The Frick Announces the Definitive Publication on the Finest Private Collection of Portrait Medals

Book cover, portrait medal

The Stephen K. and Janie Woo Scher Collection—a significant portion of which has recently gone to The Frick Collection as an initial and promised gift—has long been considered the world’s greatest private collection of portrait medals, rivalling holdings in many international museums. It was the subject of a critically acclaimed exhibition in 2017 at The Frick Collection, and is now the subject of a fully illustrated publication. Nearly nine hundred medals are catalogued with individual entries and color illustrations at actual size, providing scholars, students, collectors, and curators with a definitive resource on the collection’s medals from Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, England, Russia and Scandinavia, and other regions. The volume, published with D Giles Limited, also features essays by leading scholars on the art of the medal in these geographic areas.

Portrait medals were invented during the Italian Renaissance and are central to the history of European portraiture, flourishing as an art form through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. They were typically made of lead, bronze, silver and gold and were produced (sometimes in large numbers) to commemorate individuals, to acknowledge special events, and to disseminate the identity and power of their sitters.

Comments Ian Wardropper, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director of the Frick, “Stephen Scher’s rigorous scholarship over the years has done much to establish medals—traditionally considered closer to numismatics than to fine art—as small-scale sculptures deserving of a prominent place in the history of art. His passion and authority, evident at the many seminars and lectures he has given at the Frick, have inspired multitudes of amateurs and students to take a lively interest in these works of art.” Adds Scher, “With this volume, I hope we offer current and future admirers of this artform a substantial and inspiring resource. In building the collection over a span of sixty years, I have had the pleasurable opportunity to examine thousands of medals of all periods in museums, private collections, dealers’ stock, and auction houses, and I have applied strict standards for my collecting that I hope readers will find clearly expressed here through the contributions of my fellow authors and the excellence of the accompanying photography.”

The book (656 pages, 9 x 12 inches, 1842 illustrations; $280.00, $252.00, member price) is available in the Museum Shop or can be ordered through the Frick’s Web site ( or by phone at 212.547.6848.

Author biographies

Stephen K. Scher, an established scholar of Medieval and Renaissance art history, began collecting portrait medals as a graduate student at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where he earned his Master’s degree. After completing his Ph.D. at Yale University in 1966, he went on to teach art history at Brown University, serving as chairman of the art department from 1972–73. He has organized two landmark exhibitions with The Frick Collection on the art of the portrait medal: The Currency of Fame (1994) and The Proud Republic: Dutch Medals of the Golden Age (1997). Additionally, he and Frick Curator Aimee Ng co-organized the aforementioned exhibition drawn from his collection The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals.

Walter Cupperi Research Fellow, Università degli studi Federico II, Naples

Alessandra Di Croce Core Lecturer for Art Humanities, Columbia University, New York

Christopher Eimer British medal specialist

Arne Flaten Director of the School of Art and Professor of Art History, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana

Martin Hirsch Chief Curator, Staatliche Münzsammlung München (State Coin Collection Munich), and Lecturer, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich

Mark Jones Chairman of the Pilgrim Trust, Hospitalfield and the Sarikhani Art Partnership; proprietor of the Golden Hare Bookshop; and one-time Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Emma Merkling Doctoral candidate, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Carolyn Miner Independent art historian and curator of European sculpture, as well as President of Venetian Heritage

Aimee Ng Curator, The Frick Collection

Jan Pelsdonk Curator of the Coin and Medal Collection, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, and Editor in Chief of De Beeldenaar

Marie-Astrid Pelsdonk General Secretary, International Art Medal Federation, and former Curator, Royal Coin Cabinet, Stockholm

Ulrich Pfisterer Professor of Art History, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, and Director, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich

Davide Stefanacci Art historian


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