Historic archive of coin designer Augustin Dupré set for auction


2015-06-26 11:03:03


Documenting the career of the French engraver, the archive is expected to sell for up to half a million dollars at Bonhams.

The remarkable archive of engraver Augustin Dupré, who designed coins and medals for Louis XVI and Napoleon Bonaparte, will be offered at Bonhams in April.

The collection, which includes documents, sketches, coins and medals, will be exhibited at Bonhams in London, Paris and New York before the auction in New York on April 2.

Dupré began his career as a weapons engraver, and built a reputation for creating medals whilst a pupil of the sculptor David. During the 1780s he also designed medals for the United States, including the Libertas Americana in 1783; the Greene medal in 1787; the Morgan and Jones medals in 1789; the Diplomatic medal in 1792; and two medals of Franklin, in 1784 and 1786.

In 1791, following the French Revolution, Dupré won a national competition to design new currency for the country. He was named ‘Graveur général des monnaies’ by decree of the Assemblée nationale, a role he held until 1803, and reinvented the design of the entire French monetary system which remained in circulation until the Euro was introduced in 2000.

The archive will appear on the market for the very first time, having passed from Dupré’s son Narcisse to his grandson, then to the family of the current owner.

“This is an amazing archive of huge historical importance, particularly to French and American collectors, both private and public institutions,” said John Millenstead, Director of Bonhams Coins and Medals Department.

“But its importance is truly international, so buyers could come from any one of a dozen countries. It casts a fascinating light on the relationship between leading figures of the time as well as offering insights into the history surrounding some of the most iconic coins and medals from the period.”

Amongst the documents are notes surrounding the design of the General Washington Medal, including the client brief from Thomas Jefferson who expected Dupré to complete the design on time and on budget. Jefferson himself described how the victory coin should appear:

“On the one side the head of the General with the text Georgio Washington supremo duci exercitum adsertori libertatis comitia Americana. Reverse, the evacuation of Boston. The American army advancing in good form towards the city which one perceives in the distance, while the English army hurries toward the shore to get aboard the ships which fill the harbour. In front appears General Washington, on horseback, amongst a group of officers to whom he is pointing out the flight of the enemy.”

The archive, regarded as of supreme historic and numismatic importance, will be offered for sale as a single lot with an estimate of $300,000 - $500,000.

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