The portrait medal and medallion.
Copies of the coins of the antiquity, the first medals in the renaissance were related to the famous, whose portrait was depicted on one side of the medal. The portrait medal has since then been by far the most important genre within the medal.
The art of the portrait medal is not to bring an as close as possible likeness . A good portrait tells us something about the character of the sitter, his relation to the artist. It is coloured by the artistic ambiance in which it was conceived and by the personal style of the artist.
To create a good portrait is a challenge to an artist. The best portraits are often portraits of fellow-artists, many of those are included in the examples shown here.
For outstanding contemporary art portraits, see also the Ewa Olszewska page.
(click on the image to see a full size version)
The painter Louis Gallait by Braemt, 1841.
A classical 19th century portrait extremely detailed and well finished, leaving nothing to the imagination. A good example of the engravers skill.
Paul Blanc by Jean Baptiste Daniel-Dupuis, 1873.
Cast bronze medallion which Daniel-Dupuis made at the age of 24 in Rome, where he resided as laureate of the Grand prix de Rome in 1872. Masterful work by a talented artist who died prematurely. Blanc was a painter of historical scenes in neo-classical style.
Eudoxe Marcille by Oscar Roty, 1886.
Small cast plaquette with rounded edges shows a portrait in the style of the renaissance plaquettes, which Roty was the first to revive.
Savorgnan de Brazza, the explorer, by Ringell d'Illzach, 1886.
A large, cast bronze plaque. Illzach produced a gallery of contempory portraits in the style of David d'Angers. Savorgnan de Brazza was italian by birth and naturalised french. He explored large parts of Africa. He was much loved and respected by the african people, and denounced colonialist exploitation of the africans. Congo Brazzaville was named after him and still is.
Jean-Paul Laurens by Jules Clément Chaplain, 1887.
Elegant and refined portrait of this 19th century classical style painter.
Edmond de Goncourt by Alexandre Charpentier, cast bronze, 1891.
Charpentier made rapid sketches directly in clay. His portraits capture a moment-in-life of the subject, and are devoid of any superfluous detail. Edmond de Goncourt and his brother Jules were renowed art critics in Paris, the Goncourt literary price is still awarded yearly.
A. Liard by Lechevrel, 1892.
Liard was a master in bronze casting. This portrait was a tribute to him by medallists as Chaplain, Roty, Bottée and the author, Lechevrel. The text is in mirror image, as Liard was used to reading moulds.
Rouppe, Buls and Demot by Julien Dillens, 1900.
The portraits of the three men, directors of the Académie des Beaux Arts of Brussels are rendered in a fluent, sober style.
Gabriella Markelbach by Louis Dupuis, 1903.
A small silver medal with a fine portrait, its simplicity conveys a sense of dignity.
Paul Segond by Alexandre Charpentier, 1905.
Strong portrait of the Professor, surgeon and obstetrician. One can feel his personality and sense of responsability. The hand written text blends well in the composition.
Clotilde Kleeberg Samuel by Charles Samuel, 1909.
A charming and original protrait by Samuel in homage to his deceased wife.
Amédée Godard by Ovide Yencesse in 1912.
The impressionistic style of this portrait is obtained by the very low relief and blurred contours. Yencesse was an admirer of the painter Carrière whose style influenced him. Godard was an engraver and medal editor, predecessor of Victor Canale in Paris.