BSO Commemorative Medal, 1931

Bronze bas-relief, 2 sided medallion


Created in relief for the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra when Koussevitzky was the conductor, this medal celebrates the music of one of the finest orchestras in the world. On the obverse (front) is a comely young man kneeling on a curved horizon playing a five-stringed lyre. He is facing the viewer’s right with his right knee resting on the ground; his left knee is bent in front supporting his left elbow. The fingers of the left hand hold a lyre at the farthest vertical arm of the instrument at the crossbar that holds the strings in place. His right arm and hand are raised plucking the strings with bent fingers. His hips are slightly lifted, sitting on his heel, and he wears a sandal with the toes bent under him supporting his weight. A cloth garment is draped across his lap and over his knee in five folds, leaving the muscular torso bare down past his waist. His hair is done with a decorative treatment of tight curls held together with a band below the crown, tied at the base of the skull. The head is bent slightly forward, but the torso stays erect. The face is handsome and the anatomy is accurate and detailed. Block letters around the border under the rim read “Boston Symphony Orchestra 1881-1931.” The musician’s head is superimposed over the type at the top center. The signature, F.W.ALLEN can be seen under the left foot at the line of the horizon.

The composition divides the image into quarters like the spokes of a wheel with the hub at the tailpiece that anchors the strings. Note also that the busy detail on the right half balances the relatively quiet space on the left.

On the reverse there are two laurel sprays with symmetrical pairs of opposing leaves each with seventeen leaves. Between the sprays at the bottom is a short lyre on a standing base in the small space at the bottom (in exergue). Between the sprays in the center of the medal are block letters reading “FIFTIETH ANNVERSARY MEDAL.” The type is superimposed on the leaves at both sides. The name of the foundry is stamped on the flat edge “MEDALLIC ART CO. N.Y.” and the artist’s signature is under the stem of the branch on the right.

The gift to the Museum of Fine Arts was from Henry P. Richmond, Allen’s architect friend, Pete. Richmond was an architect for Guy Lowell and helped design the Studio at 27 Tavern Road. A pastel drawing of the studio by Richmond is in a family collection. Allen also sculpted a very sensitive bas-relief portrait of Richmond’s daughter Nancy. Allen’s diary also indicates that he made a bust of Richmond himself, but his records are incomplete on that fact and no bust has been discovered.

Related work: See 7 medallions produced as a student, three of them with lyres of different styles.

Learn more about Medallic and Numismatic Art.

Diameter 0.063 (2 1/2″) (Legacy dimension)
Signed on the front under the musician’s left toe: F.W.ALLEN, obverse under the stem of the branch to the right of the central lyre.
Foundry: Medallic Art Company, NY
Locations: In this edition, one copy is at the Museum of Fine Arts. Gift of Henry P. Richmond and another in a personal collection

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *