George IV is a fascinating character in British royal history, famous for having an extravagant lifestyle and large ego. The coinage of his reign reveals a vain king who liked to be portrayed as young, handsome and slim, in contrast to the images created by the cartoonists of the king's time who painted him as gluttonous and overweight.
When George came to the throne in 1820, Benedetto Pistrucci was chosen to create the first coinage portrait of the new king. However, in 1825, George IV was so impressed by the marble bust likeness created by Sir Francis Chantrey, that he requested the creation of a new coinage portrait. Pistrucci, being talented but temperamental, didn't take kindly to being instructed to copy another man's art and refused to work on the portrait.
It was William Wyon who stepped in to create the new effigy, depicting the king without a laurel wreath, hence the name the 'bare head' portrait. This only intensified the already fierce rivalry between Pistrucci and Wyon, with the Italian engraver eventually being given the title of Chief Medallist, while Wyon went on to become Chief Engraver.
The reverse of this original coin, struck between 1826 and 1830, features the 'bare head' portrait. On the reverse is an elaborate shield design, created by Jean Baptiste Merlen.
|Alloy||22 Carat Gold|
|Reverse Designer||Jean Baptiste Merlen|
|Obverse Designer||William Wyon|
|Pure Metal Type||Gold|
Fine or Better