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Medal to Commemorate John Milton’s Monument, 1737


This bronze medal was fabricated in 1737 by the German, John Sigismund Tanner (1705–1775), who engraved most of the dies for George II and George III, to commemorate the monument of one of the most revered English authors, John Milton (1608–1674), that was erected in St. Peter's Church Westminster.


This construction of the Milton monument is significant in that it marked the rehabilitation of Milton: Milton, after the Royalist returning to power in 1660, had been turned a political outcast. When he composed his masterpiece, one of the greatest political allegories, Paradise Lost, he was in hiding, in blindness, and died rejected and penniless.


Tanner’s Medal of Milton


Tanner's medal of Milton, looking steely up to the right with a gaze so full of conviction, wears long hair and is dressed in a plain, falling collar, coat, and mantle, beneath which inscribed Tanner. F. (F stands for fecit in Latin, meaning “he made”). Milton looks austere, even reclusive, turning away from us with his cheeks receding inward. His look does say much of Milton’s character and the unbending beliefs in his reformed faith. The medal bears no allegorical descript like the sculptural work of John Michael Rysbrack on his mural monument: a relief of palm branches and a lyre, entwined by a snake biting an apple. The medal is a humble, true-to-life portrait of a man who wrote one of the greatest poetic epics, Paradise Lost, which has forever changed the literary landscape.


Commemorative Medal: A Lost Art Revived


Tanner was a native of Germany, as was his Chief Engraver, John Croker, occupying the position from 1705 until his death in 1739. In 1737, the year this medal was published, Tanner was the Master of the Mint, and he succeeded Croker to become the Chief Engraver in 1739. This Milton medal is Tanner’s earlier work, executed by himself as opposed to his later works, which were mostly carried out by his Chief Assistant Richard Yeo.


This medal is among the most collectable in major museums, such as the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum, but rarely comes up for sales or in auctions.


Dimensions:        diameter 52 mm, thickness 3 mm

Condition: A small surface crack at the seven o’clock of the reverse; otherwise, the medal is fine. Extremely Rare.


Visit this link for the British Museum’s collection of this John Milton medal:  

Medal of John Milton, 1737

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