A brief recent history of the art medal
in Western Europe

Louis Gallait, painter, by Braemt

In comparison to the refined but rather dull and standardised medal art in the 19th century, very much the domain of engravers...

Société des aquarellistes, by Constantin Meunier.

...the end of the century and the beginning of the next saw a remarkable renewal, in which the medal art reflected the tendencies of the decorative arts in general.

Medal minting by Charpentier.

This was largely due to the fact that the reducing machine attracted more sculptors to the medal.

Naudet by Ponscarme, 1867.

The renewal of the medal art at the end of the nineteenth century originated in France with Ponscarme. For the first time in the Naudet medal in 1867, he abandoned the edge along the medal rim, the graphics and the background became part of the sculpture.  



Le planteur de choux (cabbage planter) by Alexandre Charpentier, 1895.

He was soon followed by  Chaplain,  Roty, Charpentier and others. They introduced landscapes and everyday subjects into the medal. The medal art followed the movements of the arts in general, art nouveau and art deco in particular.

1900 Paris exhibition by Roty.

There were intensive contacts between Paris and Brussels in the early 20th century on the arts scene. In the 1900 Universal exhibition in Paris as well as in the 1910 exhibition in Brussels the art of the medal was well represented with many contemporary creations.

Amis de la Medaille by Charpentier 1901

However, the medal as 'a message linked to an image' was experiencing though competition from other media. To come to the rescue of the art and the artists, associations were formed which edited art medals. Roger Marx founded the french 'Société des amis de la Médaille Française' in 1899. 58 medals were edited in 10 years.  



The medal collector by Devreese

In 1901 the Belgian-Dutch Society of the Friends of the Art Medal was founded.

Invention of drawing by Devreese

The society edited one or more medals a year for its members, alternating Belgian ...

The Netherlands, the sea by Van Der Hoef

...and Dutch artists creations

Victory 1945 by Louis Dupont

After world war I , the Belgian section became the "Friends of the Art Medal" (Amis de la Médaille d'art), and flourished until 1955...

Hugo de Groot by Reniers

while in the Netherlands in 1925 the "Vereeniging voor Penningkunst" (Association for Medallic Art) was founded, which is still active today.  



Centaure, reverse Delacroix portrait, by Poisson.

In France Jean Babelon founded the SFAM in 1928. Only cast bronze medals were produced, identical in dimensions to the artists model, in reaction to the widespread use of the reducing machine and mechanically struck medals.

Congo by Duterme.

In Belgium, an association called 'Promotion of the Art Medal' was founded in 1991. One medal a year is edited for the members.


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