British Museum collections, £12.99
Diameter: 60.000 mm
Gift of W.R. Hamilton, Esq.
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Gilt bronze medal of George IV by Benedetto Pistrucci
London, England, AD 1824
In emulation of the Ancients
The Regency style, a type of design based on the architectural remains of ancient Greece and Rome ('neo-classicism'), evolved during the reign of George IV (1820-30). This style had a strong influence on architectural design, and in other art forms, clearly visible in this medal. The portrait of the King, with his hair held in place with ribbon, evokes the portrayal of Alexander the Great on ancient coins. The titles on the medal reinforce the 'ancient' feel, with a legend on the obverse (front) that states 'George IV King of Great Britain' and on the reverse, the date and signature of Pistrucci, all in Greek. The ornate trident dividing two dolphins on the reverse is a type of decoration based on classical forms.
The ability of Pistrucci (1784-1855) to design after and compete with the products of the ancients ensured his fame. Educated as sculptor and engraver in Rome, he sought employment in England from 1815, working at the Royal Mint from 1816, where he was made chief medallist in 1828. He enhanced his reputation in England in a dispute over the authorship of a cameo, bought as an antique Roman piece, but identified by Pistrucci as his own work (see the 'Head of Flora'). This medal was probably produced as a commercial speculation by the court goldsmiths Rundell Bridge and Rundell, as it was not commissioned directly by the King.
L. Brown, A catalogue of British histori, 3 vols (London, Seaby, 1980-95)