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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 13, March 26, 2006, Article 27

DO PRESIDENTS POSE FOR MEDAL ARTISTS?

Dick Johnson writes: "Artist Emil Fuchs in his autobiography
relates how British royalty sat for this artist in his preparation
of both official British postal stamps and medals. Theodore Roosevelt
sat for Victor D. Brenner at the president’s home on Oyster Bay Long
Island, for a medal for the Panama Canal. For most American presidents,
however, it is more often photographs that medal sculptors work with.
This is in reply to Tom DeLorey’s inquiry in last week’s E-Sylum on
presidential visits to mint engravers (more likely engravers visit
the president!) for their inaugural medal portraits.

Sitting for a mint engraver was such a rarity that John R. Sinnock
added "Ad Vivum" (from life, that is, posed in person) to two medals
in 1929 (first use of this term I know of in America). One was a
Thomas Edison Plaquette, the other was J. Ramsay MacDonald Medal
(British prime minister who visited America that year); both medals
were struck by Medallic Art Company.

Flush with this success Sinnock requested and received permission
for Franklin D. Roosevelt to pose for him in 1933 for his U.S. Mint
President medal. He did this also for Harry S Truman in 1945, and
for four Secretaries of the Treasury - William H. Woodin (1932),
Henry Morganthau Jr (1935), Fred M. Vinson (1946) and John W. Snyder
(1946). Nellie Tayloe Ross also sat for him in 1933 for her Mint
Director Medal.

For the official inaugural medals, Jo Davison watched films of
Franklin Roosevelt for his inspiration for the Roosevelt Inaugural
Medal of 1941. Ideally when preparing a bas-relief portrait for a
medal, a sculptor would like to see detailed photographs from a
number of views. Since most portraits are side views, a sculptor
would like to choose which side but examine photos of both sides,
front and three-quarter views.

Harry Truman sat for Carl Paul Jennewein for his official inaugural
medal of 1949. He added "Ad Vivum." The term always appears with a
signature.

Decisions for the sculptor and the private medal firm to strike
the official inaugural medals are made quickly after a presidential
election. I was involved with the Ronald Reagan medal of 1981 as a
consultant to Medallic Art Company which had won the contract to
strike the Reagan Inaugural Medal. In Reagan’s case he had a
favorite sculptor he wanted to do his portrait, Edward Fraughton
of Utah.

Reagan would be at his ranch in California for only a short time
before going to Washington. So we had to get the sculptor to his
ranch, and since the sculptor had never done a medal before he had
to get a crash course in medal modeling (no undercuts!). We hired
a public relations firm, Ruder & Finn for this project, one of
their responsibilities was hiring a photographer in California to
record Reagan sitting for the artist. Those of you who have Joe
Levine’s book "A Collectors Guide to Presidential Inaugural Medals
and Memorabilia" (which my partner and I published) can view the
photographs of this event. Seven photos pages 104-106.

In most instances a sculptor’s time with a subject is limited.
Most often they will prepare a clay model as far as they can
beforehand. Using photographs (far beyond the drawing stage), thus
employing their time with the subject to refine their three-dimensional
 design, make certain the profile is accurate, the lines around the
eyes are proper and "the warts are all in the right place." A
professional medallic sculptor can create a portrait from life
or from photos – it’s all in a day’s work for this artist."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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