The medal in art and politics

From the Pazzi Chapel Murders to War in Iraq

Sunday 6 July 2014, 4pm - 5pm

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Philip Attwood, former Curator of Medals and currently Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum, will talk about the Museum’s unrivalled collection of around 70,000 medals, focussing in particular on the ways in which artists of the Italian Renaissance to contemporary artists around the world have used medals for political comment.

Trickle Down Economics (one side), David Reed.

Life under the Round Table by Michael Reed. Cast bronze medal (reverse) 1993.

Generally associated with glory, honour and victory, medals also have a darker side, and this lesser known aspect of medallic art is well represented in the British Museum’s collection.  For more than five centuries artists have employed techniques ranging from subtle satire to outright insults in medals that attack and ridicule their subjects and promote a different way of thinking.  From the 15th century Italian sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni (Michelangelo’s teacher), to contemporary New Zealand artist Michael Reed, artists have made medals that pack a hefty political punch.

(Philip Attwood is in New Zealand to speak at the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand Conference and Fair, 3 – 6 July, Wellington.  Details are available at or contact

Registration required. To register, use the ‘Book now’ button or phone the office on (04) 381 7051.

Feature Image: Cast bronze medal commemorating the Pazzi Conspiracy by Bertoldi do Giovanni. Florence, Italy, AD 1478. Lord Leighton Collection, British Museum.