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four succeeding generations, they are in no great danger of being misunderstood : but as they may pass into the hands of a posterity, that lie many removes from us, and are like to act their part in the world, when its governments, manners, and religions may be quite altered; we ought to take a particular care not to make any false reports in them, or to charge them with any devices that may look doubtful or unintelligible.
I have lately seen, says Eugenius, a medallic history of the present king of France. One might expect, methinks, to see the medals of that nation in the highest perfection, when there is a society pensioned and set apart on purpose for the designing of them.
We will examine them, if you please, says Philander, in the light that our foregoing observations have set them ; but on this condition, that you do not look on the faults I find in them any more than my own private opinion. In the first place then, I think it is impossible to learn from the French medals either the religion, custom, or habits of the French nation. You see on some of them the cross of our Saviour, and on others Hercules' club.
In one you have an angel, and in another a Mercury. I fancy, says Cynthio, posterity would be as much puzzled on the religion of Louis le Grand, were they to learn it from his medals, as we are at present on that of Constantine the Great. It is certain, says Philander, there is the same mixture of Christian and Pagan in their coins; nor is there a less confusion in their customs. For example, what relation is there between the figure of a bull and the planting of a French colony in America
? The Romans made use of this type in allusion to one of their own customs at the sending out of a colony. But for the French, a ram, a hog, or an elephant would have been every whit as significant an emblem. Then can anything be more unnatural than to see a king of France dressed like an emperor of Rome, with his arms stripped up to his elbows, a laurel on his head, and a chlamys over his shoulders ? I fancy, says Eugenius, the society of medallists would give you their reasons for what they have done. You yourself allow the legend to be Latin, and why may not the customs and ornaments be of the same country as the language ? especially since they are all of them so universally understood by the learned. I own to you, says Philander, if they only design to deliver down to posterity the several parts of their great monarch's history, it is no matter for the other circumstances of a medal; but I fancy it would be as great a pleasure and instruction for future ages to see the dresses and customs of their ancestors, as their buildings and victories. Besides, I do not think they have always chosen a proper occasion for a medal. There is one struck, for example, on the English failing in their attempts on Dunkirk; when in the last reign they endeavoured to blow up a fort, and bombard the town. What have the French here done to boast of? A medal, however, you have with this inscription, DUNKIRKA ILLÆSA. Not to cavil at the two K's in Dunkirka, or the impropriety of the word Illasa, the whole medal, in my opinion, tends not so much to the honour of the French as of the English.
Fallere et effugere est triumphus. I could mention a few other faults, or at least what I take for such. But at the same time must be forced to allow, that this series of medals is the most perfect of any among the moderns in the beauty of the work, the aptness of the device, and the propriety of the legend. In these and other particulars, the French medals come nearer the ancients than those of any other country, as indeed it is to this nation we are indebted for the best lights that have been given to the whole science in general.
I must not here forget to mention the medallic history of the
popes, where there are many coins of an excellent workmanship, as I think they have none of those faults that I have spoken of in the preceding set. They are always Roman Catholic in the device and in the legend, which are both of them many times taken out of the Holy Scriptures, and therefore not unsuitable to the character of the prince they represent. Thus when Innocent XI. lay under terrible apprehensions of the French king, he put out a coin, that on the reverse of it had a ship tossed on the waves to represent the church. Before it, was the figure of our Saviour walking on the waters, and St. Peter ready to sink at his feet. The inscription, if I remember, was in Latin. “Help, Lord, or else I perish.” This puts me in mind, says Cynthio, of a pasquinade, that at the same time was fixed up at Rome. Ad Galli cantum Petrus flet
. But, methinks, under this head of the figures on ancient and modern coins, we might
expect to hear your opinion on the difference that appears. in the workmanship of each. You must know then, says Philander, that, till about the end of the third century, when there was a general decay in all the arts of designing, I do not remember to have seen the head of a Roman emperor drawn with a full face. They always appear in profil, to use a French term of art, which gives us the view of a head, that, in my opinion, has something in it very majestic, and at the same time suits best with the dimensions of a medal. Besides that, it shows the nose and eye-brows, with the several prominences and fallings in of the features, much more distinctly than any other kind of figure. In the lower empire you have abundance of broad Gothic faces, like so many full moons on the side of a coin. Among the moderns, too, we have of both sorts, though the finest are made after the antique. In the next place, you find the figures of many ancient coins rising up in a much more beautiful relief than those on the modern. This, too, is a beauty that fell with the grandeur of the Roman emperors, so that you see the face sinking by degrees in the several declensions of the empire, till, about Constantine's time, it lies almost even with the surface of the medal. After this it appears so very plain and uniform, that one would think the coiner looked on the flatness of a figure as one of the greatest beauties in sculpture. I fancy, says Eugenius, the sculptors of that age had the same relish as a Greek priest that was buying some religious pictures at Venice. "Among others he was shown a noble piece of Titian. The priest having well surveyed it, was very much scandalized at the extravagance of the relief, as he termed it. You know, says he, our religion forbids all idolatry: we admit of no images but such as are drawn on a smooth surface: the figure you have here shown me stands so much out to the eye, that I would no sooner suffer it in my church than a statue. I could recommend
Greek priest, says Philander, to abundance of celebrated 'painters on this side of the Alps that would not fail to please him. We must own, however, that the figures on several of our modern medals are raised and rounded to a very great perfection. But if you compare them in this particular with the most finished among the ancients, your men of art declare universally for the latter.
Cynthio and Eugenius, though they were well pleased
with Philander's discourse, were glad, however, to find it at an end: for the sun began to gather strength upon them, and had pierced the shelter of their walks in several places. ħad no sooner done talking, but he grew sensible of the heat himself, and immediately proposed to his friends the retiring to his lodgings, and getting a thicker shade over their heads. They both of them very readily closed with the proposal, and by that means give me an opportunity of finishing my dialogue.
1. VIRTVTI AVGVSTI. S. C. Reverse of Domitian. 2. HONOS ET VIRTVS. Reverse of Galba. 3. CONCORDIA AVG. S. C. Reverse of Sabina. 4. PAX ORBIS TERRARVM. Reverse of Otho. 5. ABVNDANTIA AVG. S. C. Reverse of Gordianus Pius. 6. 7. FIDES EXERCITVS. Reverse of Heliogabalus. 8. SPES AVGVSTA. Reverse of Claudius. 9. SECVRITAS PVBLICA. S. C. Reverse of Antoninus Pius. 10. PVDICITIA. S. C. Reverse of Faustina Junior. 11. PIETAS AVG. S. C. Reverse of Faustina Senior. 12. ÆQVITAS AVGVSTI. S.C. Reverse of Vitellius. 13. ÆTERNITAS. S. C. Reverse of Antoninus Pius. 14. SÆCVLVM AVREVM. Reverse of Adrian. 15. FELIX TEMPORUM REPARATIO. Reverse of Constantine. 16. ÆTERNITAS AVGVSTI. S. C. Reverse of Adrian. 17. ÆTERNITAS. S. C. Reverse of Antonine. 18. VICTORIA AVGVSTI. S. C. Reverse of Nero. 19. SARMATIA DEVICTA. A Victory. Reverse of Constantine. 20. LIBERTAS PVBLICA. S. C. Reverse of Galba. VOL. I.
THE SECOND SERIES.
1. FELICITATI AVG. COS. III. P. P. S. C. Reverse of Hadrian. 2. PONTIF. MAX. TR. POT. PP. COS. II. 3. P. N. R. S. C. Reverse of Claudius. 4. S. C. Reverse of Augustus. 5. S. P. Q. R. P. P. OB. CIVES SERVATOS. Reverse of Caligula. 6. Reverse of Tiberius. 7. FIDES PVBLICA. Reverse of Titus. 8. PRÆTOR RECEPT. Reverse of Claudius. 9. FECVNDITAS. S. C. Reverse of Julia Augusta. 10. NERO CLAV. CÆSAR. IMP. ET OCTAVIA. AVGVST. F. Re
verse of Claudius. 11. ORIENS AVG. Reverse of Aurelian. 12. Reverse of Commodus. 13. GLORIA EXERCITVS. E. S. I. S. 14. PRINCIPI IVVENTUTIS, S. C. 15. M. CATO. L. VETTIACVS. II. VIR. LEG. IV. LEG. VI. LEG
X. C. C. A. Reverse of Tiberius. 16. TR. P. VII. IMP. III. COS. V. P. P. S. C. Reverse of Trajan. 17. TR. POT. V. IMP. III. COS. II. S. C. Reverse of Lucius Verus. 18. PAX AVG. S. C. Reverse of Vespasian. 19. IMP. VIII. COS. III. P. P.S. C. DE GERMANIS.
Reverse of 20. IMP. VIII. COS. III. P. P.S. C. DE Marcus Aurelius.
SARMATIS. 21. Reverse of Trajan. 22. TR. POT. XIIII. P. P. COS. II. Reverse of M. Aurelius. 23. DIVVS AVGVSTVS PATER. Coined under Tiberius. 24. COS. IIII. S. C. Reverse of Antoninus Pius.
} Reverse of Constantine.