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William Wyon, Medallist & Engraver (1795-1851)

William Wyon was the most famous of the Wyon family of medallists and engravers. He was born in 1795 and apprenticed to his father, Peter Wyon, the chief engraver of the king's seals. He studied in the schools of the Royal Academy, London, where he gained silver medals in antique and life classes. He was awarded a gold medal from the Society of Arts.

In London Wyon aided his uncle Thomas Wyon the elder in engraving, and shortly thereafter was chosen to fill the post of Second Engraver. When the Chief Engraver, Thomas Wyon junior died, Pistrucci, noted gem engraver and favourite of the Master of the Mint, was appointed to the vacant office. William Wyon resented this nomination and differences arose between the two artists. A compromise was reached when Wyon was made Chief Engraver in 1815 and Pistrucci received the designation of Chief Medallist.

Wyon is listed as the engraver of at least 43 different coins struck for circulation in England. His portraits of Queen Victoria were used on all British coinage until 1887 and for all postage stamps until 1902. He also prepared numerous coin dies for the British Territories, including the West Indies, British India, Ceylon, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Ionian Islands, Ireland, Jersey, Malta, Mauritius, New Brunswick, Penang, Straits Settlements and New Granada.

His accurate, clear portraits, quality of design and technically perfect engraving make him the outstanding medallist of 19th century England. Wyon's eminence was recognized by his election as ARA on 7 November 1831 and RA on 10 February 1838. He was the first medallist to be thus honoured.

William was father of Leonard Charles Wyon.

The Wyons are one of the most celebrated and talented coin and medal engravers in England. Their period of activity extends from before the middle of the eighteenth century to almost the end of the nineteenth century. It is believed that Peter George (II) Wyon came to England from Cologne, Germany, during the reign of King George II. He brought with him a boy who grew up to be George (III) Wyon. George (III) Wyon in turn had two sons, Thomas (I) and Peter, both of whom distinguished themselves as medallists and engravers of dies for coinage. Thomas (I) had three sons: Allan Wyon, Benjamin, also a medallist, and Joseph Shepherd. Benjamin had two sons, Joseph Shepherd and Alfred Benjamin, both of whom also became medallists.

References:
Christopher Eimer (medals and medallic art) website http://www.christophereimer.co.uk/single/8489.html
Historical and Commemorative Medals in the Collection of Benjamin Weiss http://www.historicalartmedals.com
http://johnmadjackfuller.homestead.com/WilliamWyon.html

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