Commemorative medal for the La Pérouse expedition

Medal. Commemorative medallion of the La Pérouse expedition which sailed in June 1785.

Exceptionally fine and very rare. With very high surfaces and fine detail, this medal is more commonly seen with significant wear. On obverse is a bust of Louis XV1; on reverse, within a laurel wreath ‘LES FREGATES/DU ROI DU FRANCE/LA BROUSSOLE/ET L’ASTROLABE/COMMANDEES PAR M.M./DE LA PEROUSE/ET DE LANGLE/PARTIES DU PORT DE BREST/EN JUIN 1785’.


SKU SF000693 Category


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Description

This medal was designed by the celebrated Benjamin Duvivier, chief engraver at the French mint until 1791. Only one hundred such examples were minted for the sailing of La Pérouse in June 1785, some in bronze and some silver: although the actual number of each is still open to speculation, the silver issue of this particular medal was evidently very small, perhaps fewer than fifty. Although the voyage was primarily one of scientific discovery, it also had explicit ‘Political and Commercial Objects’ (Spate, Paradise Found and Lost, p. 157); thus the minting of medals for trade with the South Sea islanders was obviously thought to be expedient. Indeed, the official accounts of the voyage include a staggering array of goods and baubles, taken along as gifts or for exchange. It includes a total of 700 medals, the first 600 simple medals in bronze and silver with only the effigy of the king, and 100 more of the elaborate medals, detailing the voyage, as here. They are listed as ‘Medailles d’argent ou de bronze, a effigie du roi, avec l’inscription portant les noms des batiments et l’epoque du voyage, les unes avec des chaines de meme metal, les autres sans chaines, 100’.

The appearance of the two silver and bronze versions is effectively identical. Having said that, there are small discrepancies in Duvivier’s name beneath the bust: here, “B. Duvivier F.” appears to have been newly lettered when compared with the example of the bronze issue. It would also seem that the date “1778”, the apparent date that the bust was struck, has been removed from either the die or the medal itself.

Additional information
Date

1785

Author/Maker

Pierre Simon Benjamin Duvivier

Material

Silver