Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


DASSIER, Jean: England, ca.1733, Bronze, 43 mm
Obv: Bust of Locke    IOHANNES LOCKE.
Rev: Liberty (Toleration) and Justice (Civil Government) seated upon a sarcophagus. Below is a putto reading; playthings scattered about
Exergue:  M. 1704
Signed:  J.D.
From Jean Dassier's Series, The British Worthies.
Ref: M.I. ii, 271/72; Eimer 68/413; Storer 2245; Freeman 162/328; Eisler I, 285/6c; Thompson 41/05;  Weiss BW056

John Locke (1632-1704), philosopher and political exponent, was the inspirer of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason in England and France, and influenced greatly the writers of the U.S. Constitution. Locke was born in Somersetshire, and was educated at Westminster and Oxford. He lived in Holland during the reign of James II, but returned to England at the accession of William and Mary with the fleet which brought the Prince of Orange to England. Locke is noted for his works on Toleration and Civil Government, to which the reverse of this medal alludes. In particular, it refers to his Essay Concerning Human Understanding and to the Two Treatises on Government. The former is regarded as the founding text of empiricism. Locke rejected the concept of "innate ideas" and held that knowledge is gained from sense-experience. In the latter essay, Locke held that the state exists to safeguard the natural rights of its citizens (life, liberty and property), and that relations between government and the governed are based on a social contract to preserve those rights. He denounced absolutism and justified civil disobedience in response to a government that breaks the social contract. In 1695 Locke published his Reasonableness of Christianity. He disliked religious fanaticism, however, and felt that any act of persecution in the name of religious truth is wholly unjustified, since our knowledge and understanding are so confined. Locke's writings had, and still have, an enormous influence on the life and political thought of numerous societies, particularly in England and North America (O'Brien, p. 243).
The medallic portrait corresponds to that of Locke in an oval frame by Kneller of 1697 in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. (Eisler)

LINK to Biography of John Locke (from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

LINK to Engraving of John Locke by George Vertue, after Sir Godfrey Kneller (from National Portrait Gallery)

LINK to Portrait of John Locke by Sir Godfrey Kneller (from arthermitage.org)