An auction lot listing described an interesting rare medal with a bibliophilic bent that I hadn't seen before.
Maurice Lambert RA (1901-1964)
AENGUS AND THE BIRDS - THE LADY GREGORY MEDAL FOR THE IRISH ACADEMY OF LETTERS, 1934
cast bronze art medal; (from a limited edition of 17)
signed in monogram "ML" lower right; with 'Irish Academy of Letters' on reverse
h:3 w:3 in.
'Maurice Lambert', Lefevre Gallery, London, May 1934
Commissioned by W. B. Yeats on behalf of the Irish Academy of Letters, February 1934.
W. B. Yeats commissioned this medal
to be awarded at rare intervals to the best Irish book of the year . He sought to raise the necessary funds for the commission whilst on a North American lecture tour in 1933 and by December of that year had been promised £200 for the project, mostly from Judge R. Campbell and Patrick McCartan. After canvassing a number of artists
of international reputation, he selected the English sculptor Maurice Lambert to carry out the commission;
he is exactly what I wanted and he is still inexpensive. Letters between Yeats and Lambert in the National Library of Ireland reveal that Lambert chose the subject Aengus and the Birds, but that Yeats interpreted the image as being symbolic of
Genius. Yeats was very pleased with the final work, deeming it
a beautiful design.
In November 1934 he wrote to tell McCartan:
Lambert has now finished the Academy Medal. (Fifteen medals are in the charge of the Bank of Ireland placed there by the Academy). It is an admirable thing. It is to be presented once every three years, irrespective of age... Owing to the fact that it is cast like the old medals, not struck from a die, no more copies can be made than these 15, and one given to me by the sculptor, and one purchased from the Mint (a great compliment).
The award became known as the Lady Gregory Medal. The first three were awarded to George Russell ‘AE', George Bernard Shaw, and to Yeats himself.
With sincere thanks to Dr. Declan Kiely of the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, and to Prof. Roy Foster, Oxford University, for their generous assistance in cataloguing this item.
1 W. B. Yeats to Judge R. Campbell, circa 20 January 1933 (NLI)
2 W. B. Yeats to Patrick McCartan, 16 February 1934 (NLI)
3 W. B. Yeats to Patrick McCartan, 30 November 1934 (NLI)
To read the complete lot description, see:
Lot 102: Maurice Lambert RA (1901-1964) AENGUS AND THE BIRDS - THE LADY GREGORY MEDAL FOR THE IRISH ACADEMY OF LETTERS, 1934
Wayne Homren, Editor
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