Charles Darwin. Two-sided bronze medallion, 1881. Diameter 41/2 inches (11.5 cm).
This was the first portrait medallion made by Legros. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1882, no. 1604. The Magazine of Art thought highly of this medal: “Professor Legros has completed a fine medallion of Charles Darwin. The portrait, which will be cast in bronze, is worthy of the great médailleur of the Renaissance by whom it was inspired. Nothing so full of distinction and delicacy, of dignity and force, has been seen for some time” (v). Later in that same volume a critic for The Magazine of Art commented further on this medal:
Prof. Legros, not content with attaining mastery as a painter, etcher, sculptor, modeller of vases and what not, has tried his hands at medals. Those of his choice are not the classical medals with whose lifeless imitation the British shilling has made us well acquainted, but the Italian medals of the Renaissance, which are severe only in correctness of modeling. Those models live, and so does Prof. Legros. The very decided framework of Charles Darwin’s great brain and strong features have been seized with something like passionate delight by the médailleur. There was never such a head for a model as Darwin’s, and the artist has made the most of it. Both this portrait and the Laureate’s are treated with singular majesty and breadth, and with true perception of the character of the men presented and the peculiar capacities of the artistic means employed…Mr. Legros has also medallised Mr. Constantine Ionides; and medals of John Mill, Carlyle, and Robert Browning are to be expected from him very shortly. [xvii]
Marion Spielmann both praised and criticized this medal: “In his medals of Tennyson and Darwin we see him at his best, in the rendering of the nobility of expression; but we also see his limitation. There is great truth of character, though the expression is apt to be overdone; and felicitous presentation, although the technique is archaic enough – the hair, for example, is merely scratched in, not modelled. Scratching is very well in dry-point or ‘sgraffito; but for sculpture must be built up, otherwise it suggests a lack of technical skill” (167-68).
“Art Notes.” The Magazine of Art V (1882): v –viii and xvii-xx.
Spielmann, M. H.: British Sculpture and Sculptors of Today, London: Cassell and Co. Ltd, 1901, 166-68
Last modified 17 November 2022