Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bronze Medal of George Washington, by Pierre Simon Duvivier

In March 1776, the Congress of the thirteen colonies that were to proclaim the independence of America (on 4 July of that year), ordered that a gold medal be struck and presented to George Washington (1732-99) for his part in the liberation of Boston. The siege to take the city of Boston was crucial to the success of the revolution against British rule in the War of Independence (1776-83) and earned Washington the gratitude of the new country: 'the only tribute which a free people will ever consent to pay'. This was achieved in spite of General Washington's limited military experience, gained in the French and Indian wars of 1754-63, after which he had spent fifteen years managing the family estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Elected as the first president of new country in 1787, Washington became a talisman for his countrymen, especially after his death in 1799. His heroic leadership is shown on the reverse of this medal by Duvivier (1728-1819), where we see the city surrounded by the American army, with Washington on his horse on the left pointing out the British ships fleeing the harbour. The medal was part of a series commemorating other revolutionary heroes, supervised by Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Franklin justified the expense of making the medals (at a price 'beyond [his] expectation'), by pointing out that a great number could be struck from the dies.
J.F. Loubat, The medallic history of the Un (New York, 1878)

Copy and photo from The British Museum.

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