NEPK medal nr. 2502. Erasmus in New York?


(anonymus, realisation  ~1896 – ~1928, silver, struck, 32 mm, NEPK2502)

This summer an unusual medal was donated to the NEPK collection: an American high school prize medal with the portrait of Erasmus. The name of the school: “Erasmus Hall – High School”, located in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York.

The portrait is based on the well-known Erasmus painting by Hans Holbein de Younger of 1523, now in the Louvre, Paris, but with Erasmus facing right.

The person who donated the medal recalled his pleasant years at this school, in the early fifties. It appeared that the high school had ties with the city of Rotterdam already a century ago. In those years, one of the former school board members commissioned the Rotterdam sculptor Simon Miedema (1860 – 1934) to have a copy cast of the iconic Erasmus statue of 1622 by Hendrik de Keyser, presently standing in front of the Laurens church in Rotterdam. On April 25, 1931 the copy was unveiled in the school’s inner courtyard in New York where it stands till the present day. (As a side note: since 2008 another copy of the Erasmus statue stands in the grounds of Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam. It is a favourite spot of students to have a family picture taken after graduation.)

Erasmus Hall – High School in New York has an even earlier link with the Netherlands. It was in 1787 that members of the Dutch Reformed Church in Flatbush started the school as a small boarding school, giving it the name “Erasmus Hall Academy”, which must have been rather pompous at the time. In 1896 the school was incorporated in the New York educational system, to continue as a public high school, which allowed it to grow. At the time of unveiling the Erasmus statue in 1931 the number of students had reached 5000, with a staff of 250.

The NEPK collection presently comprises some 30 different medals with Erasmus’ portrait, the medal with inventory number NEPK1850 dated 1531 being by far the oldest. Erasmus himself commissioned this 1531 silver medal, for the purpose of giving it as a very personal gift to friends or persons in high places who had helped him with food and lodging during his many and long journeys across Europe.

For the medal shown, click:

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