The Marriage at Cana
STUART. James I, with Anne.
|CNG 88, Lot: 2115. Estimate $3000.
Sold for $5500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
1603-1625. AR Medal (49mm, 50.58 g, 12h). The Marriage of James and Anne of Denmark. Struck early 17th century. + QVOS + DEVS + CVNIVNXIT + HOMO + NE + SEPARET (Those whom God hath joined together let no man divide
), Christ, wearing nimbus crown, standing facing between pregnant bride (Anne of Denmark), holding palm frond, and groom (James VI of Scotland); above, angel flying facing, crowning the couple with laurel wreaths; below, two roses (England and Denmark); cityscape in background / + VT · AQVA · IN · VINVM + SIC · CRVX · IBIT · IN · SALVTEM (Just as water did wine, so will the cross turn into salvation
), sThe Marriage at Cana (John 2:1-11): Christ and the Virgin Mary seated to left and center of table, respectively; seated around, bride, groom, and two other guests; in foreground below, servant pouring water into jars. MI -; Eimer -; van Loon -; GPH -; Hamburger (2 March 1908), lot 3574; Künker 170, 3976 = Künker 87, 4133 (same dies, though of 1½ talern weight and attributed to Lübeck); cf. Sotheby’s London 571, 475 (gold, attributed to Hamburg). Good VF, toned. Very rare and historically interesting.
Ex Dr. Heinz Pielsticker Collection.
This rare medal has for some time been attributed to the Stadt of Lübeck in Germany, as a Breiter doppelter Schautaler (broad double ‘commemorative’ thaler), and the work of an unknown engraver. Bearing neither date nor indication of intended region or audience, this placement seems highly speculative at best. An alternative attribution, however, has recently come to light in the form of a rediscovered article from the October 1823 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine, pointing toward a possible British theme.
On 6 June 1779, a small hoard of gold and silver coins from the reigns of Elizabeth I-Charles I were discovered in and around the moat at Bossal House. Included with these coins was a large silver medal, the same type as the above lot. The tradition was that Sir Robert Belt, a former resident at Bossal, had hidden a large sum of treasure around the estate during the English Civil War. As he died before the restoration of the monarchy, not all of these deposits were recovered at that time, as evidenced by this small hoard unearthed over 100 years later.
The article continues with an argument by John Wilson, Esq., on the allegorical arrangement of the medal. The obverse clearly features Jesus Christ between a couple to be married, whose attire reveals only that it is late medieval, and nothing further. He proposed that the couple is in fact James and Anne of Denmark, with the elements surrounding them as indicative of this attribution. As such, Wilson viewed the medal more as symbolic than historic in nature—a celebration by the Anglican Church over James’s espousal of it over the expectations of the Catholic or Presbyterian Churches. Rather than strictly being Anne, the pregnant matron (as Anne was not actually carrying the future King Charles I at the time) also signifies the Anglican Church, while the palm frond which she holds represents her victory over her adversaries (Catholicism and Prebyterianism). The owl and the pigeon to the right are emblematic of the union of Wisdom and Innocence. The figures praying in the background to the right appear as imprecating Divine Vengeance upon the union. The tree to the left is that of an oak, representative of James’s strength and steadfastness. The structure in the background to the left is a church, but, lacking a crucifix, is thereby distinguished as Protestant rather than Catholic. Finally, the two flowers at their feet are roses, symbolizing the union of England and Denmark (obviously not at the time of their marriage, however, as James’s accession to the English throne would not be for another 14 years).
Though this medal is particularly rare, a similar type (attributed to Lübeck, Behrens 727) is much more common, and does have a distinctly German style to it—the most obvious being the German legend on the reverse—as it features engraving similar to other taler and doppeltaler pieces from that time and area. It is possible, therefore, that the piece above served as a prototype for the German Hochzeittaler (wedding taler) from the mid 17th century, as the former shares much stylistically with other Dutch medals from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, a number of which did commemorate events important to British history. Additionally, the gold version from the Sotheby’s sale was clearly not intended as an off-metal strike, as the dies were different from this piece. Therefore, it would appear that two distinct versions were created, in gold and silver, unlike their German counterparts, which are found only in silver. For these reasons, the attribution to a German origin seems highly suspect, pointing more toward Dutch manufacture and a possible English connection.
A final point which cannot be overlooked is the obverse legend of this medal. In context with a marriage scene, it would appear most appropriate; however, a further connection to England, and more specifically, James I himself, would be the similarity to the reverse legend commonly found on the second and third coinages of his reign: QVÆ DEVS CONIVNXIT NEMO SEPARET — a legend otherwise used only on a few Scottish issues from the mid 16th century. In any event, this medal is undoubtedly rare and worthy of further scholarship due to its artistry and intrinsic design elements.