Author Topic: Satyrical medals  (Read 5200 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Satyrical medals
« on: October 11, 2009, 07:05:48 PM »
Elsewhere, I have discussed a special exhibition in the British museum on this subject. I intend to post some scans from the catalogue here in no particular order.

This medal struck my fancy because its subject is so utterly modern. Here is a detail. A man is operating a bellows, but instead of wind, stocks come out. The man cries: WER KAVFT ACTIEN (who wants to buy equity?) The legend is WER SICH DVRCH DIESEN WIND DEN GELDGEITZ LAESSET (Who, desiring money, is led by this wind), continued on the reverse by DER KANN VERWIRRVNGSVOLL SEIN HAAB V. GVTH VERLIEREN (can lose all he has in confusion).

Around 1700 the world economy was growing faster than the supply of new precious metals. New financial instruments, such as banks and equity led to frenzied speculation and spectacular defaults, as the rules of the game were not yet fully known and observed. While this medal refers to equity and the collapse of the Compagnie des Indes (known as the Mississippi company in England) in 1720, it might just as well apply to CDOs and the Lehman Brothers' collapse in 2008.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 07:40:16 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2009, 07:30:29 PM »
This medal by an unidentified Dutch engraver mocks the succession of Fairfax as commander of the parliamentary forces by Cromwell in June 1650. Both sides can be turned around to transform Fairfax into a fool (duped by Cromwell) and Cromwell into a devil (protestant fundamentalist) - tilt your head to see the alternative portrait. Painfully, both charges turned out to be true. The trick of turning a medal around to show a fool and a devil was first used on medals on the pope and a cardinal, so this medal also suggests that protestant fundamentalism plays into the hands of catholicism.

The legend on the Cromwell side is D EEN MENS IS D A SIIN DVIVEL (a person to one man is a devil to another). The Fairfax side legend is D EEN SOT IS DEN A S GECK (a fool to one man is a madman to the other)

Peter
« Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 07:41:42 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2009, 07:59:58 PM »
While the first medal I showed looks prophetic, this one, by Thomas Halliday, works hopelessly naive.

Britain had instituted a temporary income tax in 1799 to raise money for fighting Napoleon. It was re-introduced by Robert Peel in 1842, apparently accompanied by measures to check on income over £150 - a considerable sum. The medal shows Peel riding a devil. The legend is NO INCOME TAX, NO INQUISITION, NO PEEL & Co. Whigs and Tories alike promised to repeal the tax, but none ever did. It is amusing to note that this silver medal, struck in frostred proof must have been quite expensive. The reverse has an admiring portrait of queen Victoria. The message is: "the sovereign is good, her advisors are bad". That's exactly what William the silent said 250 years earlier.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2009, 12:05:28 AM »
This one is hard to take. Sensitive souls should look elsewhere. With time, the message of this medal has turned against itself. This 1920 medal by Karl Goetz harshly objects to black soldiers in the French army stationed in Saarland. To be sure, the medal is only a reflection of the kind of unsavory thoughts commonly found in the German press of the time.

On the obverse is a man with exaggerated negroid characteristics in a helmet marked RF, to make sure that everyone understands that he is in the French army. The legend "Die Wacht am Rhein" turns around a patriotic song, rooted in the threat of France against Germany. The motto of the French revolution, Liberté Egalité Fraternité goes without comment, but is clearly meant as disapproval of a motto that would lead to treating blacks as equals.

On the reverse, the helmet set on an erect penis, holding a destitute naked female prisoner. Before the bound figure is a destroyed lyra, symbol of destruction of beauty. The legend DIE SCHWARZE SCHANDE means the black shame. An eye in the sky may be the divine, all-seeing eye or it may refer to freemasonry.

The contrast between the artist's virtuosity and the utter unacceptability of his deprived thoughts is shocking and confusing, maybe because its message is still relevant and we have no distance from the issue yet.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 12:39:37 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Galapagos

  • Guest
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2009, 12:21:30 AM »
But imagine the situation, a usually down-trodden black man all of a sudden acquires some power over white Germans. Maybe he treats them with contempt, drawing on the attitudes of his French superiors, who have not long since endured a vicious war with the Germans. There are history and polarisation potentially lurking in the attitudes of all the various groups at this time.


Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2009, 12:23:15 AM »
My favourite piece in the exhibition was created by Cornelia Parker in 2008. The two backs of the head look at each other, not at you. They are modelled on George Bush and Tony Blair, but they could be anyone. Only the legend gives a clue: WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, WE KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE is the disquieting message to the two anonymous heads. The complete quote is from a speech by Vietnam veteran Ed Reiman, after Bush's controversial electoral victory in Florida: "And I am here to tell Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger, George Schulz, James Baker and the rest of the Committee running this country - and the corporations that own them - We know who you are, we know what you've done and how you did it, and - if we have our way - this is your last hurrah!"

You are left with the space to fill in your own thoughts. Bush got four more years, or was he disavowed by Obama's election? Blair stuck to his position for many more years. Or was he worn out? Are these men just stand-ins for others, faceless bureaucrats or bloated corporations or were they taking there own decisions to the best of their knowledge and with the good of their country in mind? Were they evil or just unsuccessful? Does it help that we know who they are and what they did or does it only add to our frustration? Do we really know what they did?

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2009, 12:37:41 AM »
The last medal in the series, called hot air and created in 2009 by Felicity Powell, steps over the medal boundaries. It uses the form of a retractable tape measure to highlight the often neglected third dimension of the medal. One side shows a big-whig with what looks like a retractable whiplash tongue. The other side shows buttocks sticking out of water, passing air. The meaning becomes clear only as you unroll the tape. It contains mindless and irresponsible quotes of well known or well-paid personalities. Two examples: "If the temperature rises 2 or 3 degrees, nothing terrible will happen; quite the contrary, maybe it will be good: we'll spend less on fur coats" - Vladimir Putin, 2003. "In Europe you like to tell people what kind of cars they ought to use. Most Americans like to make that decision for themselves - that's why we left Europe" - Lee Raymond, Chief Executive officer of Exxon Mobil.

The last three scans probably made you feel like taking a position in the debate. I think that helps you understand how the first medals must have affected their contemporaries. We can smile about conflicts past, but conflicts present take us by the throat.

Peter
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 12:49:57 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline malj1

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7 356
  • "illegitimi non carborundum"
    • Mals Machine Tokens
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2012, 01:07:44 PM »
This Satyrical piece has long been one of my most prized possessions, given to me by my grandmother many, many years ago. Although of little value it is of immense value to me. It depicts the King and a Fool along with the Pope and a Devil depending on which way you look at it.

  Cast brass, approx. 30mm X 3.2mm thick
« Last Edit: October 30, 2019, 10:16:56 AM by malj1 »
Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.

Offline Pellinore

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1 311
    • Some numismatic books for sale on our website
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2016, 03:11:53 AM »
This thread gives great joy to read, I hope somebody will follow it up some day. That 'Last Hurrah' medal is really TOP! Thanks to you all!
-- Paul

Offline malj1

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7 356
  • "illegitimi non carborundum"
    • Mals Machine Tokens
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2016, 03:56:02 AM »
Edited to replace my images of the Pope and the Devil which were removed by that devil imageshack who wanted money!
Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2016, 11:59:51 AM »
The French revolution was also fought in Britain. Medallists and token halfpenny producers struck out at each other with their products. The main argument of the anti-revolutionaries was that their opponents were traitors, mainly for not respecting the king. The principal argument of the supporters of the French revolution was a call for legal and social justice. Here is a well-known medallic halfpenny of the antis.

The central object of the design is a tree. The circular legends are A TREE IS KNOWN BY ITS FRUIT and MAY THE TREE OF LIBERTY EXIST TO BEAR TOMMY'S LAST FRIEND. A tree of liberty is an unlikely symbol for a royalist, until you realise that it does not symbolise liberty, but the United States. The second big player in the design is Tommy, the hanged man. The central legend says: TOMMY"S RIGHTS OF MAN. The man is Thomas Paine, author of The rights of man. In 1776, Paine had published a pamphlet, supporting the American revolution titled Common sense. As the British Parliament was divided over the matter, he could hardly be blamed, though the royalists were gnashing their teeth. "Tommy's friends" is at least partially clarified. Ironically, while Paine later in life moved to the US, he was not welcome there, as he was equated with the terror in France, rather than his support for the American revolution.

Rights of man was quite another matter. It advocated turning Britain into a democratic republic! The royalists jumped on it. Paine was indicted for seditious libel, a hanging offence. However, before his trial could take place, Paine escaped to France, where he was promptly made a deputy in parliament. In the early stages of the French revolution, the movement thought of itself as international. Ironically, so would communism.

Paine was hanged in effigy in a number of small towns. Note the festively decorated church in the background. You can almost hear its bells. The speech bubble, a cartoonist's invention, reads: I DIE FOR THIS DAMN'D BOOK. Those who commissioned this token declared Paine guilty before a trial could start, though later trials that did take place show that even Britain's notoriously partial judges of that time were often of a different opinion.

In 1989, a young woman was raped and murdered in Central Park in New York. There was a law and order outcry, nicely channeled by Donald Trump, who placed large ads, calling for the death penalty. Five non-white teenagers were convicted of the crime. Their confessions were false and their innocence proven by DNA comparisons. Trump called their exoneration a disgrace, because the teenagers "do not exactly have the pasts of angels". Here also, there was an attempt to let the past, emotion and disagreement (albeit on a far less intellectual level) trump facts in order to kill. The medal is more modern than you might have assumed...

Peter
« Last Edit: June 02, 2016, 12:14:04 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline EWC

  • Meritorious Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 807
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2016, 01:40:46 PM »
This medal by an unidentified Dutch engraver mocks the succession of Fairfax as commander of the parliamentary forces by Cromwell in June 1650. Both sides can be turned around to transform Fairfax into a fool (duped by Cromwell) and Cromwell into a devil (protestant fundamentalist) - tilt your head to see the alternative portrait. Painfully, both charges turned out to be true.

That’s a bit hard on Fairfax - a personal hero of mine.  When parliament took Oxford - Fairfax immediately sent troop to the Bodlian library to protect the old manuscripts from looters.  I recall he saved the medieval stained glass at York and Beverley etc in much the same way.  So maybe not as much a fool as Bush, Blair & co anyhow........
« Last Edit: June 03, 2016, 11:53:09 AM by EWC »

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2016, 06:13:53 PM »
It's all in the eye of the beholder. Expect the satirist to exaggerate. Here is an example. The other side of the French revolution debate in Britain. This is a mule issued by Thomas Spence. One side shown A FREE-BORN ENGLISHMAN in chains, hands tied on his back, his mouth padlocked. On the other side is a British navy petty officer, impressing a passer-by with a walking stick.

The free-born Englishman is portrayed as the victim of the Treasonable Practices and Seditious Meetings Act of 1795, better known as the "gagging act". The act made it a capital crime to correspond about the ideas of the French revolution or to discuss them in a meeting of over 50 persons. The 50 person threshold was a loophole that was closed in 1817, leading to further medallic protests.

The BM discovered the cartoon that inspired the design, featuring in addition worn clothes and shoes, a dirty face, unkempt hair and leg-irons instead of chains. Note also how the cartoon turns a contemporary cliché on its head with heavy irony: "a freeborn Englishman, the admiration of the world, the envy of surrounding nations &c &c.

Press gangs were a scourge of the South of England. In view of the difficulty to man British Royal Navy ships, crews could send out parties that could force any able man they would meet to enlist. The practice was sometimes cruel and widely abused, leading up to war with the United States in 1812. The design does a good job picturing the opposite intentions of the sailor and the civilian. The circular inscription is scathingly ironic: BRITISH LIBERTY DISPLAYED.

Both practices contravened the concept of liberty in the French revolutionary declaration of human rights. Spence's message is clear: French people are better off than British people, because of human rights. It must have looked that way before the revolution proverbially started to devour its own children; theory and practice at odds.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline EWC

  • Meritorious Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 807
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2016, 10:13:23 AM »
It's all in the eye of the beholder.

I am going to be rather mean, take you literally,  and say - No it isn’t!  There is plenty of objective evidence for Fairfax’s moderating influence, and that if at the end of the day he could not restrain the zealots, it was not really his fault.

As I recall Fairfax turned down a burial plot in Westminster Abbey, he is buried in the little local church at Bilborough.  The poet Marvel commented on how modest his house at Nunappleton was, for such a great man.  That house however now belongs to the owner of Sam Smith’s brewery.  A rather less generous spirited man it seems, since there is an ancient right of way running past the house, but it is now fenced off – after reputedly a huge sum was spent in the courts closing the right of way to the public.  I drink Theakston’s myself, not just because it tastes better……

Turning to your alternative press gang matter, as usual its all very complicated.  My daughter worked on the 18th century Whitby orphanage archives – all the girls there went into service at 12, all the boys to the navy at 14.  But the ruthlessness of those times is clear enough in the writings of Mandeville and Malthus.

Another hero of mine -  connected to press gangs etc - whose reputation has been made a strange game – is Thomas Cochrane.  The real guy behind the Russell Crowe character in the film ‘Master and Commander’, that based upon the O’Brian books where he is called “Jack Aubrey”.  The reason for all this name switching seems to be to give Hollywood, and authors of “historical” fiction the opportunity to show the sort of simple minded bigotted reactionary john bull character that they judge is appropriate.  In reality Cochrane took a stand against the press gangs, and more importantly against parliamentary corruption, fought elections alongside Cobbett, and many think went to prison on trumped up charges as a punishment for his progressive radicalism.  All this is suppressed in O’Brian’s fiction.

I came across Cochrane because he shared the view of Wang An Shih, Sher Shah Suri, Akbar and Adam Smith that the whole population deserved payment in coin, and thus access to markets. Cochrane himself was involved in a scheme to strike copper coin for newly liberated Chile.  He seems to have got his radicalism from the influence of Adam Smith at Edinburgh University.

Ha! - Adam Smith – yet another figure blighted by modern misrepresentations…………..

But enough for today

Rob
« Last Edit: June 03, 2016, 11:49:30 AM by EWC »

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 736
Re: Satyrical medals
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2016, 12:12:31 PM »
Not the man who's made in the eye of the beholder, but the medal. I look on the medals as cartoons, not character studies. People became symbols of ideas you can agree or disagree with. The Cromwell period was one of bigoted religious extremism. No wonder there was criticism, even from fellow protestants.

To illustrate that, here's a medal that protests against materialism. It (2008) follows the song Material Girl (released 1984) by almost a quarter century. The personification of the compulsive shopper seems to be an Austrian or Hungarian version of Mary as queen of the heavens, except for the mobile phone in her hand, the shopping bag with logos, the two handbags and the Cretan style naked breasts. Note that among the brand names is Sotheby's, who the artist (Grayson Perry) uses as an outlet for his work, so the medal implicates himself.

The haloed child on the other side has a not so difficult choice between smiling and sexually aroused figures labelled FAST, EASY, SIMPLE (think of watching a film) and spectres rising from a monstrous mask labelled SLOW, HARD, COMPLEX (think of reading a book). My illustrations are chosen so that I can confess I never read "The taming of the shrew", but I saw the film and enjoyed it. The medal spares no one and does not eschew highly controversial symbolism.

Orphanages are a story by themselves. Long ago, I read a comparison between a London and a Copenhagen orphanage. From what I remember, the Copenhagen orphanage was strict, strictly religious, but they arranged jobs or marriages for their wards. The London orphanage (also protestant) was prison-like, complete with prison work, abuse of the children and a high death rate. Indeed, if they survived the boys became cannon fodder. The only token I can think of are the Birmingham workhouse tokens, but they are not a good illustration.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.