Friday, 14 November 2008

William Wyon

William Wyon, RA (1795 – October 29, 1851), was official chief engraver at the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death. He was influenced by the master of relief sculpture, John Flaxman. Wyon was a highly visible proponent of the Neoclassicist vogue, and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1838.

Wyon was born in Birmingham, England. In 1834 he modeled the head of Princess Victoria, who was 15 years of age at the time. This work was subsequently used for the City Medal struck in 1837 to celebrate Victoria's first visit to the City of London after her accession to the throne and another medal also issued in 1837 commemorating her visit to the Guildhall. The name of William Wyon is well known among coin and medal collectors because of his prodigious output and artistic skill. He designed “The Young Head” which graced Victoria’s coinage from 1838 to 1860 on the pennies and the rest of the coinage until 1887. Notable among his medallic work are the obverse designs for the prize, juror and other medals for The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851, the year of his death.

Wyon's City Medal was the model for the head on the line-engraved postage stamps of 1840-79, beginning with the Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp, the embossed stamps of 1847-54 and the postal stationery 1841-1901. The primary die used for the embossed issue was engraved by Wyon; the 1s and 10d stamps have the initials "ww" along with the die number at the base of the neck. His design also influenced the surface-printed stamps first printed in 1855.

Wyon is buried under a simple rectangular York stone slab at West Norwood Cemetery.


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