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Portrait Medal

Portrait Medal.  A medallic item bearing a portrait as a principal device. Portraits are the most used device in medallic art, as these bas-relief objects record the achievements of man in all his activities. Portraits include bust and head, which reveal the facial characteristics for recognition, and full-length portraits even though the later usually does not allow for recognition (because of small size in medallic items). Capturing the essence of the person is the most desirable task of the medalist, whether these portraits are engraved or modeled. Medallic portraits differ from a photographic or realistic likeness, as only the most talented medallic portrait artists can capture this essence.

Although medallic portraits are fairly democratic – anyone can have his portrait on a medal – usually only those individuals who have achieved the most outstanding human performance are honored with their portrait appearing on a medal. Pisanello's first medal was a portrait medal. It is as popular today as it was in 1539.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators

COMPILED AND WRITTEN BY D. WAYNE JOHNSON

Roger W. Burdette, Editor


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