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Bonaparte, I hardly Napoleon ya/ My new Napoleon medal mystery is pretty as a lady and hard as a man


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I picked up this beautiful medal as a snack to go along with some other exciting wins today (one is a very rare/rad Celtic that'll knock yo socks off). But am unable to find when nor why it was made. I thought the fancily written "Jean Claude" might render results. But my best guess is that it's merely the original owner and not makers name. 

Cut to, Napoleon astride his gallant, and elaborately armored, horse with eagle, wings spread, swoopping in with rising/setting sun behind. 

What a scene, right!? But why and who was this made for?

Screenshot_20240317_163425_PicCollage-removebg-preview.png.429b8414840a399b3bad0bf55b87640e.png

The sellers identification doesn't help much:

Medal - Napoleon 1st Nominative pendant.

Silver metal pendant with the effigy of the emperor

Diameter: 36.5mm

Weight: 20.06g

Recently unearthed in the Burgundy region of France

Reminded me of this old beauty:

David_-_Napoleon_crossing_the_Alps_-_Malmaison2.jpg.42e2fd14974ae86dd06bd6d7cc9acf13.jpg

Pretty cool, huh? But I sure would like to know more about it. Any ideas, theories, or identification would be greatly appreciated. And, of course, any and all things Napoleonic are welcome!

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I love that engraving. It's definitely something I would have bid on. I wonder if anyone generated more exonumia than Napoleon I. Ludvig Branson identified over 2300 medals struck in France, Italy, Great Britain, and Germany. He published them in three volumes from 1904 to 1913. You can read them here if you're interested in a very deep rabbit hole. And that's just the medals. Then there are all the little tokens and pendants like this one. Great find!

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That's a cool medal, @Ryro, and certainly an enigma. Seeing that big "Jean-Claude" on the reverse reminds me of the first dialogue we learned in French class in school in 1976:

"Monsieur Jean-Claude! Monsieur Jean-Claude! téléphone!"

"Une moment, Madame, j'arrive."

"C'est une jeune fille."

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Posted (edited)

@Ryro, it's a small (probably cast) copy of a late 19th-century bronze art medal by Jacques-Edouard Gatteaux (French, 1788–1881), entitled "Napoleon et le Soleil d'Austerlitz." Here's an example of the identical medal (including the Jean Claude on the reverse, with the same scratches, as well as the same brown areas on the obverse, so it may actually be the same specimen), sold on French Ebay for 9.00 Euros (so I hope you didn't pay too much of a mark-up, if you weren't the original purchaser):

https://www.ebay.fr/itm/355497325331?mkevt=1&mkcid=1&mkrid=709-53476-19255-0&campid=5338722076&customid=&toolid=10050#SHIPPING_SECTION_MODULE

image.jpeg.06c26d8cebc670f40020f5992846a94e.jpeg

image.jpeg.30fe759a5b8936d04c6d0ee16acfc9a6.jpeg

An image search shows a number of similar specimens.

Here's an example from Artnet of the original medal by Gatteaux, which is 44.45 x 44.45 cm; you can see how much more detail it has:

image.png.2458deb765e69c0e10bb17ae18f9982f.png

Edited by DonnaML
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Posted · Supporter
1 hour ago, DonnaML said:

@Ryro, it's a small (probably cast) copy of a late 19th-century bronze art medal by Jacques-Edouard Gatteaux (French, 1788–1881), entitled "Napoleon et le Soleil d'Austerlitz." Here's an example of the identical medal (including the Jean Claude on the reverse, with the same scratches, as well as the same brown areas on the obverse, so it may actually be the same specimen), sold on French Ebay for 9.00 Euros (so I hope you didn't pay too much of a mark-up, if you weren't the original purchaser):

https://www.ebay.fr/itm/355497325331?mkevt=1&mkcid=1&mkrid=709-53476-19255-0&campid=5338722076&customid=&toolid=10050#SHIPPING_SECTION_MODULE

image.jpeg.06c26d8cebc670f40020f5992846a94e.jpeg

image.jpeg.30fe759a5b8936d04c6d0ee16acfc9a6.jpeg

An image search shows a number of similar specimens.

Here's an example from Artnet of the original medal by Gatteaux, which is 44.45 x 44.45 cm; you can see how much more detail it has:

image.png.2458deb765e69c0e10bb17ae18f9982f.png

Thank you so much @DonnaML

Hehe! That's my coin and what I paid☺️. I just shoped the sellers background and combined the pictures. He is always willing to make a deal if you are buying multiple items. 

That other example is stunning... and massive! Mine must be its silver plated little frere.

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Posted · Supporter

A little color now that some light has been shone on the situation. 

"Napoleon and the Sun of Austerlitz" was a medal created in celebration of Bonaparte's greatest victory. 

"The French victory at Austerlitz was Napoleon's masterpiece. It dramatically reversed his militarily and politically dangerous situation and secured his imperial regime (Austerlitz took place on the one-year anniversary of his coronation as emperor)."

La_bataille_dAusterlitz._2_decembre_1805_(Franois_Grard).jpg.d2dc5ba2dafa74acd961c10cf7445fda.jpg

Napoleon would later say to his men in admiration and appreciation: "On the day of Austerlitz, you lived up to all my expectations of your bravery and boldness; you have decked your eagles with a glory that shall never die. In less than four hours, an army of one hundred thousand men, commanded by the emperors of Russia and Austria, has either been cut to pieces or dispersed."

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I like the medal with Napoleon on a donkey being led to Elba. I‘m just reading a book on the Battle of Leibzig (1813), which was the biggest battle in history up until that time. The book includes some eyewitness accounts, such as one by a man how crossed battle field of Möckern on the evening after the battle. His report brings the horrors of war to life, when he talks about the crying and whimpering of numerous wounded and dying men, or when he came home and realised from this boots that he had waded in  „blood, brains and intestines“. Napoleon was called a monster at the time, but somehow his image was cleared from his atrocities in later decades and centuries.

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Incidentally the practice of making medallions out of larger medals persisted into 20th century presidential inaugurations. The US mint always issues an official (large) inauguration medal, and then a few private companies make copies of them about the size of half dollars. That size makes them much more convenient as mementos. If you're into modern medals, an interesting collection would consist of both official and unofficial inauguration medals.

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