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Struck gold medal of James I of England (VI of Scotland) by Nicholas Hilliard


Diameter: 37.000 mm
Weight: 35.870 g

CM 1844-4-25-24

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    Struck gold medal of James I of England (VI of Scotland) by Nicholas Hilliard

    London, England, AD 1604

    Peace with Spain

    Although Nicholas Hilliard is so closely associated with the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603), his work at court continued under the Stuart James I (reigned 1603-25), who, in 1617, granted him the sole right to produce portraits of the royal family and called him 'our well-beloved servant Nicholas Hilliard, gentleman, our principal drawer for the small portraits and embosser of our medallions of gold'. Hilliard profited from this privilege, leasing out his designs to other artists, until his death in January 1619.

    Other payments made by James I to Hilliard show that the artist made a number of very expensive medals in precious metals for the King and his court. Only one can be identified. It is very likely that this is one of the 'certain medallions to the number of twelve in gold' paid for in December 1604, a gold medal struck to commemorate peace with Spain. The reverse shows the female personifications of Peace, holding a palm branch and a cornucopia, and Religion, who carries a beacon and a cross.

    The combined weight of these twelve medals is documented. Divided equally, though, it does not accord exactly with the weight of this medal. This difference can be explained, however, by the probability that some of these pieces had decorative borders, a common feature of Jacobean medals. The medal also closely resembles Hilliard's painted miniatures of James.

    C. Barclay and L. Syson, 'A medal die rediscovered: a new work by Nicholas Hilliard', The Medal-3, 22 (Spring 1993), pp. 3-9

    E. Hawkins, Medallic illustrations of the (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1885)


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