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Research Coins: Printed Auction

Triton XX, Lot: 1628. Estimate $1000.
Sold for $1300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

GREAT BRITAIN, Hanover. George III, with Franz II of Austria, Alexander I of Russia, and Wilhelm III of Prussia. 1760-1820. Electrotype CU Medal (140mm, 730.0 g, 12h). The Battle of Waterloo. By B. Pistrucci. Manufactured 1849. Conjoined laureate and draped busts left of the allied sovereigns: George III, King of Great Britain, Franz II, Emperor of Austria, Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, and Wilhelm III, King of Prussia; around, allegorical and mythological allusions to the Treaty of Peace, which resulted from the Battle of Waterloo: above, Apollo driving quadriga left, restoring the day; to upper right, the rainbow Zephyr and Iris following to right; to upper left, Gemini indicating the month in which the battle occurred; to right, Hercules seated right upon rock, suppressing the Furies within the Cimmerian caverns below; to left, Themis, the protector of the Just, seated left; to lower left, the Fates spinning the future, indicating that human actions will be governed by Justice alone; below, Night, the mother of the Fates, receding into darkness / Two equestrian figures, in classical attire and with the features of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard von Blücher, being guided to the battle by Victory; around, the Battle of the Giants, being silenced from above by the thunder of Jupiter, driving facing quadriga. Bramsen 2317; BHM 870; Eimer 1067a; Julius 3368. EF, attractive brown surfaces, some scattered spotting. An impressive and imposing piece set in a copper bezel. Rarely encountered as a complete medal rather than separate obverse and reverse pieces. Of the highest artistic and historical importance. In custom black wood case.

From the J. Eric Engstrom Collection. Ex J. Henri Ripstra Collection (William O. Coats Auction, 14 February 1975), lot 1295.

The night of the 16th/17th of June saw the hurried retreat of Wellington’s forces from Quatre Bras to the ridge at Waterloo, which the Duke had noted during his inspection of the countryside in the autumn of 1814. The French forces were by this move forced into a frontal attack up the slopes toward a line of fortified farms. The allies numbered some 63,000 men and 156 guns. Late in the morning of the 18th, the French attacked the flanks of the allied position, the Chateau of Hougoumont on the right and the fortified farm of La Haye Sainte in the middle. The allies were outnumbered in both men and guns, and in the face of a fierce artillery barrage, Wellington moved his troops further back over the ridge. Marshal Ney advanced his troops and fully expected to overrun the British lines but such was the fierceness of the allied musket fire that virtually none of the enemy came within bayonet distance. By six o’clock in the evening, Ney’s efforts were too late, since the Prussians under Field-Marshal von Blücher had arrived and were harassing the flanks of the French troops. After a final, ineffectual attack by Ney, Wellington ordered his cavalry to attack and utterly routed the French; the final pursuit was left to the Prussians who harried the fleeing French throughout the night. By Blücher’s timely appearance on the field of battle, Wellington’s victory was the more complete and the Prussian Field-Marshal became popular in England as a result of it. The City of London conferred the freedom of the city on him and Oxford made him a D. C. L.

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 the Chief Engraver, the work proceeded very slowly. Pistrucci thought that the 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 was 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. (from BHM)