rock above a cavern which suppresses the Furies who are no longer able to leave the Cimmerian caverns. The Fates are shown below the figure of Themis, indicating that in the future, human actions will be governed by justice alone.  Lower down, are the goddesses of destiny (the Fates) and of vengeance (the Furies). They are on either side of the chariot of Night (the mother of the Fates), who is receding into darkness.

Rev: The two horsemen in the center of the reverse represent Blücher and Wellington. They are accompanied by Nike, the winged goddess of victory. Over them is the chariot of Zeus (the Thunderer), and below are twelve serpent-legged figures of titans personifying Europe's twelve-year struggle against Napoleon.

Signed: PISTRUCCI on both obverse and reverse
Very rare
Ref: BHM, 208/870; Hocking 207-210; Eimer, 133/1067; Forrer IV, p. 594-598 (ill.); Bramsen, 2317; D’Essling 1588; Weiss BW361

This pair of electrotypes is housed in a contemporary Morocco case with velvet lining.

 

The Battle of Waterloo, which took place on June 18, 1815, was the final defeat of Napoleon after twenty-three years of war between France and the other major European countries. After his abdication as Emperor of France, Napoleon was banished to Elba in 1814. However, Napoleon managed to escape, returned to Paris, and forced Louis XVIII to flee, thus beginning his "one hundred days" back in power. His newly-restored position of power was to abruptly end with one final, decisive battle. The Battle was fought at Waterloo, nine miles south of Brussels, between Bonaparte's French army and the allied forces of the Duke of Wellington and the Prussians. Napoleon's legendary skill as a general failed him, as he made the fatal mistake of delaying the start until midday, hoping for drier ground. This delay allowed the Prussian troops under Field Marshal von Blücher to join Wellington's army. The Emperor and his marshals were unable to withstand the attack, losing 25,000 men. Napoleon was forced to abdicate for the second time four days later.

 

The circumstances involved in the production of Pistrucci's medal of the Battle of Waterloo are described by Laurence Brown as follows:

"In 1816 Pistrucci was invited to submit designs for this medal which it was intended to strike in gold and give to the allied sovereigns, their ministers and generals. In August 1819, Treasury authority was given for the work to begin on the preparation of models. Unfortunately, due to a disagreement between Pistrucci and the Master of the Mint over the office of Chief Engraver, the work proceeded very slowly. Pistrucci felt that that office which had been given to William Wyon (who had been performing those duties for some time) should have gone to him. Pistrucci held the office of Chief Medallist to the King for which he received a salary of £300 a year plus another £50 for the instruction of a pupil, but nevertheless felt disgruntled at not being given the more senior position. In 1832 Lord Auckland, the then Master of the Mint, remonstrated with Pistrucci over the delay in producing the medal and Pistrucci requested an assurance that if he completed the medal his connections with the Mint would not be terminated. Lord Auckland would not give such an undertaking and once more the work lapsed. To make matters worse, the additional £50 that Pistrucci had been receiving as part of his salary, was withdrawn. Further queries were raised with Pistrucci in 1842, but again, arguments over the matter of salary delayed work. It was not until August 1844 that agreement over the salary was reached whereby it was raised from £300 to £350 a year and work upon the medal was resumed. In 1849, the Master of the Mint was able to report that the dies were complete, but by this time each of the four allied sovereigns depicted on the obverse (and no doubt many of the other intended recipients of the medal) were dead.

"Because of the difficulty of hardening dies of the size required to strike the medal, Pistrucci made each die in two parts, an outer ring which fitted around a central die of 71mm. diameter. Each of these was to be hardened separately. Despite his suggestions, the dies were never hardened and only gutta-percha impressions and electrotypes were made. These sometimes occur joined together and the gutta-percha impressions are found in a black japanned metal case. The wax model for the medal is in the Mint Museum in Rome and the dies are in the Royal Mint Museum, London.

 

"N.B. Hocking (Royal Mint Catalogue, vol. II, p. 208) states that the commission for the medal was given to Pistrucci, no suitable designs having been received from members of the Royal Academy. Graham Pollard has pointed out that the design by Flaxman was certainly completed because the diarist Farington records having seen it on 15 August 1815. (See Royal Academy exhibition catalogue John Flaxman RA. ed. D. Bindman, London, 1979, p. 135 and no.169.) Designs by West are published in R. S. Kraemer, Drawings by Benjamin West, New York, 1975, nos. 101-103, and drawings by Stothard are in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Dyce nos. 850-852).

 

 "In 1967 Messrs John Pinches Ltd., produced a number of copies of this medal in 22ct. gold, platinum and sterling silver. The size of these copies is 64mm and each of them is reputed to be either numbered or hallmarked."

from British Historical Medals, Volume 1, p. 208-212

Benedetto Pistrucci, a British medallist of Italian extraction, spent some thirty years making medals in commemoration of the victories of Europe's combined forces over Napoleon. Gold examples were to be presented to the four allied monarchs and two silver examples to Field Marshal Blucher and the Duke of Wellington. Due to his many other commissions Pistrucci was only able to finish engraving the dies in 1849, by which time all those for whom the medal was intended, with the exception of Wellington, had already died. The Waterloo medal is considered one of the rarest and most important pieces in the history of medallic art.

LINK to article on the Waterloo Medal by Isaac Myer (from Goggle Books)

LINK  to  Napoleonic Medals (Vern McCrea)

LINK  to Medallic History of Napoleonic Medals (from Fortiter)

LINK to Napoleonic Medals (from Blackwatch)

 

HOME PAGE