Events

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Charlotte Corday Medal: Well Deserved?

In contrast to the portrait prints in the previous post, numismatic commemorations of Charlotte Corday, assassin of Jean-Paul Marat, are fairly rare.

Here is one of the more refined of those exceptions:

Attributed (1, 2) to the Swedish medallist Carl Carlsson Enhörning (1745-1821), it is made of gilded bronze, with a diameter of 29 mm.

obverse
I don't know the source of the likeness, but it certainly seems to be an idealized generic representation. (I myself do not know of a single depiction in profile--so it is likely that Enhörning would not have, either--though it is possible that this one is based on the artist's interpretation of one of the full-face portraits.)

In any case, the inscription on the reverse suggests closeness to the event, at which time, presumably, few accurate representations of Corday would have been available.


The words, "bien méritée,"--well earned, or well deserved--make Enhörning's political sympathies clear, lest there was any doubt. In choosing this form, the artist also implicitly echoes the standard type of medal that governments, schools, academies, and other institutions issued for commendable achievement. For example, this small silver medal of the eighteenth-century Kingdom of Poland under Stanisław II August given to cadets:


Whether her act was justified is a matter that we can continue to debate. I keep the medal in my collection because I feel her fate rather than the act was "well deserved." Marat was a radical revolutionary leader--not unproblematic in his politics and personal views, yet also hardly the demon that his enemies claimed he was.

Bien méritée? As I said in the previous post, the verdict of "the Raging Reporter" Egon Erwin Kisch seems the most congenial.  Introducing a piece by Marat in his anthology, Klassischer Journalismus (Berlin, 1923), he explains, "the agitated hysteric, Charlotte Corday, a stupid person, stabbed him to death."

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