Medals Highlight German Sale|
July 25, 2013
A fourth sale of a medal collection assembled by American numismatist John W. Adams was called June 17 by the German auction house of Künker.
It consisted of 79 medals commemorating various European truces, trade agreements and peace treaties of the 17th and 18th centuries. Seventeen medal groups were involved. They sold for two, three, four and even six times estimates.
One group in particular stood out, those marking the 1667 Treaty of Breda. They also offer insight into a hurriedly executed 17th century European treaty that impacted on North American colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Between 1652 and 1784 the United Provinces (Netherlands) and England fought four major wars for the control of the seas and trade routes. Each conflict ended in a peace treaty.
The second war erupted after the 1660 Restoration of King Charles II. The importance of the money generated from maritime trade was such that Charles II turned his back on the House of Orange who had given him refuge during his exile in Europe. For a substantial kickback he cozied up to Louis XIV and lent support to France’s territorial claims in The Netherlands.
Charles followed through with a series of anti-Dutch policies that allowed expansion of British trade in Africa and Asia. Inevitably it came to war which erupted in 1664.
Both sides managed to score notable victories but England lacked a commander of the stature of Admiral Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter. In June 1667 the Dutch fleet broke through the defensive chains guarding the Medway. It burned part of the English fleet docked at Chatham before towing away the Unity and Royal Charles. The latter was the pride and joy of the Royal Navy.
The Dutch navy had proved it was the world’s strongest. The upshot was the Treaty of Breda.
This Treaty was signed in the Dutch city of Breda on July 31, 1667. It involved England, The United Provinces, France, and Denmark–Norway. Essentially all territory and other property gained in the course of the conflict was to remain in the hands of the possessor. Among other things this gave the Dutch a worldwide monopoly on nutmeg worth megabucks. France regained Arcadia in North America. And the English got their hands on Nieuw-Nederland now New York.
Britannia was chosen as a subject for the medals of Charles II. She is the personification all things British. She had played a role on the coins of some Roman emperors but had been neglected for 1,250 years. Her numismatic restoration came, appropriately, with a medal struck for Charles II to celebrate the restoration of the English monarchy on May 29, 1660. It was the work of Jan Roettier.
Roettier was set to trot Britannia out again on a medal struck to celebrate victories of the Royal Navy over the Dutch. Work on that medal was abruptly canned the moment Admiral de Ruyter laid waste to the English fleet at Medway.
It was the design for this medal Roettier recycled for his Peace of Breda medal. An alert Britannia is shown reviewing her fleet while seated below a sea cliff. She holds both lance and shield, the latter emblazoned with the Cross of St George and the Saltire of St. Andrew. Here Britannia asserts the claims of Charles – and his Stuart predecessors– to Lordship of the Seas, the recent rout of Charles’ fleet by the Dutch notwithstanding.
The obverse of the Breda medal carries a legend composed for home consumption: CAROLUS SECUNDUS PACIS ET IMPERII RESTITUTOR AUGUSTUS.
Roettier’s medal was struck in gold (56.48 mm, 124.56 g) and silver (56 mm, 75 g). The Adams collection contained three slightly differing examples of the silver version. These sold for $650-$780. The gold variety is excessively rare explaining why the Adam’s specimen realized $31,237.
A rare example with Britannia on the reverse but with the conjoined busts of King Charles and Queen Catherine on the obverse fetched $1,822.
Undoubtedly de Ruyter’s victory put the Dutch firmly in the driving seat at the treaty negotiations. This is reflected in the designs of medals struck by Dutch states to mark the signing. Just two of six in the Adams’ collection are shown here.
The obverse of a silver (70.28 mm, 124.20 g) Amsterdam medal by J.F. Lutma portrays the Dutch lion crushing arms while the Dutch fleet sails triumphantly behind. For those who delight in puzzles the year of issue (1667) is hidden in a chronogram within the legend: SIC FINES NOSTROS, LEGES TVTAMVR, ET VNDAS. This baldly states, “We defend our borders, our rights and our sea.” This medal sold for $6,507.
The second (71.36 mm, 122.92 g) is from Breda by C. Adolphzoon. The obverse shows the personification of the Netherlands armor-clad. In her right hand she holds a scepter bearing an all-seeing eye. In her left she brandishes a lance and arrows. Her left foot tramples Envy. In the background English ships blaze on the Thames. The legend is a delightful put down: MITIS ET FORTIS – “Gentle but firm.”
This design raised diplomatic hackles. It was bad enough that the city where the peace treaty was signed struck a medal showing burning English ships but the comment in exergue is none too subtle: PROCUL HINC MALA BESTIA REGNIS. It refers pointedly to the Kingdom of the Loathsome Beast i.e., England ruled by Charles II. The artist was eventually paid 1,000 ducatons to destroy the dies. The surviving Adams’ example made $11,713.
A more sedate Dutch medal is a gold piece from Leiden (29.65 mm, 9.29 g). This was struck by order of the magistrates of that city state who supported the repairing and refitting of the Dutch fleet by imposition of a hearth tax. This was rigidly enforced via a number of official overseers who compiled a list of hearths within the city. The success of the tax saw each of the overseers awarded a gold medal. The Adams example made a healthy $6,247.
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