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Lot 239: (1778) George Washington Voltaire Medal. Baker-78B. Betts-544. Gem Mint State
29 October 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USALive Auction
(1778) Gem G. Washington VOLTAIRE Medal Baker-78B
(1778) Voltaire Washington Medal. Thin Planchet Type. Struck in Bronze. Baker-78B. Betts-544. Gem Mint State.
40.1mm. 365.1 grains. This George Washington medal is 2.6 to 2.8 mm thick, thus it is of the rare "Thin" planchet variety. It has original rich medium chestnut color with superb surfaces that retain original gloss and just a trace of reflectivity in its fields. This early Washington medal is sharply struck, having some slight doubling noticed in the legends from multiple strikes, which bring up the impressive details. Two very tiny obverse rim nicks are noted. The choice eye appeal is of the finest quality one would ever hope to acquire in this medal.
This is also an important historical medal as it was designed and produced by the French author Voltaire. It was the very earliest medallic tribute to George Washington. The image of Washington on this medal is an imaginary one, since no bust had yet been taken of Washington from life, and no image of him had yet been published in Europe for use in the design, while being actually minted during the Revolutionary War period.
The production of this medal was announced in the London Chronicle of April 16, 1778, where a piece was published noting: A medal has lately been struck at Paris, by direction of Mr. Voltaire, in honour of Gen. Washington: on one side is the bust of the General with this inscription;
"G. Washington, Esq; Commander of the Continental Army in America:" the reverse is decorated with emblems of war, and the following inscription: "Washington reunit par un rare assemblage Des talents du Guerrier & des vertus du sage."
The reverse inscription translates to "Washington brings together the rare combination of the talents of a warrior with the virtue of a sage," an Enlightnment ideal penned by the leading author of the French Enlightenment.