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Gold Medal

Robert Ball Hughes received a Gold Medal from the Royal Academy on December 10, 1823 when he was 19 years old for an original bas-relief composition of "Pandora, brought by Mercury to Epimetheus."

 
Obverse

 

Reverse

 
    The inscription on the obverse of the medal is translated "George III by the Grace of God King of Great Britain, France and Ireland."  The Gold Medal is dated 1768 on the reverse side, the year that the Royal Academy was founded in London by George III (1738-1820).

    According to the Royal Academy, "Every year the Academy awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to students in the Royal Academy Schools for Painting, Sculpture, Architecture and Drawing. These medals were engraved on one side with the profile of the reigning monarch ... (although George III died in 1820, about 3 years before Ball Hughes was awarded this medal).

    "The reverse side of the early medals were engraved with an image of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, directing a youth up the rugged and steep path towards the Temple of Excellence. The inscription HAVD FACILEM ESSE VIAM VOLVIT translates 'She did not desire the way to be easy'."

    Ball Hughes also won three silver medals as reported in Good Old Dorchester by William Dana Orcutt. Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, UP, 1893, p. 381:

"1st. — The large silver medal for the best copy in bas-relief of the Apollo Belvidere [sic]. (see below)

2d. — From the Society of Arts and Sciences a silver medal for (a copy of) the Barbarini Fawn [sic] (in 1820, Craven).

3d. —The large silver medal for the best original model from life.

    These were all obtained before he was of legal age (of 21 in England at the time)."

    There is an older sculpture of the Apollo Belvedere depicted in an 18th century painting by Henry Singleton in the Royal Academy Collection.

    Ball Hughes exhibited the basso relievo of Mercury bringing Pandora to Epimetheus at the Royal Academy in 1824.

    According to the Royal Academy of Arts Archivist, Mark Pomeroy, "Robert Balls Hughes, entered the schools 3 Sep 1818, aged 14, as a sculptor."

"Premiums won:
1819 Silver medal in sculpture, a model from an academy figure
1822 Silver Medal in sculpture, a model from an academy figure
1823 Gold Medal in sculpture, for a basso relievo of Mercury bringing Pandora to Epimetheus, from Hesiod's Theogony."

"By winning the gold medal Hughes would have been among those students considered for the Traveling Scholarship to Italy; sadly it appears that he was not selected. Fourteen is a young age at which to enter the Schools. Among the students entering at roughly the same date were William Bewick, William Boxall, Edwin Landseer (who was 16) and Richard Westmacott Jr. the sculptor."

    Another account of the medals is recorded on page 1 of the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes:

"And we find him successfully competing for all the prizes awarded by the Royal Academy.
first – The Large Silver Medal for the best copy in Bas-relief of the Apollo Belvidere [sic].
secondly, from the Society of Arts and Sciences the Large Silver Medal for a copy of the Barbarini Fawn.
thirdly, The Large Silver Medal for the best original model from life.
4thly. The Large Gold Medal for an original model of Pandora brought by Mercury to Epimetius [sic] – and two other prizes of books. The Lectures of Opie, and those of Fuseli."


    
On page 22 of the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, Robert Ball Hughes wife, Eliza, describes the engraving on the back of the gold medal:
 
"There is a figure of Britannia with a youth beside her: and on a rocky rugged hill stands the Temple of Fame to which she is pointing up and explaining the difficulties of reaching to it. Mr. Hughes had scaled them all."
 
    Note that according to the Royal Academy, it was a figure of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, not Britannia on the back of the medal pointing to the Temple of Excellence. Britannia is on the front of the medal.
 
    Robert also received the Discourses of Reynolds and West with the Gold Medal according to the Edinburgh Annual Register, Volume 16 for 1823, by Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh: James Ballantyne, and Co., 1824, p. 413.
 
    On pages 26-27 of the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, Eliza records the significance of Friday's at Sunnyside:
 
"Mr. Hughes could not give up the time to see all who called upon him – therefore chose Friday as his reception day, being the day on which he had received his medals – he always called it, “His lucky day. – and reserved it for his friends. Those pleasant days and evenings will always be remember’d, by those who had the entrée to them."
 
    Note that the RA awards ceremony on December 10th, 1823 was not on a Friday. Ball Hughes first silver medal was awarded by the Royal Academy on Friday December 10th, 1819 for the best Model from the Antique. December 10th is the anniversary of the founding of the RA. 
 
    The Gold Medal has been passed down through five generations of the Brown Family, descendents of Robert Ball Hughes.
 
 
last update 5/24/2011
 
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2011
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