Today is the birthday of Benedetto Pistrucci, creator of one of the world’s most highly revered gold coin designs.
Born in Italy on 29 May 1783*, Pistrucci moved to England in 1815 where he became Chief Medallist at the Royal Mint.
Under the laws of the day, foreigners were technically ineligible for the top job. However, in the words of the Mint Master, his skills “place him above all competition”.
Pistrucci’s reputation in London soared with the creation of a wax model of St George in the ‘Greek style’ for aristocrats Lord and Lady Spencer.
On joining the Mint, he created designs for Britain’s Great Recoinage of 1816, suggesting St George and the Dragon for the new gold sovereign valued at one pound.
Pistrucci’s design showed St George as a Greek horseman mounted on a Parthenon-style horse slaying a dragon. The new coin made its appearance in 1817 after Britain’s victory at Waterloo.
The result was a masterpiece of numismatic art, a design combining such grace and dramatic impact that it now ranks as one of the best loved and most enduring of all British coin designs.
Australia boasts a connection with his iconic reverse. It was struck millions of times on sovereigns made at the Sydney, Melbourne and Perth Mints before 1931.
Today’ the British Mint continues to strike the design on magnificent gold coins such as this 2014 Quarter Sovereign struck from 22-carat red gold. Pistrucci would undoubtedly be extremely proud to know his masterpiece still commands such admiration and respect.
(*In the course of our research we found some sources quoting Pistrucci’s date of birth to be 24 May. Others we discovered have the year of birth as 1874, but this is now considered to be incorrect. We apologise if any inaccuracy is reflected in this article).