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The Hermitage's main collection of commemorative medals numbers over 55,000 items, with a further 20,000 duplicates.
The museum has the world's richest collection of Russian medals that includes a section with exceptional fullness and wealth of rarities relating to the events of the nation's history between the 18th and early 20th centuries. Apart from medals struck in the country, there are many works with "Russian" subjects that were produced abroad. The same degree of foreign contribution is found in the collection of medals in honour of Russian statesmen and private individuals. The Russian medal collection in the Hermitage gives a thorough picture of the work of such outstanding Russian medallists as Fiodor Alexeyev, Timofei Ivanov, Samoila Yudin, Karl von Leberecht, Ivan Shilov, Fiodor Tolstoi, Pavel Utkin, Vassiliy Alexeyev and Anton Vasiutinsky.
The collection of Soviet medals and its continuation from the 1990s numbers around 6,000 items. This stock is enlarged each year by the works of Russia's present-day artists.
The collection of Western European medals contains over 35,000 pieces. The different national schools are unevenly represented within it, but on the whole it gives a full picture of the development of the medal as an art form from the first works at the turn of the 15th century right up to the present day.
More than ten masterpieces by the father of the medal - Il Pisanello open the collection of some 3,000 pieces from Italy that also includes works by his contemporaries and followers Matteo de Pasti, Sperandio, Giovanni Boldu and others. The series of papal medals from the 16th and 17th centuries and the 19th are remarkable for their exceptional fullness. In recent decades this part of the collection has expanded through the acquisition of works by modern medallists.
The rich and full collection of medals from France (over 7,000 items) contains brilliant examples of the work of the 17th-century medallists Jean Varin and Guillaume Dupre. Seies have been carefully assembled on events in the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, as well as relics of the time of the French Revolution and Napoleon. There is a splendid selection of medals and plaques from the turn of the 20th century by Oscar Roty, Jules Chaplain and Alphee Dubois.
First place in terms of quantity goes to the collection of medals from Germany with over 8,000 items. Represented in it is the work of the greatest craftsmen of the 16th century -Hans Schwarz, Mattheus Gebel and Friedrich Hagenauer. Recently small, but valuable collections of Czech (Bohemian) and Hungarian works have been separated from this part of the collection. They are rich in rare examples of cast medals wioth religious subjects, including the works of Concz Welcz and Nickel Milicz. There is a splendid selection of works by 17th-century medallists, including Sebastian Dadler and Johann Hohn, is closely connected with Polish culture. Particularly impressive is the quantity of works from the studios of Philipp Heinrich Muller and Christian Wermuth who were active at the turn of the 18th century and did much work for Russia. The presence of a large number of works with Russian themes in the 19th-century material is a product of growing dynastic ties between Russia and Germany.
Historically closely bound up with Germany is the collection of some 2,000 Swiss medals. Besides some early 16th-century pieces, it presents with particular fullness the work of a number of 17th- and 18th-century artists such as the celebrated Dassier family of medallists and Johann Karl Hedlinger. The latter worked for several European monarchs, including the Russian crown.
The English collection (some 2,000 works) is replete with rare pieces from Cromwell's time that came in by way of Peter the Great's Kunstkammer. Among the 19th-century works are gold medals presented to Alexander I and commemorations of the Crimean campaign.
The completeness of the Polish collection (2,500 medals) is a consequence of history. It includes several 17th-century rarities, such as a medal marking Sigismund III's capture of Smolensk in 1611, and a fine selection of medals from the Warsaw Mint.
One of the most interesting collections from the historical point of view is that of works from the Netherlands together with the associated collection of tokens (some 3,000 items in total). Many of the works by noted craftsmen - Jaques Iongelinck, Piter van Abeele, Wouter Muller - come from Peter the Great's Kunstkammer. The same source provided a considerable part of the Swedish collection (some 1,000 items) that includes a good selection of the medals of Arvid Karlsteen and several superb portraits of Queen Christina by Jean Paris.
Outstanding among the small Danish collection (400 items) are a constellation of large silver medals featuring views of sea battles.
The collection of Austrian medals (over 1,000 works by Austrian and Hungarian craftsmen from the early 18th century onwards) is rich in works by noted 20th-century medallists, including Anton Scharf.
Among the modestly sized collection of Belgian medals mention deserves to be made of the fullness of the series by Jaques Winer depicting famous buildings of the world.
Despite the fairly small number of medals from the USA (about 1,000) the collection is marked by the exceptionally full selection of works and the abundance of rare items. The collection has been substantially enlarged by the works of recent decades. The states of Latin America are represented by a few hundred medals from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Taken together the collection of commemorative medals forms a sort of chronicle of world history while at the same time giving a thorough picture if the development of a whole branch of small-scale plastic art in the countries of Europe, Asia and America from the 15th century to the 20th.

If you enjoyed this collection, you might want to also visit the other collections at the State Hermitage Museum.

The Arsenal

Medal of Ludovico Gonzaga
Circa 1447
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Medal commemorating the Russian victory at the Battle of Poltava
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Medal commemorating the Battle of Waterloo, 1815
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Medal commemorating the 200th anniversary of the State Hermitage
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