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A Medallic Commemorative Pertaining to the Black Death

As very recent history should show, any emergence from the specter of mass disease is always most welcome and worthy of commemoration. This sense of optimism and yearning for “life as it was before” is recounted through numerous works of medallic art from the early modern period. One such instance is a rather rare and interesting silver medal in our upcoming November Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auction. Issued in 1683 for the city of Erfurt in Germany, this specimen—likely holed for wearing as a charm—features a scene that would be quite appropriate for this past week’s Halloween festivities, with the Archangel Michael standing facing in full armor. With a radiant nimbus crown encircling his head, he places his sword back in its scabbard, as he had finally slain the wickedness of the disease that had so ravaged the city.

From the summer of 1682 and stretching into 1683, the black death—a common pestilence to strike the urban locales of Europe—would consume nearly half of Erfurt’s population, over some 10,000 citizens. Understandably, the iconographic representation of the disease on this medal is that of a skeleton—as it represented human frailty; it is upon this heap of bones that Michael triumphantly stands. To further drive home the poignancy and the idea that the medal was a memento mori, a skull and crossbones rests atop a draped altar in the background to left. On the reverse is a city view of Erfurt along with a radiant personification of the sun—symbolizing the new dawn rising within a city that had lost so much.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2023 Hong Kong auction and our August 2023 Global Showcase Auction. Additionally, we are accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next for which we are accepting consignments will be held in February 2023. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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