THE LAY FIGURE. ON MEDALS
AND THEIR USES.
" They do these things better in France,"
remarked the Art Critic sadly. " In France alone
a just value is placed on the importance of the
glyptic art. Yet medals have a mission so clearly
denned that its utility ought to be recognised by
" Why employ the word ' mission,'" the Philo-
sopher asked sharply, with a covert sneer. "It
implies that medals are sentient and articulate,
that they think beyond the moment and beyond
themselves, have charitable hearts and minds, and
act with premeditation for the good of mankind.
You critics often make use of terms that endow
works of art with a self-conscious anxiety about the
public weal. Beautiful medals have, no doubt, an
artistic influence: it is your business to say so, and
not to prattle about missions."
"A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel! "
laughed the Journalist.
"But I deserved his censure," said the Critic.
"Let us, then, consider the artistic influence of
medals. In France, unquestionably, this influence
is far more potent, far more spread among the
people, than in any other country. It is felt there
by persons of every age, station and condition ; for
French medallists, thanks to the wise assistance
they receive from the Ministry of Fine Arts and
the Directors of the Mint, are able to put into
circulation such beautiful things as commemorate
the joys and sorrows of home, and the changing
fortunes of the nation's history."
"Quite true," said the Man with a Clay Pipe.
" At the Salon this year there are portrait medals,
marriage medals, and medals devoted to charity,
to religion, to art (like Yencesse's Van Dyck), to
literature (like the same artist's fine Bossuet), to
history (like Mouchon's Jeanne d'Arc), and to
shooting, agriculture, and what not besides."
" Remember, too," said the Critic, that there are
medals for school prizes, and medals to remind
children of their First Communion. I suppose
you have seen Coudray's Orpheus, an exquisite
medal for music, as exquisite in conception as it is
lovely in execution. You can buy his work, as
well as many others, at the Mint in Paris. You go
there, you are received with the greatest courtesy,
and for trivial sums of money, ranging from
2 francs 50 to ro francs, you buy what pleases
you best, and return home with the medals care-
fully packed in neat little cases. Would that we
could do as much here I "
The Lay' Figure nodded approval. " That is a
good thought," he said. "What a blessing it
would be if musical societies and schoolmasters
could buy such prizes at the Bank of England ! "
" Don't forget the sporting clubs," cried the
Journalist. " If fine medals could be bought for a
few shillings, they would be very popular as
sporting prizes. The awards now given are often
ridiculously inappropriate. I know a lad of
thirteen who received last week a brandy flask
for being third in a mile handicap. The fourth
prize, given by the schoolmaster's maiden aunt,
was a tea-cosy, or something equally useful to
" The absurdity of such prizes," said the Critic,
"caused a friend of mine to ask a well-known
sculptor if he had time to make a medal for
some athletic sports. The sculptor was quite
willing to undertake the work, but his terms were
prohibitive. He asked £100 ! "
" Oh ! it is out of the question to have special
medals made for every occasion," said the Philo-
sopher, " and there would be no sense in requiring
it to be done."
" What a chance lies open to some enterprising
firm of medallists ! " said the Man with a Clay
Pipe,—" some firm wishing to associate itself with
the Art Movement. Half-a-dozen good medals
designed by some of our best sculptors—real
little works of art—would be eagerly sought after
by the givers of prizes and by collectors. There's
not only money in it, but plenty of kudos. If I
were not too lazy—and it were not so hot," he
perspiringly added, " I would start the business
"To-day, moreover," said the Critic, "the art
schools are becoming ever the more wideawake to
the fact that they cannot educate too many efficient
craftsmen. They have given but little attention to
the glyptic art, but I see no reason why attractive
medals for many purposes should not be made in
all Government art schools, and then sold by some
agency appointed by the State. Why should not
this be done in all countries ? It would benefit
the public at large, and it would be of the utmost
service to students of ability, who, on leaving their
academies, would be known by name and
"Whatever may be said about your suggestion,"
remarked the Lay Figure, "something ought to be
done to popularise medals, especially in England,
America, and Germany. In France it is already
mi fait accompli.'
The Lay Figure.