What is a medal?
Medals are small works of art commissioned by a person or institution to commemorate a significant event or notable personality. Design, form, material and reason for issue are thereby completely at the discretion of the commissioner. Medals originated in the princely courts of the Renaissance. Distinguished artists crafted them, creating magnificent portraits of their patrons. Those medals served as gifts to other courts giving evidence of the importance of the person portrayed.
Medal of Louis XIV of France from 1673 on the completion of the eastern façade of the Louvre
Louis XIV of France (1643-1715) was the first to issue medals systematically to commemorate his deeds for posterity. He had his medals described and published in catalogues. Every European ruler imitated his example.
Medal of Napoleon I from 1798 on the conquest of Egypt
The medal suite documenting the rule of Napoleon I has become famous. More than 200 years later, medals using the original dies could still be ordered and purchased at the Monnaie de Paris.
In the 19th century medals became accessible for the bourgeois. Well-off physicians, teachers and manufacturers demonstrated their education by building up coin and medal collections. Naturally, that included commemorating one's own birthday, family event or anniversary with an own medal.
Medal on the completion of the main tower of Ulm Minster from 1890
Associations issued medals to be purchased by members at annual meetings for the benefit of the organisation's accounts. Competitions were concluded with the award of medals, as remains the tradition today in the case of the Olympic Games and the Nobel Prize.
Medal by Jacques Wiener from Belgium representing the Cathedral of Cordoba from 1859
A multitude of private and public mints satisfied the public's hunger for medals. Not only did they strike medals for commissioners; they also produced popular medal series depicting significant personalities, buildings or historical events which remain sought-after collectors’ items today.
Inventors from Baden-Wuerttemberg – Andreas Stihl
Following that tradition, the State Mints of Baden-Wuerttemberg have issued an art medal series "Inventors from Baden-Wuerttemberg". The series honours outstanding personalities hailing from our federal state whose creativity has significantly changed our world and thus advanced Baden-Wuerttemberg.