Mendelssohn, Moses. *1729 Dessau, † 1786 Berlin. German Jewish philosopher. Silver medal, undated, around 1774
THE SAMEL COLLECTION OF JEWISH COINS AND MEDALS
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MEDALS, MEDALS DEDICATED TO PERSONS
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Silver medal, undated, around 1774, signed by Abraham Abramson. Bust to the left, around MOSES MENDELSSOHN – I. ABRAHAM & F.//Skull with butterfly sitting on its top, above it PHAEDON, beneath it in exergue NATVS / MDCCXXIX. 43,53 mm; 27,45 g. Friedenberg S. 54 f.; Hoffmann 251.
Dark Patina, holed, otherwise extremely fine
One of the most widely read books of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, the grandfather of the composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, was 'Phaedon oder über die Unsterblichkeit der Seele' (Phaedo or On the Immortality of Souls), published in 1767. On this book’s title-engraving, Socrates takes a look at a skull on whose top a butterfly is sitting. This medallion depicts a section of this image. In order to understand it, it is important to know that the Greek word for butterfly 'psyche' can also mean 'soul'. The butterfly becomes a suitable image for the soul’s immortality, if one realises the fantastic change from egg to caterpillar and chrysalis and finally the last change into a richly coloured butterfly.