WHY I LIKE
An article which originally appeared in The Historical Medal Journal No.4 (May 2022)
in traditional Bosnian costume standing with a donkey
crosses an aqueduct and enters a tunnel, incuse legend FRANCISCVS JOS I IMP
ET REX BOSNIAM RAGVSEO LITORI FERREA VIA CONIVNXIT MCMI in five lines below
(King and Emperor Franz Joseph I joined the Ragusa coast with Bosnia by
Rectangular 60x44mm, by Rudolf Marschall dated 1903
Moyaux 423; Forrer unlisted
acquired this medal last year even though it’s neither within my areas of
medal collecting nor did I intend to resell it commercially. It was a treat
all for myself: in common with any collector, I simply ‘had to have it’. As a
bonus, it seems to be rare. The medallist, Rudolf Marschall (1873-1967) was
Austrian and had a prolific medallic output judging by Forrer – but this
medal is not listed by him and internet searches have thrown up very little.
According to Moyaux, the medal is rare because when Emperor Franz Joseph saw
the first examples struck, he ordered production to cease. The reason being
that he feared the depiction of the donkey would lead to unfavourable remarks
about him, which seems to show a very thin skin!
are many collectors of medals that depict or relate to railways, and no doubt
most of the medal’s potential admirers will be drawn to it for this reason
(and this is the reason it is catalogued in Moyaux). The medal celebrates the
completion in 1901 of the railway which linked the port of Dubrovnik (the
historic Ragusa) with its Bosnian hinterland. The line was some 125 miles
long and this medal was struck two years later.
railways do not interest me; for me it’s the obverse that drew me in. The
evocation of the image is such that in my imagination it could be taken from
a large scale painting by a famous Victorian artist. The obverse depicts a
Bosnian man in traditional dress leading his faithful pack mule across the
mountains, a view towards the Adriatic in the distance beyond. This
represents the old traditional way of life and travel, contrasting sharply
with the reverse, which depicts the modern world at the start of the 20th
century, the coming of the railway and the fast interconnectedness it brings
with it. The contrast is between the old and the new, the slow and fast,
tranquillity and noise. It is a world in which pack mules or donkeys are
course, to modern minds, mention of Bosnia recalls the tragedy which befell
Bosnia-Herzegovina during the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to say
nothing of the siege and shelling of Dubrovnik. We might also think of
Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination at Sarajevo in 1914. However to my mind,
this medal recalls happier times when the Balkans retained an air of exotic
mystery in the eyes of western Europeans.
broader point of this brief article is that we should not necessarily be
narrow in scope when adding to our collections. If we see a medal we cannot
resist, the time to buy it is when we first see it.
Auguste, Les Chemins de Fer autrefois
et aujourd'hui et leurs médailles commemoratives (Brussels 1905)
translation of the Latin to English is my own ‘free’ translation and relies
heavily on distant foundations laid at school.
Copyright Charles Riley 2022 - 2024