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Forum Home > British India > The Engraver who defied an Emperor

broken compass
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An Engraver is a person who creates a design by making grooves in metal. For coins to be struck, an engraver creates a portrait and then using a reducing machine dies are created for minting coins. It is not a simple process and takes considerable amount of time. Back then, it took a few months to a few years to create a portrait for a coin.

Benedetto Pistrucci is well known as an artist/ engraver/ medalist and was justly famed for the quality of his work. He is very well known for his work St George slaying the dragon which is featured on gold sovereigns. He designed it during the 1800's and it is still used in coins that are struck by the mint and is even present in bullion coins that are minted by local Indian jewellers. 


Pistrucci had a voltile temperament that did not allow anyone to criticize his work and that even included king goerge IV of England. He worked as a chief medalist and engraver at the royal mint in London. He had engraved portraits for the coinage of King George IV, the year that he became the emperor. The portrait was accurate, perhaps too accurate which made the king increasingly irritated.

This is the coin issued right after George IV became the emperor. You will notice that his face is fat and doesn't look very fit. The king had no choice but to let them use the portrait to issue coins even though he did not like it.

In 1822, 2 years after the king ascending the throne, ordered Pistrucci to scrap the current portrait and create one for his liking. George IV considered himself a man of great taste in matters concerning the arts and did not take well Pistrucci's refusal to co-operate and create a portrait to his liking. The king suggested that he create a portrait created by Francis Chantrey in which he was potrayed as fit. When Pistrucci refused, the king had to bypass the chief engraver Pistrucci and asked William Wyon a junior to Pistrucci to create a portrait from Chantrey's work.

Here is a coin issued with William Wyon's design where the fat 220 pound emperor turned fit and better to look at.


P.S : I was inspired to recreate an article that I had read a few months ago. I couldn't find it online so I had no choice but to recreate it by redoing research so I could share it with the forum. So this is not completely my idea :)

July 26, 2011 at 10:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Posts: 55

really enjoyed the article...please provide some more pearls of wisdom here. hope all members equally appreciate this.



July 27, 2011 at 6:28 AM Flag Quote & Reply

प्रशांत जैन
Posts: 141

Nice article :)


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July 27, 2011 at 6:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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