view single item

Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

IMPORTANT: Images displayed via this interface may NOT be reproduced without the express permission of the artist or the artist's representative. Please contact the Johnson Museum with any questions regarding image rights and reproduction.

Title: The "Lone Eagle" Eluding a Storm and Death, Society of Medallist 4th Issue
Date: 1931
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: Diameter: 2 7/8 inches (7.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Janet Marqusee, Class of 1952, and John E. Marqusee, Class of 1951, for the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Collection
Object Number: 94.007.132
This medal features a bust portrait of Charles Lindbergh, and was designed by Frederick William MacMonnies for the Society of Medalists.

This medal was made by the Medallic Art Company, located in New York.

Frederick William MacMonnies (1867-1938) was an American sculptor born in Brooklyn, New York. MacMonnies began sculpting at an early age and in his late teens became an apprentice to Augustus Saint-Gaudens while studying at the National Academy of Design and the Cooper Union. After four years, he left for Paris and began his studies abroad, gaining admittance to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Although MacMonnies established a reputation in the United States with works like Diana and Bacchante, he chose to remain in Paris for the rest of his career.

Medallic art is a type of small-scale sculpture. The tradition of making medals is rooted in the portrait medal tradition that became popular in the Renaissance. The process of striking medals began in the 17th century when it surpassed the older method of casting. Striking is a method where a metal die (with a design in relief) is essentially stamped, with great force, onto a blank piece of metal. This technique can rapidly produce multiple copies. The invention of the engraving machine for die sinking and casting in the 19th century allowed artists to concentrate on medal designs rather than the actual engraving and cutting of the die. The pantograph machine allowed artists to render medals in a larger size in wax, clay or plaster before reducing and engraving them later mechanically. Two dies are made for each medal, one for each side (unless the medal has only one side.)

This medal was issued by the Society of Medalists. The Society of Medalists was established in 1930 to encourage the medallic work of well-known sculptors, and to make their creations available to the public. The society produced limited editions of medals twice a year from 1930 to 1995. These medals were sent to their members, who paid an annual subscription fee to the Society. Medals often reflected themes or important events of the time.

MacMonnies explained this dramatic composition in his own words: “…On the reverse is the allegory of the Lone Eagle battling through the perverse elements of storm, wind, and fog. The figure of Death as king. Life’s ever present tyrant, sure as his final triumph, retreats foiled and defeated. The wind tries in vain to raise a barrier against the spent and trembling wings, while the insane fury of the storm hurls lightnings [sic] and veils the moon and stars in mists and rain, but the Lone Eagle goes on.”

MacMonnies stated about his depiction of Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator who flew the first Transatlantic flight from New York to Paris: “In the head of Lindbergh I have tried to catch something of the inner belief and nobility of vision of the boy, together with the experience of the master airman.” Notice he is wearing an aviator's cap and goggles that have been pulled down around his neck. In the background behind the pilot's head, an airplane is partially seen taking flight. A photograph of Lindbergh, taken by an unknown photographer, clearly served as the basis for this portrait.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.