In a manner far richer than coins, medals can provide an engaging and
enlightening view of history, especially when a collection is pursued
with the broader aim of providing context for a larger story.
In auction No. 282 on Sept. 28, German auction house Fritz Rudolph
Künker offers The Luc Smolderen Collection, which is titled
“Perception of European History Through Medals.”
According to Künker: “Medals represent a very special field of
collecting. There are hardly any comprehensive catalogs and there is
surely no help to find out their rarity. It is really only personal
taste and knowledge which are the most important factors when creating
such a collection. And Smolderen certainly possessed plenty of these abilities.”
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Smolderen often shared his knowledge with other collectors and
Geographically, the focus of his collection is the Netherlands and
Belgium, as well as France, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, the Habsburg
Empire, and Germany.
A former president of the Académie Royale d’Archéologie de Belgique,
Smolderen built a collection that includes a range of pieces,
affordable to astronomical.
Every example tells its own story. One piece in the sale provides a
look at life in the 16th century Holy Roman Empire.
The undated bronze medal was commissioned by Antoine Perrenot de
Granvelle, who lived from 1517 to 1586.
A statesman from Burgundy, Granvelle served Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V (who reigned from 1519 to 1556) as one of his most important
diplomats. In a time when travels were cumbersome, Granvelle
repeatedly passed through Europe by the order of the emperor. And,
according to the auction house, being a representative of a rigid
religious policy, as carried out by Charles V, he experienced the hate
of the Protestants.
There is no better source than his medals to learn how he perceived himself.
The reverse of this medal (and another in the sale) show the
misfortunes of Ulysses accompanied by the motto DVRATE, which
represents the beginning of a quote stemming from the Aeneid: “Endure
and preserve yourselves for better times.”
The contemporary cast bronze medal is unsigned, but in the style of
Jacques Jonghelinck, a Flemish sculptor and medalist working in Brussels.
The field of the medal is slightly smoothed, but the piece is
otherwise Extremely Fine.
The medal has an estimate of €4,000 (about $4,454 U.S.). It is just
one of approximately 5,350 lots with a cumulative estimate of €7.7
million ($8,571,658 U.S.) crossing the auction block in six Künker
auctions from Sept. 26 to 30.