Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


FLAXMAN, John: Portugal/England, 1787, Jasper oval cameo, white relief on solid blue ground,  99 x 78 mm
Obv:  Bust of Maria I (facing). Impressed below portrait: Q. OF PORTUGAL
Rev: Two firing holes 12 mm in diameter, 5 mm deep. Impressed: WEDGWOOD
Ref:  Reilly 1973, fig.66;  Reilly 1989, I, p. 564, fig. 804;  Hobson 1903, I.39;  Dawson 1984, p. 77, fig. 62;  Reilly & Savage 1973, p.228;  Reilly 1989, Vol.I, p.564 (fig.804); Weiss BW805

The portrait medallion/cameo was modeled by John Flaxman in the factory of Josiah Wedgwood, after a cameo by Joao Figueireido.

Maria I (1734–1816) was Queen of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves from 1777 until her death in 1816. Known as Maria the Pious (in Portugal), or Maria the Mad (in Brazil), she was the first undisputed Queen regnant of Portugal. Her reign would be noteworthy, for with Napoleon's European conquests, her court, then under the direction of Prince Regent Dom Joćo, moved to the then Portuguese colony of Brazil. Later, Brazil would be elevated from the rank of a colony to that of a Kingdom (the Kingdom of Brazil), with the ultimate formation of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.

During Maria's youth her father's government and country were dominated by the first Marquis of Pombal. Her father would often retire to the Queluz National Palace which was later given to Maria and her husband. The Marquis took control of the government after the terrible 1755 Lisbon earthquake, in which about 100,000 people lost their lives; the palace of her birth was also destroyed in the disaster.

After the earthquake, the king had a palace built in Ajuda, away from the city center. This palace became known as Real Barraca de Ajuda. In 1794 the palace burned to the ground and the Ajuda National Palace was built in its place.

In 1760 Maria married her uncle Pedro, younger brother of her father Jose I. They had six children, of whom the eldest surviving son succeeded Maria as Joćo VI on her death.

Incapacitated and unhappy, Maria lived in Brazil for eight years. In 1816, the Queen died in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 81. After her death, Prince Regent Joćo was acclaimed the King of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves and had her body returned to Lisbon and interned in a mausoleum in the Basilica da Estrela, that she had helped found.

Maria is a greatly admired figure in both Brazil in Portugal because of the tremendous changes and events that took place during her reign. In Portugal, she is celebrated as a strong female figure. She helped conceive Portugal's Queluz National Palace, a baroque-rococo masterpiece. A large statue of her stands in front of the palace, and a pousada near the palace is named in her honor. A large marble statue of the Queen was erected at the Portuguese National Library in Lisbon.

In Brazil, she is admired as a key figure in the eventual independence of Brazil. It is during her reign, though acted through her son's regency, that many of the institutions and organizations in Brazil were created. These institutions were the precursors to their modern day equivalents and granted a large degree of power to the Brazilian colonials. While she is often called A Louca (the Crazy) in Brazil, Brazilian and Portuguese historic scholars hold her in high esteem.

(Taken, in part, from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_I_of_Portugal)

LINK  to portrait medallion/cameo of Maria I by John Flaxman in the British Museum (from BritishMuseum.org)