Coin of the Moment

A Medal for Mark Blackburn

A portrait medal of Mark Blackburn (1953-2011), by two distinguished artists Ian Rank-Broadley and Lida Cardozo Kindersley, was commissioned by friends and colleagues to mark Mark’s twenty years as Keeper of Coins and Medals at the Fitzwilliam Museum and his contribution to numismatics generally. He served as President of the British Numismatic Society 2004-8, and is an authority on Anglo- Saxon and Viking coinages.

Mark Blackburn Medal           Mark Blackburn Medal

(Click on images for a larger view)

Ian with Medal

Ian working on the portrait

The obverse is by Ian Rank-Broadley (b. 1952), sculptor and the UK’s leading portrait medallist, whose work includes the effigy of the Queen on the UK and Commonwealth coinages since 1998, and other effigies of the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Philip and Prince Charles on commemorative coins. His many distinguished sculptures, busts and plaques, include the monumental Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum (2007), a relief portrait of the Queen in Garter robes at the new Supreme Court in Parliament Square (2009), and a gilt-bronze relief of Dean Colet in St Paul's Cathedral (2010).

The reverse is by Lida Cardozo Kindersley (b. 1954), the UK’s leading letter cutter and letter designer. The model was cut in slate at the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop in Cambridge, established by Lida’s late husband David Kindersley (1915-95), who in the 1930s was apprenticed to Eric Gill. Lida and David designed the gates of the new British Library, opened in 1997. Her work, spread throughout the country, ranges from large inscriptions on buildings to thousands of monuments and commemorative plaques, usually cut in stone or slate, but also in steel, glass and other media, and also to new fonts and designs for signage on major building developments and for typesetting. Her only other medal, the Millennium Dome Celebration Medal, was struck by the Royal Mint and given to all those who attended the Millennium Party at the Dome in 2000.

Ian with Medal

Lida and Mark discussing the reverse model

The idea for commissioning these artists for the medal came from Mark himself. Ian Rank-Broadley’s first portrait medal had been that of Graham Pollard in 1990. Graham was a predecessor of Mark as Keeper of Coins and Medals at the Fitzwilliam until 1988, as well as a founder and the first Chairman of the British Art Medal Society. Graham’s portrait medal had been the icon of the exhibition at the Fitzwilliam, A Lifetime of Connoisseurship: Graham Pollard and the Study of the Medal, in 2009-10. Ian readily agreed to model Mark’s medal, but had to fit it in beside other work, including a new portrait of the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee next year, and at times that of course took precedence.

Although Lida had designed the Millennium medal in 2000, she had never prepared a model for a cast medal before. She wanted to work in her familiar medium of slate, cutting it with fine chisels, rather than the plaster models that medallists generally use. She also wanted to use a variety of incuse and relief lettering in different styles. The inward-facing inscriptions are intended to encourage you to pick up the medal and turn it. The result of combining an obverse in high relief and a very smooth reverse with fine lettering was overseen by Ian, and posed a considerable challenge for the foundry. However, with perseverance encouraged the two very particular artists, they succeeded. The medals will be numbered on the edge, and hand finished by Ian Rank-Broadley.

Mark Blackburn Obituary