Comitia Americana & Revolutionary Era
Estimate: 15'000 USD
Starting price: 1 USD
Price realized: 4'560 USD
Remarkable Pair of Splashers for the Daniel Morgan Comitia Americana Medal
A Masterpiece by Augustin Dupre
A Very Rare Medal in Original Format and One of Only 2 Sets of Splashers Known
1781 Daniel Morgan at Cowpens Obverse and Reverse Splashers. Uniface. White Metal Backed With Paper. 56.4 mm. 22.56 grams and 34.30 grams, respectively. Adams and Bentley-10, Betts-593, Julian MI-7. Mint State.
The medal awarded to Daniel Morgan for his rout of the British at Cowpens is a tour de force in the Comitia Americana series, its fabulous Dupre designs and die work considered to be his second best after only the ever popular and beautiful Libertas Americana medal. The intricate reverse (actually intended as the obverse) shows a mounted Daniel Morgan leading the cavalry charge that helped defeat the better trained and similarly sized British force under Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the Cowpens in South Carolina. Dupre's scene of horses, troops, bodies, smoke, flags and carnage is unmatched in the Comitia series; the design of displayed eagle on the Americans' standard on this medal produced in 1789 presages Dupre's design of the 1790 Diplomatic Medal. Although traditionally offered as individual objects, the current set is being offered as a beautiful pair of epreuves of the completed obverse and reverse designs, created by impressing the dies into molten metal poured onto scrap paper, the remains of which are still visible on the blank backs of both pieces. Remains of wax or epoxy or also on the backs of both, as they were perhaps mounted to a display at some juncture in their 230 year existence. The obverse splasher, or cliché, is notably thinner, its surfaces a pleasing medium gray with natural lacuna from thin tin, chiefly below the exergual line where the pour must have been thinnest. This delicate object is quite straight, though with slight waves through MORGAN and through the periphery around the 5 o'clock position. Its back shows some of the bright metal where the paper backing has been scraped away. The reverse splasher, or cliché, is notably thicker than the obverse, with a coating of protective lacquer on its face that gives the initial impression of a bronze specimen. Light handling marks are noted chiefly along the rims, and some lacuna in the metal are noted around the 3 o'clock position.
In Jefferson's letter to Augustin Dupre dated February 13, 1789 (quoted in its entirety in Loubat), he requested the engraver "to furnish proofs in tin at the end of the month of March next, so that the medals may all be struck before the 15th of April." These splashers could well have been among the ones supplied to Jefferson, or it could have been from the set of splashers Jefferson gave to James Madison. Whatever their exact original provenance, this pair of cliches of the majestic Morgan at Cowpens medal is one of only 2 such pairs known to us, the other having been offered as lots 4084 and 4085 in our August 2012 sale of the Dorchester Heights Collection. Ford, whose collection of splashers was unparalleled, owned neither an obverse nor a reverse. The Adams-Bentley work makes no mention of known specimens. While the probability of others in institutional collections like the Musee de Blerancourt or the American Philosophical Society is high, we have not encountered others in private hands. While the Daniel Morgan medals struck from Barre's copy dies are encountered with regularity, only 1 of the 3 original silver specimens and 3 of the 7 original bronze medals known are in private hands. Add the 2 pairs of relatively recently discovered clichés to the census of original Morgan medals outside of institutions, and that leaves just 6 original medals or obverse/reverse splasher pairs for collectors pursuing sets of original strikings of the Comitia Americana medals.