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Happy with the choice I made (uniface Siege of Bastille medal)(was: Which of these two specimens do you prefer?)


DonnaML

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[Please skip to my most recent post at the end of this thread to see the writeup and a new photo of the medal I chose, with the benefit of all the helpful advice provided.]

I know I'm taking a big risk by posting this, because anyone could buy either or both before I make a decision, but I'm gambling -- perhaps naively -- that you'll all give me 24 hours to decide which one I want to buy (if either). 

They're two examples of the same 1789 bronzed lead uniface medal by Bertrand Andrieu, approximately 85 mm. in diameter, commemorating the Siege of the Bastille. (See Hennin 22 p. 15, Trésor de Numismatique Vol. 13, 6.5 p. 8, ill. Planche VI No. 5.) They're essentially the same price, within $15 of each other. The first one appears to be in better condition, with the bronzing intact, and is probably the safer choice, whereas the second one has the bronze worn off in patches, with what the dealer describes as oxidization, and a number of spots that look like they could be bronze disease. On the other hand, assuming that the BD (if that's what it is) can be treated without too much difficulty, there's something about the patina of the second one that seems to me to  have, perhaps, more eye appeal.

So please let me know what you think. I won't say for now which way I'm leaning.

Bastille1299.jpg.3d7cde86fd7b4a883f46d23e4fbd0aab.jpg

Bastille3285.jpg.e6260ae5f28a40987259f5b3e9724bfb.jpg

Edited by DonnaML
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I see what you mean about the second one - it has a slight edge, perhaps, in eye appeal...but I think I'd prefer the first. Not only are the surfaces more uniform and intact, but BD, while treatable, is a pain to deal with (at least it was for me.)

If there was some way to have a professional conservator take care of the BD, I'd go for the second. It does seem to have more character than the first. Either way, they're great-looking medals!

 

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Speculating here, but I wonder if you rubbed the first medal lightly with a Pacific cloth, would you see the raised elements more clearly and have a bit of color contrast?  Of course you have to buy it to try it. But I am wondering if that is what was done with the second example. 

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7 minutes ago, Hrefn said:

Speculating here, but I wonder if you rubbed the first medal lightly with a Pacific cloth, would you see the raised elements more clearly and have a bit of color contrast?  Of course you have to buy it to try it. But I am wondering if that is what was done with the second example. 

I haven't heard of a Pacific cloth; can you please tell me what that is?

In any event, I have already been persuaded by the uniform opinions of all you fine gentlemen. So I have decided to play it safe by picking the first one.

 

Edited by DonnaML
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14 minutes ago, Hrefn said:

Speculating here, but I wonder if you rubbed the first medal lightly with a Pacific cloth, would you see the raised elements more clearly and have a bit of color contrast?  Of course you have to buy it to try it. But I am wondering if that is what was done with the second example. 

Maybe the apparently higher contrast on the second coin has something to do with the fact that the resolution of the second photo is twice as high as the first?

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That "oxidation" IS BD! You can see that it is eating away that coin. The dealer isn't being up front. If he was giving you a deal due to the BD, and you have Verdicare, I  would say get the second. But he isn't being up front. 

So, definitely the first. 

*edit, ps, I agree about how fun the patina is in the second coin. But after treating that BD it will change, for better or worse. 

Edited by Ryro
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I would say the first with its uniform patina and problem free surfaces.  Regarding the second one, I haven't had much experience in treating BD but I understand from others who've posted on how to do it that the treatment may affect the patina.  I also wonder if someone has already polished or rubbed areas of the second piece - it seems too perfect that the smoke clouds contrast so well with the surrounding areas.  

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Such great medals. I would prefer the first. By the way, you should consider drying the coins and applying rennaisance wax for maximum protection against the elements. Not to mention, it may make the details pop out a bit better.

Edited by ArtDeco
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14 hours ago, Theoderic said:

 I also wonder if someone has already polished or rubbed areas of the second piece - it seems too perfect that the smoke clouds contrast so well with the surrounding areas.  

I would tend to agree with you, except that I found a third example for sale on ebay, by a different dealer [see below for correction; it's the same dealer!], with very similar coloring/patina/contrast:

Bastille2319.jpg.4377029ce3040080386b03f0a07577fd.jpg

This one also shows signs of bronze disease, although only in a few spots, so not nearly as seriously as # 2.

It's nice-looking, but I'm happy that I chose the one everyone recommended. I was leaning that way anyway given the BD issue with # 2, but it's nice to get some reassurance. Thanks to all.

 

Edited by DonnaML
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Hello Donna,

This is by far the first one, and I am French. However, the second one can presumably be cleaned with no risk with a 10% solution of EDTA tetrasodium salt. Thus, I would recommend to buy the cheapest one! Also with your post I am noticying that your interests are not only in antiquities. So do I, unfortunately. I am enclosing a very rare document, which is in blank to remove a Bastille prisoner. This document was signed by a secretary of king Louis XV (French documents with an original signature of the King are extremely rare).

All the best,

Didier

 

 

IMG_20231204_105439.jpg

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I prefer the first. For the coloring/patina/contrast, compare next photos of a medal of my collection from De Hondt. Professional photos were made for a book and there look different of mine

image.png.43efc72062d4cc413f06dbb5439b9187.pngimage.png.981a7e09ef181b06b48a9e24d859b061.pngmy photos

2.HetConcordaatvan1827voorzijde.jpg.bb047d843fc127f7067eb8ee50b8f065.jpg2.bisHetConcordaatvan1827achterzijde.jpg.b8f680136147b246bc618d1082f169bd.jpg professional photos

My photos give the real colour of the medal. I have also a problem of BD, but since years it doesn't change.

 

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9 hours ago, DonnaML said:

I would tend to agree with you, except that I found a third example for sale on ebay, by a different dealer [see below for correction; it's the same dealer!], with very similar coloring/patina/contrast:

Bastille2319.jpg.4377029ce3040080386b03f0a07577fd.jpg

This one also shows signs of bronze disease, although only in a few spots, so not nearly as seriously as # 2.

It's nice-looking, but I'm happy that I chose the one everyone recommended. I was leaning that way anyway given the BD issue with # 2, but it's nice to get some reassurance. Thanks to all.

 

I was mistaken: the two high contrast specimens of this medal, artistically setting off the smoke, but both apparently afflicted with bronze disease, are, in fact, being offered by the same seller, a dealer named -- ironically enough! -- "Artistic Medals," located in France. A fact that may well increase the suspicion, expressed by @Theoderic, that someone, whether the dealer or the dealer's source for the medals, "has already polished or rubbed areas of the second piece - it seems too perfect that the smoke clouds contrast so well with the surrounding areas."  

It occurs to me that bronze disease may be even more dangerous for this sort of uniface medal, which consists of only a thin layer or coating of bronze over a medal that's actually made (depending on the authority one reads) of lead, tin, or pewter (which used to consist primarily of lead + tin)  underneath.  I would think that the thin coating of bronze would be more easily eaten up by BD than a medal entirely made of bronze. But I'm glad that I won't have to worry about it.

I wonder if there's any practical way of determining which of lead, pewter, or tin these medals are made of. I certainly can't tell from these reverses of uniface medals that I own. Are there any experts on metallurgy here?

NapoleonMarieLouiseunifacemedalAndrieu140mm.TresorNum_XLII_1p.87Essling1300Babelon1946Pl.XXXIX(9).jpg.bbba1b7982cfdcac4e89d6982a22c9ff.jpg

NapoleonEmpetRoiunifacemedalreversejpg.jpg.f0114d8a4c4a9cb6167cc192859f1b22.jpg

andrieusiegeofbastille1789uniface-blankreverse.jpg.78320b1f3df7bfa3ccf40322e1dc239c.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...
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The medal I chose with the help of all the advice I received arrived yesterday, and I am quite pleased with it. Here is the writeup, together with a new photo I took that I believe shows the details of the medal better than the dealer's photo -- which was taken at a very low resolution.

France, Louis XVI, Bronzed Pewter or PB (Lead)* Uniface Cliché Medallion, Siege of the Bastille, 14 July 1789, by Bertrand Andrieu (second state variety; see 2nd fn.). Obv. A large crowd of citizens armed with cannon, muskets, and bayonets, among them soldiers of the Garde Française, besiege the Bastille and its towers, which loom over them partly covered with smoke from the guns, with only a small number of defenders, visible atop the towers, firing upon them; the chains of the drawbridge have been broken, and the besiegers pour through the entrance to the bridge at the right; barrels of powder and several dead revolutionaries lie in the foreground among the gunners; above, SIEGE DE LA BASTILLE; in exergue in three lines, PRISE PAR LES CITOYENS DE | LA VILLE DE PARIS | LE 14. JUET. [Juillet] 1789; beneath the exergue line, with another line below as border, signed ANDRIEU F. [fecit] to left, and No. 1 to right [as first of planned series]** / Rev. None [uniface]. 85 mm., 84.87 g. Hennin 23 pp. 16-17 (second state variety)*** [Michel Hennin, Histoire numismatique de la révolution française . . . depuis l'ouverture des Etats-généraux jusqu'à l'établissement du gouvernement consulaire (Paris 1826)]; Trésor de Numismatique (“T.N.”) Vol. 13, No. 6.5 p. 8, ill. Planche VI No. 5 (second state variety) [Paul Delaroche, Henriquel Dupont & Charles Lenormant, eds., Trésor de numismatique et de glyptique Fol. 13, Médailles de la Révolution Française, 5 Mai 1789 - 18 Mai 1804 (1836), available at Google Books]; CGMP Vol. I 312D (ill. p. 313) (second state variety) [Catalogue général illustré des éditions de la Monnaie de Paris, Vol. I, De L’Antiquité à Louis XVI (1977)]; Jones p. 99 (ill. fig. 253) (second state variety) [Mark Jones, The Art of the Medal (British Museum 1979)]; Julius 13-14 pp. 1-2 (ill. Taf. 1) (second state variety) [Sammlung Dr. [Paul] Julius, Heidelberg: Französische Revolution Napoleon I. und seine Zeit : Medaillen, Orden und Ehrenzeichen, Münzen (Auktion 11 Jan. 1932, Otto Helbing Nachf., München, Auktions-Katalog 66) (available at Newman Numismatic Portal]; Benjamin Weiss Collection BW 393 (second state variety) [see photo & description at http://www.historicalartmedals.com/MEDAL%20WEB%20ENTRIES/FRANCE/NAPOLEONIC%20MEDALS/ANDRIEU-SIEGE%20OF%20BASTILLE-BW393%20HIGH.htm]; Jean Babelon, La Médaille et Les Médailleurs (Paris 1927), p. 195 (ill. Pl. XXXV No. 5) (second state variety); Jean Babelon & Jean Roubier, Portraits en Médailles (Paris 1946), pp. 79, 82 (ill. Planche XXXVI) (second state variety). Purchased Jan. 20 2024 from Stephane de Jaeger, Heuland, Normandie, France.

image.jpeg.2e187e2ef49420d619f8138e346e5b66.jpeg

image.png.d93ccf71db7cfb3a33814a949fd523dd.png

The medal is now on display on a stand in my living room, together with my other uniface French medals by Bertrand Andrieu. I decided that the storming of the Bastille at the beginning of the Revolution belongs in the foreground, with Napoleon looming behind, the future awaiting.

image.jpeg.afae3edf336434e63b188a086e9d90fb.jpeg

*If anyone is aware of any non-destructive way to determine whether the medal is made of pewter or lead, I'd appreciate your letting me know!

**Andrieu completed only one more medal in the planned series, commemorating the 6 October 1789 “Arrival of the King in Paris.” (See Hennin 62, Julius 54, Trésor de numismatique 13.2, Weiss BW395.)

***I have been unable to find a photo of a specimen struck from the first state of the die. Such specimens are apparently rare, because Andrieu lightly retouched the die -- which was never hardened, because it was used only for striking uniface clichés in pewter or lead -- shortly after the first state was published in early January 1790, in order to create the second state variety. (See Hennin p. 16.) All the descriptions and illustrations in the various books and catalogs cited above are of the second state variety -- the same variety as my specimen -- except in Hennin, which describes but does not illustrate the second state. Here is an engraving in Hennin, at Pl. 3, of the first-state medal, the only such illustration I have found:

image.png.1a1ccfcbe52f59ec5ef5a05e4cd2dc08.png

As explained in both Hennin and T.N. (which describes both varieties but illustrates only the second state) -- one book published in 1826 and the other in 1836 -- the primary difference between the two states of the die is in the depiction of the building in front of the far-right tower of the Bastille, slightly to the right of the medal’s center. In the first state, as seen in the engraving, the slanted roof of the building is largely visible, and beneath it one can see five windows in the building’s top story, and two windows in the next story below. To create the second state (represented by my specimen), Andrieu retouched the die so that only two windows and part of a third in the top story of the building are visible. The other windows in the top story, the windows in the story beneath, and the roof of the building, are now covered above and below with smoke from the guns. See Hennin pp. 16-17, T.N. p. 8. (A different, unsigned medal, imitative of Andrieu’s first state, with a different legend in the exergue referring to the “EPOQUE DU 14 JUILLET 1789” [see Hennin 24, Trésor de Numismatique 6.6, Julius 15] is relatively common.)

 

Edited by DonnaML
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  • DonnaML changed the title to Happy with the choice I made (uniface Siege of Bastille medal)(was: Which of these two specimens do you prefer?)

AMAZING medal! And STUNNING presentation!!! I'm picking my jaw up from the floor as I write this. 

Just WoWiE!

And agreed, your photo it's much better than the dealer's. 

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A beautiful piece. I just finished reading Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (excellent book.) I'd like to get a silver franc of Napoleon, but I think I'd like one from the time he was First Consul, after the coup of 18 Brumaire but before his coronation as Emperor in 1804. In many ways, I think this period saw Napoleon at his greatest. However, those are even more expensive (especially in good condition) than the subsequent issues as Emperor.

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