The Archive of Augustin and Narcisse Dupré
Lot 1000
The Archive of Augustin and Narcisse Dupré
Sold for US$ 351,000 inc. premium
Lot Details
The Archive of Augustin and Narcisse Dupré
Bonhams are pleased to offer this, until recently, unknown archive of Augustin Dupré, and his son Narcisse Dupré. This property is being sold with full title for the first time on the open market in its entirety.

The vendor of this archive is the sole legatee of the Dupré family, and this has been confirmed and ruled upon by the French courts. While the collection is predominantly from the time of Augustin Dupré, several more modern items have been added to the collection by those who have cared for it over time.


  • AUGUSTIN DUPRÉ - (1748-1833), engraver of coins, medals, jetons, seals and related items; Dupré worked for Louis XVI and held the position of 'Graveur General des Monnaies' at the Paris Mint.

    He began his career as an engraver at the royal factory for weapons. In approximately 1770, he was established at Paris and became the student of the sculptor Louis David where he engraved his first medals.

    The French Revolution gave him the opportunity to further develop his art. Because the change of regime and the monetary reform required a full change of monetary types, a competition, initiated by the painter Louis David, was opened in April 1791 by the Convention Nationale. Dupré's design won and was adopted for the new currency, the "Louis Conventionnel". Following this success, Dupré was named Graveur Général des Monnaies by decree of the Assemblée Nationale on July 11, 1791. In France, before the revolution, there were 31 royal mints, but most of them were no more than sinecures. In 1789, there were no more than 17 mints, and Dupré wanted to have a great new mint in Paris to produce all French currency. However, the Assemblée Nationale rejected his idea and retained 8 mints: Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Perpignan, Nantes, Lille, and Strasbourg. He occupied his official position until 1803, the year in which he was dismissed by a decree of the First Consul of March 12, 1803. He was replaced at that time by Pierre-Joseph Tiolier.


    The French Revolution encouraged the artists to celebrate the new order. Augustine Dupré derived the inspiration of his allegoric compositions from the symbolism of antiquity (tables of law, genius of freedom, Hercules, Phrygian cap, fasces of lictors, scales, etc.). It was the triumph of neoclassical style.

    His first contribution was the Louis of gold, 24 livres, portraying Au Génie, the obverse still carrying the portrait of Louis XVI, the motto Roi des Français (King of the French), and the date 1792. The reverse represents a Génie ailé (winged genius) that writes the word Loi on a stèle, with the motto Le Règne de la Loi (the reign of the law) and the declaration An III de la liberté (year three of the liberty). An écu of six livres and a half écu in silver also retain this design.

    When the Republic was proclaimed, Dupré engraved the bulk of the new revolutionary decimal currency. He introduced the five franc silver piece struck with the image of Hercules, Union et Force which marked the renaissance of the franc, and the coins of 1 centime, 5 centimes, 1 décime and 2 décimes with the head of the republic wearing the Phrygian cap.

    Dupré was a talented engraver and the composition which he created for the 5 franc represented the Republic for almost 200 years. The écu à l'Hercule created in 1796, was again struck in 1848, then in 1870 and 1877. The new franc of 1960 renewed honor to Dupré by the striking of silver commemorative coins of 10 francs (1965–1973) and 50 francs (1974–1977). In 1996 the Fifth Republic also honored him by issuing a 5 franc commemorative coin.


    Before the French Revolution, Dupré had a reputation as one of the leading French medallists of the time. Two examples of Dupré's famous medals are in honor of Lavoisier and Admiral Suffren. His medals related to the American republic include: the Libertas Americana, 1783; the Greene medal, 1787; the Morgan and Jones medals, 1789; the Diplomatic medal, 1792; and two medals of Franklin, 1784 and 1786. Thomas Jefferson ordered the Diplomatic medal in 1790. It is unknown who ordered the two known medals of Benjamin Franklin; it is thought that Franklin, himself, did not.


    This collection is an extensive archive of material which is by and closely associated with Augustin Dupré Among the many preparatory sketches and drawings in the group are medallic designs for Daniel Morgan and diplomatic medals (Adams, Comitia Americana, pp. 129-138 and 199-218); while the many sketched drafts for French coinage include 'Union et Force' and Paix et Abondance' designs, the latter inscribed below 'piece d'argent d'un franc'.
    Among the preparatory strikings of medals are uniface examples in tin or lead of the Nathaniel Greene and Daniel Morgan medals (Adams, Comitia Americana, pp. 153-161, and 199-218).

    The medals themselves include the 1790 oval silver 'Pacte Federatif' (sim. Hennin 165), a bronze example of the Benjamin Franklin eripuit coelo fulmen medal (Adams, Comitia Americana, pp. 174-79), and lead examples of the Diplomatic and Libertas Americana medals which may be later productions.
    The archive is very extensive and includes some relevant correspondence involving Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who provides directions on how he wished General George Washington to appear on Dupré's 'Washington Before Boston' medal of 1776 (Adams, Comitia Americana, pp. 39-53). Also included are a number of letters written to Augustin Dupré from his sponsors, that provide insights into his association with North America and the significant part that he played in providing the dies for seven medals that constitute the Comitia Americana series.

    The archive also includes uniface strikings and miscellaneous trials of seals and jetons, as well as an interesting gilt-plaster impression, 70 mm. in diameter and dated 1787, which constitutes an apprentice's presentation piece from Dupré's pupil 'Lambert', the legend reading 'Hommage De Tendresse et de Reconnaissance'.

    For the ease of those interested in the collection it has been split into relevant sections within the listing of the catalog.


    The archive also contains an assortment of original early correspondence to include:

    A. Dupré, autograph draft letter: "Voir les dessins
    J'aurais d'écrire repondre plus tôt à votre lettre
    que j'ai trouvé chez moi à monts à mon retour du voyage
    J'ai cachet de la liberté en petit de la medaille de 1776 le dessin à la plume
    parler du cachet franchir et de la tète liberté
    souvenir respectueux 2 plâtres dorées cadres cuivre"
    Loosely translated: "I was going to reply sooner to your letter which I found upon my return from traveling. I have the cachet (?) of the small format Liberty from the 1776 medal in ink sketch..."

    A. Dupré, autograph list of various medals and materials

    A. Dupré, design for the text face of the J.P. Jones medal, with notes (loosely translated) reading "curious and primitive / This coin was not struck ... / If it had been made in France or in America / It was given by Paul Jones to Mr. Dupré (who engraved the medal included here)..."

    Benjamin Franklin, letter in a secretarial hand, 1 p, 8vo, Passy, 4 May 1783, to A. Dupré: "M. Franklin prie M. Dupré de faire frapper le plutot possible les Medailles que Monsr. l'abbé Mochon lui commandera, et qui sont destinés pour Mr. le Cte. D'Angiviller" ("Mr Franklin requests of Mr Dupré to strike at the earliest opportunity the medals that the Abbot Mochon will order from him, and which are destined for the Count of Angiviller")

    William Temple Franklin (grandson of Benjamin Franklin), letter signed, 1 p, integral address panel, 8vo, 18 May 1785, to A. Dupré, suggesting that he hold off on constructing a press until the return to Paris of Mr Barclay (probably Thomas Barclay, America's first consul in France) and requesting that he stop by to discuss a small object.

    Manuscript contract signed by Colonel David Humphreys and A. Dupré, 1 p, 4to, Paris, 19 November 1785, contracting Dupré to produce the General Green medal, detailing the design of the medal and quantity

    Thomas Jefferson, autograph manuscript listing of "Projects de Médailles", 1 p plus 2 pp in an unidentified hand, 4to (conjoined leaves), docketed in unidentified hand "Devices projected by the Academy of Belles Lettres for Medals for Morgan, Washington & Howard"
    The Jefferson portion being in French, and reading (loosely translated):
    "Medal for General Washington of 30 lines in diameter. On the one side the head of the General with this text Georgio Washington supremo duci exercitum adsertori libertatis comitia americana. Reverse, the evacuation of Boston. The American army advancing in good form towards this city which one perceives in the distance while the English army hurries towards the shore to get aboard the ships which fill the harbor. In front of the American army appears General Washington, on horseback, among a group of officers to whom he is pointing out the flight of the enemy. Text: Hostibus primo fugatis. Inscription: Bostonium recuperatum die XVII Martii MDCCLXXXVI...
    "There will be approximately 350 examples of this medal in silver and in bronze. There will be perhaps one example in gold of each medal. It is necessary therefore that the coins be guaranteed not to exceed 350 examples."

    Narcisse Dupré, manuscript "Notice / Paul Jones", 3 pp, 4to, being biographical notes and details of the medal

    Narcisse Dupré, manuscript copy of J.P. Jones' journal, 22 pp, 4to

    Thomas Jefferson, autograph manuscript, 1 p, 4to, in French, being a description of General Morgan medal.
    Loosely translated:
    "Medal for General Morgan of 24 lines in diameter.
    The General at the head of his army leads a charge against the enemy, who take flight.
    Text. Victoria libertatis vindex.
    Inscription. Fugatis captis, aut caesis ad Cowpens hostibus. 17 Jan. 1781.
    Reverse: America, recognisable through her badge, rests her left hand on a trophy of arms and flags. On the right, crown of the General leaning against her.
    Text. Danieli Morgan duci exercitus.
    Inscription. Comitia Americana."

    Thomas Jefferson, autograph letter signed integrally, 1 p, integral address panel, 8vo, 3 January 1789, to A. Dupré.
    Loosely translated:
    "Mr. Jefferson, having received the orders regarding the medals to be produced, will be delighted to discuss them with Mr. Dupré, if he would like to do him the honor of stopping in at his home tomorrow morning before 11 o'clock."

    Thomas Jefferson, autograph letter signed integrally twice, 1 p, 8vo, 13 February 1789, to A. Dupré.
    Loosely translated:
    "Mr. Jefferson has the honor of sending to Mr. Dupré the specifications for the medals for General Morgan and Rear-Admiral Paul Jones which he has just received from the Academy of Belles Lettres, and which job he proposes to Mr. Dupré, [...] to strike 350 of each medal in gold, silver or bronze, and to provide the proofs of them in pewter by the end of next March, in order that the medals may all be struck before 15 April. [Mr. Jefferson] requests that he be so kind as to indicate the terms under which he will undertake the work, and Mr. Jefferson will have the honor to reply as soon as he receives this."

    Thomas Jefferson, autograph letter signed integrally three times, 1 p, integral address panel, 8vo, 15 February 1789, to A. Dupré.
    Loosely translated:
    "Mr. Jefferson has the honor of pointing out to Mr. Dupré that he will not give 2400 [francs?] for the 24-line medals either to Mr. Duvivier nor to Mr. Gautteaux. That's how much he paid to Mr. Dupré for the medal for General Greene, and Mr. Dupré asked for nothing more than that last time, for the General Morgan medal. Mr. Jefferson cannot therefore agree to give any more. For that price he expects that Mr. Dupré could produce the best, himself, and not by using junior artists. Regarding the terms, perhaps it might be possible to wait a little for the medal for Admiral Paul Jones, that officer being currently in Europe. Mr. Jefferson has the honor of awaiting the reply of Mr. Dupré and will be delighted to finalize this arrangement with him."

    Thomas Jefferson, autograph manuscript, ½ p, 4to, being a description of the 24-line medal for Vice-Admiral John Paul Jones, with pencil notes by Dupré below.
    "Medal for Vice-Admiral John Paul Jones, of 24 lines.
    Obverse: his head. (Mr. Houdon will provide the bust in plaster.)
    Text: Joanni-Paulo Jones classis praefecto.
    Inscription: Comitia Americana.
    Reverse: naval battle.
    Text: Hostium navibus captis aut fugatis.
    Inscription: ad oram Scotiae 23 Sept. 1779."

    Thomas Jefferson, autograph letter signed integrally, 1 p, integral address panel, 8vo, 23 February 1789, to A. Dupré.
    Loosely translated:
    "Mr. Jefferson is going to print the explanations of all the medals, for sending with the medals to the monarchs of Europe. He lacks the medal for Mr. Franklin, made by Mr. Dupré. He requests that Mr. Dupré lend him an example, and also to give him the explanation thereof, if indeed there be one as there must be no doubt."

    William Short, US Chargé d'affaires in Paris, manuscript letter (possibly autograph and signed integrally), 1 p, integral address panel, 8vo, 3 October, 1789, to the bankers Grand & Cie regarding the silver used in Dupré's medals.

    F. de Moustier, autograph letter signed, 1 p, integral address panel, 4to, Paris, 25 October 1791, to A. Dupré, regretting the delay in the production of a medal, referring to William Short, and remarking on an American medal being produced by a Frenchman and abroad.

    Manuscript letter in an unidentified hand, 2 pp, 4to, no place or date, possibly a draft. Apparently to A. Dupré, upbraiding him for mistakes and delays.

    John Paul Jones, autograph note signed integrally, 1 p, 4to, "samedi soir", requesting that Dupré release the silver medal for Mr. de la Coste to Mr. Rosse, porter for the Assembly.

    Narcisse Dupré, autograph notes, 2 pp, 4to, relating to medal production and a to do list.

    Narcisse Dupré, autograph notes, 4 pp, 4to, relating to the medals struck for the US.

    Manuscript, "Inventaire des meubles et objects composant le mobilier de la Villa de Beaumevielle au Lazaich", 27 pp plus 2 pp loosely inserted, folio, stapled into manuscript wrappers.


    The archive contains a detailed cross section of art work from simple sketches to larger pictures, a number of the early works have an oval "studio" stamp with the wording "A. Dupré. fecit" as well as a circular stamp with the initials N.D. (Narcisse Dupré). The majority of works are pencil on paper of differing qualities, some charcoal, others with color. The better works are listed in detail, in addition there are several modern reproduction printed pieces within the archive, which have been added more recently.

    The total number of unframed pieces amounts to 129 items to include:

    Five differing sketches of a combination of Liberty and a classical figure placing laurel wreaths upon the heads of two young figures. The sizes range from (12.3cm x 12.8cm) to (16cm x 13cm).

    Two differing designs for the reverse of a medallion or coin both featuring Hercules seated (14.8cm x and (16.3cm x 16.4cm)

    Three differing designs for the Daniel Morgan medal (11.7cm x 12.2cm), (10.2cm x 11.3cm) and (18.3cm x 17.5cm)

    Three differing designs featuring elegant dressed gentleman with curtseying lady in classical attire, one design with MUNIFICENCE ROYL at the top (11cm x 11.9cm) (11 x 12cm) (11.3cm x 10.8cm)

    Classical female figure holding scroll marked CONSTITUTION (14.8cm x 15.5cm)

    Obverse and reverse design of medallion SOCIETE MEDICOPHIE ANTROPIQUE (52mm diam.)

    Obverse and reverse designs for 5 Francs L'An 12 (38mm diam.) and sketch of reverse of 5 Francs L'An 9 (10.3cm x 12cm)

    A Napoleonic portrait (22.2cm x 15.5cm)

    A further Napoleonic portrait (13.8cm x 9.3cm)

    A Naval or Military Officer (20.8cm x 12.4cm)

    A single sheet of paper with 5 differing designs of the head of Liberty, one in medallion form with Republique Francaise (24.5cm x 20cm)

    Bust of Napoleon in coat with high collar (21.2cm x 16.5cm)

    Two designs of Cherubs sitting upon lions (9.5cm x 14cm) and (6.6cm x 9.7cm)

    Two classical figures walking through street with Surete Publique below (15.3cm x 16.2cm)

    Sketch entitled Piece d'Or featuring seated female classical figure holding olive branch PAIX ET ABONDANCE with L'AN 5 in exergue (18.5cm x 18cm)

    A sketch possibly of St. Jerome and the lion (15cm x 14cm)

    Small oval sketch of the head of Liberty facing left (7cm x 5.8cm)

    A sketch having two circular designs with writing relating to the John Paul Jones medal, one side dated 23 Sept 1779 in the exergue (13.3cm x 18.8cm)

    A sketch of an angelic figure placing a wreath over the head of a Naval Officer standing among discarded weapons, with ships in the distance (26.2cm x23.6cm)

    A sketch of 'Hercules' standing over defeated foe pushing back clouds with 'Franklin' written below and Dupré 1786 written in ink below (19.3cm x 16.5cm)

    A similar example with 'Franklin' written below (17.9cm x 14cm)

    A further sketch of 'Hercules' holding back clouds within classical ruins with legend and date of 22nd January 1774 in exergue and 'Franklin' below (17.4cm x 14cm)

    A drawing of the American eagle holding arrows and olive branch (possibly a forerunner of the following sketch) (19.8cm x 19.3cm)

    A drawing of the American eagle with THE CONSULAR SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around edge (11.1cm x 13.3cm)

    A circular drawing of a design for Aboukir featuring a classical figure crowning a naked warrior with weapons below, the exergue inscribed BATAILLE D'ABOUKIR 7. Thor. AN. 7. REPN (23.7mm diam)

    A circular drawing featuring a classical warrior, a reclining Hercules and a kneeling classical maiden who is being presented with a statue, in the foreground a major battle taking place with the pyramids behind, to the edge the wording LA LIBERTÉ DON NÉE ALEGYPTE , BATAILLE DES PYRAMIDES in the exergue (23.8mm)

    Liberty and classical figure with ALLIANCE ETERNELLE around edge, the reverse AU SOUVERAIN DE LA TOSCANE AMI DES FRANCAIS PRAIRAIL AN IX JUN 1801 (15.3cm x 22cm)

    A drawing in reverse of official seals including Le Peuple Souverain for Republique Francaise L'An 5 (23.7cm x 19.4cm)

    A circular drawing in reverse for a seal featuring Hercules standing next to an obelisk with a crushed lion and snake below, holding a scroll with eye above and CONSTITUI** DES FRANCAIS, the obelisk marked LA NATION LA LOI ET LE ROI (21.9mm diameter)

    The remainder of the loose drawings include an assortment of classical figures, children, cherubs, wildlife etc. The level of detail varies considerably, some have much detail, others less so. The majority appear to have little or no numismatic significance here.


    The framed items include the following in a combination of mainly pencil but some are pencil and charcoal.

    Hercules seated holding two classical figures in one hand and club in other, with UNION ET FORCE around edge, the exergue empty but signed Dupré. Outside the drawing piece d'argent d'un franc written in ink, the reverse of the frame with ink Voir le buste de Desforges ou theatre francais (15.7cm x 13.5cm)

    An angelic figure holding rod in one hand and dividers in other flying over the earth, the dividers touching two points on the earth, the reverse of the frame written in ink Systeme decimal (10.8cm x 10.5cm).

    Classical figures in a forest with hunting dogs (25cm x 30.5cm)

    10 franc reverse with seated Liberty, marked Dupré fecit in ink (20cm x 20cm)

    An octagonal sketch of two classical figures holding arms on seafront with ships in the distance, with legend LA PAIX RAMENE L'ABONDAN (18.7cm x 18.7cm)

    A charcoal and colored mix of two classical figures with cherub in a garden or similar, the reverse with words, Serment D'Amour (26cm x 25cm)

    A classical hunting scene with figures and hunting dogs attacking a large wild boar. (21.2cm x 38cm).

    A young stag having been tied to a tree with two hunting dogs beside (36cm x 25cm)

    *A framed drawing of une femme tirant a l'arc standing left, probably a personification of Artemis of Diana as Goddess of the Hunt. This image is also repeated in a few of the pencil sketches and is a truly striking and of substantial aesthetic merit and value.

    Other drawings include various hunting scenes, classical scenes, agricultural medal design and other pictures, most marked with the Dupré stamp or ink, some not but purported to be of the artist.


    Augustin Dupré is famously noted for producing some of the major American medals of the time that include the Libertas Americana medal of 1783, the John Paul Jones Medal of 1789 as well as the Diplomatic Medal of 1790, and the two Franklin Medals of 1784 and 1786.

    His role in the production of French coinage involved him producing the majority of the decimal coinage. The Union et Force that featured on the five franc coin with the image of Hercules (refer to picture section) was his design and almost announced a new beginning for the franc. Such a design has featured on many subsequent times such is the power of this image.

    The archive contains a small collection of contemporary numismatic specimens and examples that include:

    A uniface reverse of the Daniel Morgan medal in white metal (55mm diameter)

    A uniface reverse of the Mayor of Paris medal in white metal (52mm diameter)

    A uniface reverse of the Daniel Green medal in white metal (50mm diameter)

    An example of the Daniel Morgan medal in white metal (55mm diameter)

    An example of the Libertas Americana medal in white metal (47mm diameter)

    An example of a possible trial reverse of the John Paul Jones medal, featuring two tall ships next to a lighthouse, together with another example just of a single tall ship. Both pieces made from white metal (40mm x 34mm, 33mm diameter)

    A uniface reverse of the portrait of Louis XVI (28mm diameter)

    A uniface bust of Raphel Durbin in white metal (68mm diameter)

    A brass seal base (handle absent) featuring the head of Liberty with the words LIBERTE above and a Phrygian cap below. Much speculation rests on this item. This particular piece might be considered one of the earliest Liberty designs for the United States of America. Simple in its appearance, this particular design is not known to have been officially granted for use, but has to be of exceptional importance within the early stages of American design within official government circles.

    A sizeable collection of uniface white metal trials or specimens to include: classical figures, assorted classical busts, man on horseback, single cherubs, cherubs seated on a lion, wheat sheafs, prancing horses and similar appliqués. In addition there are a number of original coins from the time featuring his designs, as well as some minor production pieces, white metal plaques, many without numismatic significance.


    Dupré (Augustin)
    Observations présentées au Comité des Monnaies... Octobre 1790, folding letterpress table, inscribed by Narcisse Dupré with details about his father, nineteenth century calf-backed boards, 8vo,[Paris, 1790]; and 2 additional copies (3)

    A.Dupré, manuscript inventory of medals struck, books owned, etc., approximately 80 pp, contemporary vellum-backed boards, spine detached, folio.


    Augustin Dupré was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1830 by Louis Philippe (1830-48). The archive contains the medal he was awarded which is made from gold, silver and enamel, with the obverse of Henry IV at the center and three lilies at the center of the reverse, a contemporary piece for the time of the award.

    In addition the archive includes a lock of Augustin Dupré's hair housed in an oval wooden glazed frame, this hair has a red ribbon used for the Legion of Honour as a backing, the reverse of this frame has been written in ink "Cheveux d'Augustin Dupré 1833 derriere le ruban de la Legion d'Honneur Fait Chevalier par Louis Philippe en 183". The last number of the year of presentation is absent but would have been a '0'. This highest honor was largely granted at the request of his friend, Le Marquis de Lafayette.

    A collection of assorted table seals, with a combination of metal, wood and marble/stone handles, one with "D" engraved, another "MD" and others which may have been commissions, and appear to have no family connection. To complement these, the archive has a number of wax seal impressions (65), likely to have been taken for reference purposes after commissioned seals had been made, perhaps in case of repeat orders or for a personal record of work over time, examples include Administration des Monnaies, Poids et Mesures Republicain and Bureau de Garantie des Matières D'Or et D'Argent, with assorted heraldic and similar examples.

    A number of engravers tools, writing implements, minor items of equipment used in the manufacturing processes.

    Finally, a number of items are included that date from after the time of A and N. Dupré. These include modern coins and medallions that were produced in the 20th Century and commemorate events that encompassed Dupré's work. These we are assuming have been added by those who had inherited this archive and who still had a fondness for his work and for numismatics as a whole. These include 1 franc, 5, 10 and 50 francs, as well as a 100 franc piece in gold, together with reproductions of various art medals copied from original styles, such as the Franklin Medal, Morgan and Jones medals, as well as minor works featuring or representing him including a bronze plaque portrait of him in relief.

    Overall, this collection represents an extremely rare opportunity to acquire an undisturbed archive of material dating back to the late 18th and early 19th Centuries that relates to early American and post French revolution history within medallic design.

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  1. Paul Song
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