Save a tree. Do not print this unless it is really necessary
From their very beginnings, medals have been close to the hearts of those who receive them – quite literally! They were often meant to be held in the hand, and to be passed from hand to hand (either in official ceremonies or during private events), or sent by post, or even … tossed out into gathered crowds. They were used in a variety of ways also. They were sometimes piously stored in small cases, or ostentatiously worn on the chest, everyday items were decorated with them, or they were interred in graves along with the deceased. They accompanied people during family celebrations such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, but also lent a celebratory touch to official ceremonies. Their purpose was to commemorate events and individuals, thus they were mementos of a personal nature in every sense.
Medals in the Renaissance took on a life of their own as a new type of artwork. In contrast to superficially similar coins, they were not held back by any limitations; a medal could be commissioned by anyone and for anyone. And so they often bore the portraits not only of rulers, but also courtiers, artists, intellectuals, members of the Church authorities, scions of highly-placed noble families, merchants or civil servants. Obviously associated with the coins of Antiquity and made precious materials, their appearance alone gave an aura of nobility to the individual portrayed, and their simple compositional form allowed a rich message to be conveyed in an attractive way with minimal means. They immortalised individuals both with portraits and with words, such as inscriptions bearing names, titles, and information about the individual’s profession or age. On the reverse sides, affiliation with noble families was often highlighted by inclusion of a coat-of-arms, while individual features were expressed using symbolic images, allegorical compositions or brief mottos These elements, though always individual, were however quite often repeated, arising as they did from a shared sphere of visual imagination known to their viewers.
The exhibition presents the development of the private medal-making art during the period of the First Polish Republic. Particular attention will be paid to the personal nature of these medals, and not only to the official and representative function. The exhibition will also feature special occasion medals and items of a medal-like nature (including jettons, coin-like tokens for use on counting boards, and game tokens), as well as handicrafts decorated with medals. The core of the exhibition will consist of a selection of items from the Numismatic Room of the National Museum in Krakow (including many from the Count Emeryk Hutten-Czapski collection) and from the collections of the Princes Czartoryski. It should be noted that medals created by private individuals are not on permanent exhibit at the Hutten-Czapski Museum, although in terms of artistic merit, many of them equal royal medals. The exhibition will be complemented by items on loan from the Museum of Krakow, the National Museum in Poznan, and the Numismatics Room of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
The exhibition “The Medal in private” is an event accompanying the XVI International Numismatic Congress (Warsaw, 11–16 September 2022).