The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has acquired a rare Danish abolitionist medal, something the foundation’s senior curator calls a benchmark piece.
“Not only does it beautifully and sensitively display the portrait of an African man, it also marks the beginnings of the abolitionist movement in Europe,” said Erik Goldstein, Colonial Williamsburg senior curator of mechanical arts and numismatics, in a foundation news release.
The medal, according to the foundation, is one of the most important medallic items related to the Atlantic slave trade, and one of Denmark’s most iconic medals. It is scheduled to go on public display in the Art Museums in 2020 after completion of their $41.7 million donor-funded renovation.
The medal, designed by Danish artist Nicolai Abildgaard and struck in bronze from dies by the Italian medalist Pietro Leonardo Gianelli, commemorates the 1792 royal edict ending trade in enslaved persons on Danish ships.
The foundation said the medal, made at the beginning of the abolitionist movement on the European continent, marks a dramatic shift in how Denmark sought to treat slaves in the nation’s Caribbean colonies — the Danish West Indies.
The foundation acquired the medal through the Lasser Numismatics Fund and a partial gift by John Kraljevich.
“This medal sheds light on some of the first steps toward the end of slavery, a painful chapter in the Atlantic world’s history,” said Ronald L. Hurst, foundation vice president for collections, conservation and museums.