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Description

1889 Washington Centennial Medal--Presented to Count Keraty

George Washington Inaugural Centennial Medal, 1889. Bronze. 4 3/8 inches. Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This impressive medal shows Washington facing left in an army uniform on the obverse, his name above, and PATER PATRIAE MDCCLXXXIX split by the bust of Washington and the fasces of magistracy. In tiny letters below the bust is: PHILIP MARTINY MODELLER DESIGN AND COPYRIGHT BY AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS. The reverse has a spread-winged eagle and the inscription: TO COMMEMORATE THE INAUGURATION OF GEORGE WASHINGTON AS FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AT NEW YORK APRIL XXX MDCCLXXXIX BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE COMMITTEE ON CELEBRATION NEW YORK APRIL XXX MDCCCLXXXIX.
The centennial of Washington's inauguration was celebrated throughout the land, with the biggest festivities in New York and Washington. Saint-Gaudens finally received the commission for this medal after many meetings with the committee in charge of the centennial. It was largely due to the influence of William A. Coffin and Richard Gilder that Saint-Gaudens received the commission. Gilder's business card accompanies this medal. Saint-Gaudens received the commission for the medal during the winter of 1889, but took a long time before he began to work on the medal's final design. He was unable to dedicate the time necessary to complete the task, and as stated below Washington's bust, he delegated the work to his assistant, Philip Martiny (1858-1927). It was Martiny who created the models for the medal, but his workmanship was crude and Saint-Gaudens had to constantly modify his work.
This particular casting is unlisted in John Dryfhout's reference The Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, most likely because it has resided in Europe since presentation in 1889. Accompanying the medal is the business card of Richard Watson Gilder. In his hand he wrote on the front side of the card: "Presented to DM. le Comte deKeraty by R.W. Gilder Secretary of the Centennial Committee on Art." Emile, the Count of Keraty, was a French politician (1832-1905) who in his early years served in the military, having fought in both the Crimea and Mexico. Later he resigned his commission to direct Revue Moderne," a publication where he wrote articles that criticized the politics of France. He was elected a deputy of parliament in 1869, and held various posts after that. He also wrote several comedies of the period. On the back of Gilder's card is a pencil-written note in the hand of Saint-Gaudens that reads: "Compliments of Augustus St Gaudens." Housed in a frame of the period that shows noticeable chipping in several areas. The medal itself has a lovely reddish-brown patina and is problem-free. An outstanding numismatic and historic item that should appeal to a wide range of bidders. (PCGS# 661889)

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Auction Dates
May, 2005
4th-7th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
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