Highlight from the Lugdunum Auction 21

The Calaisienne

An exceptional medieval medal
from the end of the 100 Years' War

France, Kingdom, Charles VII, 1422-1461. Large silver medal 1455 (chronogram), unsigned,
commemorating the expulsion of the English and the end of the Hundred Years’ war. 69mm; 60.95 g

Lot 48 / estimation CHF 50’000 / hammer price CHF 340’000

The Calaisienne is an exceptional large silver medal minted in 1455 by the French King Charles VII. It commemorates the French victory of the Hundred Years’ War and the following expulsion of the English from the French territory.

It can be seen as a medal of honour given by the King Charles VII to its most loyal knights for their bravery during the last and most epic battles of the Hundred Years’ War.

Our video presents the characteristics of this medal, like its iconography, its rarity, its historical and numismatic importance, its artistic merit and symbolic power as well as its prestigious provenance.

Discover the medal in a video

The video is also available in French and German

The Calaisienne in your hands

The Calaisienne and its time

Text by Dr. Jonas Emmanuel Flueck

A good medal has usually a characteristic that makes it stand out. It can be its condition, its rarity, its numismatic importance or its artistic merit, now and then also it can be its provenance. But an exceptional medal has all of these characteristics and this medal is truly exceptional.

The Calaisienne was minted in 1455 by the French King Charles VII and commemorates the French Victory of the Hundred Years’ War and the following expulsion of the English from the French territory.

It is one of a series of 8 different types known to have been struck between 1451 and 1460 to commemorate this exceptional event.

It is sometimes called Calaisienne as a reference to the city of Calais that remained the last English possession on French territory.

This medal can be seen as a medal of honour given by the King to its most loyal knights for their bravery during the last and most epic battles of the Hundred Years’ War.

And with this in mind you can just imagine what the recipient must have endured and accomplished in order to receive such an important award.

Charles VII, 1422-1461 - King of France

Iconography

Obverse: King on horseback - Reverse: His Majesty on the throne

On the obverse, you can see the King on horseback, as a military chief fighting on the battlefield.

On the reverse, you can see the King as a political leader seating on a throne, in Majesty.

This iconography makes this medal, the type with the highest artistic merit among the 8 known types of Calaisiennes.

further varieties of the Calaisienne

Rarity

What’s really incredible is that this specimen is one of only three known to exist for this type. One is in the collections of the British Museum in London and one in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

In other words and to the best of our knowledge, this piece is unique, as it is the only specimen in private hands available on the market.

Historical importance

As we have already mentioned, this medal commemorates the end of the Hundred Years’ War, one of the most important events of the late medieval period. But it marks also the birth of a modern French Nation, a national spirit raising from the ashes of a century of war.

In this aspect, the Calaisiennes are the first French medals ever minted.

Three historical figures linked to this medal

When we look at this medal, there are three important historical figures that come to mind:

Charles VII, 1422-1461, King of France

The first, of course, is King Charles VII, whose military and political victories are so beautifully illustrated on this medal and praised in the legends. His nickname The Victorious was well deserved.

On a military aspect, his decisive victories on the English accomplished what four generations of his forefathers never achieved.

On a political aspect, he was able to win back the throne of France despite the fact that his own father, king Charles VI, had refused him the Crown of France and even promised it to a king of England.

Charles VII, the Victorious
John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury

John Talbot, an English nobleman

The second historical figure is John Talbot, the English knight heroically portrayed by Shakespeare in his play Henry VI. He was defeated and killed at the Battle of Castillon, the final battle of the Hundred Years’ War.

The battle took place in 1453, just 2 years before this medal was made and its recipient had probably been fighting in this decisive battle.

Jeanne d'Arc, the maid of Orléans

The third historical figure is Jeanne d’Arc, the well-known Maid of Orléans, heroine of France for her decisive role in the victories of Charles VII. Until her capture and killing by fire by the English, she was the most loyal and brave companion of the King.

Had she still been alive in 1455, then she would for sure have been among the few receiving such an exceptional award.

Jeanne d'Arc

Artistic merit

The King on horseback - powerful and determined

This medal is also a true masterpiece of medieval art with an exceptional style.

On the obverse, you can feel the strength and power of the king on horseback so realistically illustrated. The drapery and closes are just floating in the wind and his horse in “Galop volant”, seems to be flying toward the enemy.

On the reverse, in contrast, you can feel stability and authority of the King in a totally static scene. This feeling is emphasized by the unique use of perspective in the design of the throne.

A technic that had disappeared since Antiquity and will be one of the most important re-discoveries of the Renaissance.

The throne depicted in perspective

Numismatic importance

Size comparison: The Calaisienne vs Groat, the largest silver coin struck at the time

This medal is also a masterpiece of medallic craftsmanship.

Along with others types of Calaisienne, it is the largest medieval medal ever struck. It represents a real revolution in the history of coin and medal production, being the first time in the history that such a large flan is used.

As a comparison, the surface of this medal is over 7 times more important than the largest silver coin struck at the time.

An exciting discovery

Additionally, our researches led us to make an exciting discovery:

We found out that this very medal was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1867 in Paris, intended to mark the culmination of the Second Empire. Its exceptional historical importance as well as its artistic merit where for sure the reasons our medal had been selected.

We can imagine the Emperor Napoleon III proud to admire this timeless symbol of a strong and victorious France. It was displayed in front of prestigious guests like the Tsar Alexander II, Otto von Bismarck, The Prinz Franz Joseph as well as over 10 million other visitors.

Napoleon III (centre) accompanied by other European sovereigns

Almost 100 years ago, on sale for the last time

Extensive researches have allowed us to also re-discover prestigious provenances for this medal going back more than 150 years. We found out that this medal was once part of two prestigious collections:

Benjamin Fillon

The medal was once at the Chateau de la Court, in the collection of Benjamin Fillon, an important French numismatists, archaeologist and art collector of the second half of the 19th century.

In 1882, almost one year after the death of Benjamin Fillon, his collection, including our medal, was auctioned at the Hotel Drouot, in Paris.

The medal was then purchased by another famous collector, Frédéric Engel-Gros.

Mr Engel-Gros was a rich French Industrialist and Art Collector living in the beautiful Chateau de la Ripaille, on the French shores of Lake Geneva.

The medal stayed at the Chateau de la Ripaille for over 40 years and was sold in December 1921, after the death of Frédéric Engel-Gros, alongside his Numismatic collection at the Hotel Drouot in Paris.

Thus, almost exactly 100 years ago, it was the last time this piece appeared on the market. Since then, it stayed in the family of the then buyer.

Frédéric Engel-Gros

A medal with prestigious provenance

Martine, Comtesse de Béhague, 1870-1939

This medal is part of a small group of exceptional medals assembled at the beginning of the 20th Century by the famous art collector, numismatist and benefactress Martine, Comtesse de Béhague, 1870-1939.

It will be offered for sale in our coming Lugdunum auction taking place in later spring 2021.

The consignor has generously decided to donate the proceeds of the sale of this medal to support the reconstruction and restoration of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris.

Cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris