Medallion with the bust of Emperor Joseph II

Pierre-François Le Roy
1781

This terracotta medallion was made by the renowned Namur sculptor Pierre-François Le Roy (1739-1812). The work, which was thought to have been lost, was recognized thanks to a photo. When the medallion appeared on the market the Pierre-François Tilmon Fund was able to acquire it and entrust it to the Société Archéologique de Namur, for it to be exhibited at the Hôtel de Croix in Namur. The terracotta medallion is similar to a plaster medallion exhibited at the Musée de Groesbeeck-de Croix in Namur. The latter is signed and dated P. Le Roy, Févr. 1792, beneath the bust.

For inspiration, Le Roy drew on the portrait of Joseph II engraved by Théodore van Bercke in 1781, with a view to issuing medals to mark the emperor’s official visit to various towns in the Netherlands. One of the medallions marks the official inauguration of Joseph II as Count of Namur on 27 August 1781. The sculptor scrupulously copied the emperor’s crowned head, the outline of the bust and his curly hair, tied back in the nape of the neck. Nevertheless, Le Roy managed to sublimate his model, making his face hollower and modelling the neck to resemble the severe portraits of Roman emperors. He added the motto, which he invented, a star to the left, and a sun with a human face appearing from behind the clouds to the right. The work is entitled JOSEPHUS II.CAES.AUG.1781.

The context in which this medallion was made remains unknown. It is not known whether it was a personal initiative of the artist or if it was commissioned. It is true that Le Roy met Joseph II during an audience he was granted on June 5, 1781, at the Hôtel d’Harscamp in Namur. The sculptor wrote directly to the emperor on 16 July, 1781, asking him to absolve him from all duties due on the blocks of marble and other materials he needed. He was granted this exemption by the imperial administration and was very grateful. The belated creation of the medal could testify to this.

Website Musée provincial des Arts anciens du Namurois

Further information about the Pierre François Tilmon Fund (in French)

Type: 
Medallion
Material / technique: 
Terracotta
Dimensions: 
27.5 cms
Type of acquisition: 
Pierre-François Tilmon Fund acquisition
Year of acquisition: 
2010
Depository institution: 
Musée Provincial des Art Anciens du Namurois, Namur