Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Council Medal for the Great Exhibition of 1851

  • Object:

    Medal

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1851 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Wyon, William, born 1795 - died 1851 (designer)
    Domard, Jean-François, born 1792 - died 1858 (maker)
    Bonnardel, Pierre Antoine Hippolyte, born 1824 - died 1856 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Struck bronze

  • Museum number:

    6028-1852

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR12

The medal was made for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
On the obverse are the portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, her consort and president of the Society of Arts, which planned the Exhibition. Below them, the dolphins symbolise the naval power of the British Empire.

The reverse celebrates Great Britain’s industrial and commercial authority. This is unambiguously conveyed by the Latin inscription, which translates as ‘for there is a certain country in the great world’, and the central group, surrounded by attributes of industry and commerce, with Britannia crowning the allegorical figure of Industry and Mercury, god of trade and profit. Behind Britannia, the flags of different nations suggest the international nature of the Great Exhibition.

Struck medals can be made in large numbers. Each medal is formed mechanically by the force of two engraved metal dies pressing the image on to a blank disc of softer metal held between them. Struck medals are generally designed in low relief and have crisp, sharp outlines.

Physical description

The obverse of this bronze medal presents the conjoined heads of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert, she laureate and he bare head. The reverse depicts the erect, crowned figure of Britannia, holding wreaths above the heads of impersonations of Commerce and Industry. The group is surrounded by attributes of industry and commerce.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

1851 (made)

Artist/maker

Wyon, William, born 1795 - died 1851 (designer)
Domard, Jean-François, born 1792 - died 1858 (maker)
Bonnardel, Pierre Antoine Hippolyte, born 1824 - died 1856 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Struck bronze

Marks and inscriptions

VICTORIA D:G:BRIT:REG:F:F ALBERTUS PRINCEPS CONJUX
MDCCCLI
Signed 'Bonnardel, Inv.: Domard, Sculp.'
obverse

EST ETIAM IN MAGNO QUAEDAM RESPUBLICA MUNDO
MDCCCLI
reverse

Dimensions

Diameter: 3,5 in, Diameter: 8.9 cm

Object history note

Given by the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851.

Historical significance: On the obverse are the portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, her consort and president of the Society of Arts, which planned the Exhibition. Below them, the dolphins symbolise the naval power of the British Empire.

The reverse celebrates Great Britain's industrial and commercial authority. This is unambiguously conveyed by the Latin inscription, which translates as 'for there is a certain country in the great world', and the central group, surrounded by attributes of industry and commerce, with Britannia crowning the allegorical figure of Industry and Mercury, god of trade and profit. Behind Britannia, the flags of different nations suggest the international nature of the Great Exhibition.

Historical context note

While a number of unofficial medals were struck to commemorate the Great Exhibition of 1851 and were purchased by the public, five official medals were designed specifically for those connected with the event. These were the Council medal, the Prize medal, the Exhibitors medal, the Jurors medal and the Services medal.
The exhibition was divided into thirty classes, with juries appointed for each. Exhibitors showing remarkable originality were rewarded by receiving the Council medal, given by members of the Council following the recommendations of the Jury. Over 170 Council medals were awarded to exhibitors, with their name and class engraved around the edge.

Sets comprising all five medals were offered to the Commissioners, the governments of the participating countries, and a number of senior officials. As this medal does not bear the name of an exhibitor to its edge, it probably formed part of one such set.
In these sets, the medals were housed in a presentation box bound in red leather with heavy brass hinges and clasps with gilt tooling and lined with blue velvet and watered silk. The silk inside the lid is inscribed with gold lettering naming the recipient

William Wyon, the Chief Engraver of the Royal Mint, produced the design for the obverse of the medal, presenting conjoined heads of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The reverse was chosen by a competition open to international artists. The winning entry, designed by Hippolyte Bonnardel of Paris, depicts Britannia crowning Mercury and Industry with a laurel wreath.

Descriptive line

Council medal of the Great Exhibition of 1851, bronze, by William Wyon, Pierre Hippolyte Bonnardel and Joseph François Domard, England (London), 1851

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Trusted, Marjorie, ed. The Making of Sculpture. The materials and techniques of European sculpture. London, 2007, p.79, pl. 124
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1852. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 25.
Allen, Leslie Lewis, The World's Show: Coincraft's Catalogue of Crystal Palace Medals and Tokens, 1851-1936, London: 2000, pp. 31-33, HP-A001 p.34.
Brown, Laurence, British Historical Medals 1837-1901: the Reign of Queen Victoria, London, 1987, p. 170, no. 2460-2461
Fearon, Daniel, Spink's Catalogue of British Commemorative Medals: 1558 to the Present Day with valuations, Exeter, 1984, p. 71, no. 302.4.
Expo 2010 Shanghai China, World Exposition Museum, Shanghai, 2010, p. 99

Materials

Bronze

Subjects depicted

Wreath; Female figure

Categories

Coins & Medals; Great Exhibition; Sculpture; Portraits

Production Type

Limited edition

Collection

Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.