A Collection of nine silver portrait medals of Simon de Passe

Simon van de Passe (Cologne c.1595 - 1647 Copenhagen), London, 1616-1619

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A Collection of nine silver portrait medals of Simon de Passe

This collection of nine de Passe oval silver medals, produced in the early 17th century, is undoubtedly the finest in private hands both due to its completeness and exceptional condition of each example. In fact, this group rivals in quality and quantity the collections of nearly all museums.

This collection of simi-engraved portrait medals by Simon van de Passe (Cologne c.1595 – 1647 Copenhagen) are all are signed except for number 9. He was born in Cologne and worked as an engraver in Utrecht, Netherlands. Simon de Passe was the elder son of Crispijn [van] de Passe (1564 Arnemuiden – Utrecht 1637). Undoubtedly Simon was an apprentice of his father. At the time of Simon’s birth his father Crispijn had a print shop in Cologne, operated by his wife, from where he published his own prints. The family moved to Utrecht in 1612. Around 1615 Simon travelled to England where he worked for Nicolas Hilliard (1547 Exeter – London 1619), the famous court miniaturist, medalist and portraitist, from whom Simon received the license to engrave the latter’s portraits in print. Passe stayed in England for approximately 10 years before moving to Copenhagen, where he would work in the service of the Danish King Christian IV (ruled 1588-1648) until his decease in 1647. He probably got in contact with the King trough his service for the English court since James was married to Anne of Denmark, Christian’s sister.

In England he received orders from James I to produce a series of portrait medallions in silver, perhaps as gifts for favored courtiers. One at least is dated 1616 (cat.no. 1) and the series was completed by 1619.

Simon de Passe is primarily known for his portrait engravings. His work on silver shows us his refined skills. Van de Passe already made several silver engraved medals before he went to England. In England he worked for several publishers of prints. The order for engraved silver medals was given to him because of his engraving technique. The silver medals can be seen as very precious etching plates.

This collection consists of two medals of James I (1566-1625) (2,6), one of his wife Anne of Denmark(1574-1619)(4). This medal forms a pair with no.2 of James I. One of their child Charles I (1600-1649)(1). One medal of the three together (9). One medal of his predecessor as ruler of England Elizabeth (1533-1601) (3). One of Frederick V of the Palatine(1596-1632) together with his wife Elisabeth Stuart(1596-1669) and their eldest son Prince Frederick. Since Elisabeth was a daughter of James I and a sister of Charles I she belonged to the series as well.

Two portrait medals in this collection were probably ordered separate from the series of members of the British Royal family. Number 5, infanta Maria of Austria was created in the same period but does not officially form part of the series. Passe worked in London when an attempt was made to arrange a marriage between the Catholic Infanta Maria (1606 Escorial – Linz 1646), daughter of King Philip III of Spain (ruled 1598-1621), and Prince Charles (Dunfermline 1600 – 1649 Whitehall, London), son of King James I of England (ruled 1603-1625). The King’s daughter Elizabeth (1596-1662) had married the Protestant Elector Palatine of the Rhine, Frederick V (1596 Deinschwang – Mainz 1632), in 1613. Already in 1614, Infante Maria was considered to be a suitable match. After four years of fruitless negotiations, the deliberations were cancelled, because the Spanish terms proved unacceptable. In 1618 James I broke off the negotiations. Although the discussions were resumed in 1622, when the future King travelled to Spain with George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham, the scheme came to nothing. There was widespread rejoicing amongst the English, nervous of an alliance with a powerful Roman Catholic country. This rare medallion belongs to the earlier phase of the negotiations, before 1621, when Phillip III, father of the Infanta, died. A print of Maria, which was made by Simon de Passe and published in 1622 by his father Crispijn, has as edge lettering referring to the sitter as the sister of the Spanish king Philip IV: SERENIS: MARIA / PHILIPPI IIII. HISPANIARUM / INDIAR. ETC.REGIS SOROR.

Number 8, the portrait Medal Henry IV of France and his wife Mary de Medici 1625 was a later addition to the series.  It probably was ordered in 1625 when Charles I married Henrietta Maria of France. This medal was made as a compliment to the parents of the newly married Queen. The medal is similar to the portrait medals in the series. It was customary that there were several copies of the portrait tokens extant in. Presumably such pieces were very precious gifts from the King to dignitaries and high court officials.

It is known that the Amsterdam silversmith Johannes Lutma had stipulated with the city council that he, after delivering the gold medals made to commemorate the Westphalian Piece Treaty (1648), would keep the right to manufacture other casts in silver, to sell through his own firm. In fact, this was the most lucrative part of his work as a designer and silversmith of this famous medal. It is quite possible that Passe had made a comparable arrangement. From various of his engraved medals silver casts are known. These are of such high quality that discussions amongst numismatic experts about Passe’s technique and artistic ability have taken place for over a century. All Passe’s medals seem to have been engraved piece by piece. But because of some medals several copies of the same subject were so identical, is has been suggested that either Passe engaged very talented engravers in his studio, who were able to copy exactly or that he had developed a very special technique to cast the medals in such a way that it seems that they are engraved. In 1983 the debate that had gone on since the 19th century, was smothered by Mark Jones. He proved by microscopic comparison of various medals in the collections of the British Museum and the Royal Collection that engraved medals and cast copies are extant.

De Passe engraved medals are rare. In 1885, Edward Hawkins made a catalogue of the medals of the history of Great Britain. He included all the portrait medals by De Passe in his monumental book, describing them as rare or sometimes very rare. The largest collection of Passe Medals is in the British Museum. Some of the medals in their collection are of a high quality although quite a few are mediocre examples. The King of England has five oval medals in the Royal collection, one in gold and four in silver. The Royal collection does have engravings of the medals.

Charles I, King of England (Prince of Wales) (1600-1649)

Dimensions  56 x 44 mm.

Bust of Prince Charles, three-quarters, right, in lace ruff, armour, lace sash over shoulder, and George of the Garter hanging from his neck. (obverse)

Armorial shield of the Prince, crowned, within the Garter. (reverse)


Inscription translation: The most illustrious and potent Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, York, and Albany, &c.

Signed and dated: Si Pa fec 1616 (reverse)

James I, King of England (James VI of Scotland) (1566-1625)

Dimensions 56 x 43 mm.

Bust of James I, three-quarters, right, head bare, in lace ruff and ermine robe, open, showing collar and badge of the Garter. Above, crown between his monogram. (obverse)

Jacobus D. G. Mag : Britt: Frā : & Hybe : Rex.  / I.R. (obverse)

Monogram S.P. fe. For Simon Passe fecit (obverse)

Shield of Britain within the Garter; supporters, helmet, crest, and motto. (reverse)

BEATI PACIFICI. (Blessed are the Peace-Makers.) (reverse)


Companion to Anne of Denmark (4)

Elizabeth, Queen of England (1533-1601)

Oval silver medal. Simon van de Passe after a design by Isaac Oliver

Dimensions 60 x 43 mm.

Bust of Elizabeth, three-quarters, right, crowned, hair curled and richly jewelled, ruff erect, open in front, necklace and ear-rings, gown puffed, lozenge pattern, and jewelled. (obverse)

Signed : Si. Pas. fe. (obverse)

Shield, France and England quarterly, crowned, within the Garter; supporters, lion and dragon; above, a motto. Inscription on a tablet below. (reverse)



This is an oval plate, stamped in imitation of engraving, by Simon Passe, some years after the death of Elizabeth, as his earliest works are dated 1613. The portrait is copied from a miniature by Isaac Oliver. The dress is that which she wore when she went in state to St. Paul’s after the defeat of the Armada. The inscription is said to have been the impromptu production of a Westminster scholar, Elizabeth herself having proposed her armorial bearings as the subject of an epigram. Another scholar deserved much credit for his prompt translation:

“May Juda’s lyon and the root of Jesse Protect thy Lyons and thy flowers, Sweet Bess.”

Anne of Denmark (1574-1619)

Dimensions 55 x 42,5 mm.

Bust of Anne, three-quarters, left, hair adorned with jewels, her lace collar stiff, and dress open in front. Above, crown between her monogram. (obverse)

Inscription : Anna D. G. Mag : Britt : Fr & Hyb : Regina. / A.R. (obverse)

Signed : S P fe. (obverse)

Armorial shield of Anne, garnished, crowned: supporters and motto. (reverse)

Inscription: La mia Grandezza dal Eccelso. (reverse)

My greatness is from on high.


Companion to James I (2)

Infanta Maria of Austria (1606-1646)

Dimensions 56 x 44 mm.

Bust of Maria of Austria, three quarters, left, wearing a dress, a ruff and pinned up hair obverse


Inscribed on the reverse: le tres illustre prin cesse MARIE de Austria, fille de le très puissant prince Philippe troisième Roy d’Espaigne.

The most Illustriious Prin cesse MARY of Austria daughter to y most Huissat Prince PHILIP the third King of Spaine.

Signed: Simon Pass:  fecit. Lond. (reverse)

James I, King of England (James VI of Scotland) (1566-1625)

Dimensions: 59 x 48 mm

Bust of James I, three-quarters, right, wearing a hat, decorated with a rich jewel, in lace ruff and ermine robe, open, showing collar and badge of the Garter; the collar of the Garter over the ermine robe. (obverse)

Shield of Britain within the Garter; supporters, helmet, crest, and motto. (reverse)

Signed : Simon Passæus sculp. (reverse)

Motto: BEATI PACIFICI. (Reverse)

Inscription translation: Blessed are the Peace-Makers.


Frederick V, count Palatine(1596-1632), Elizabeth Stuart(1596-1662) and Prince Henry Frederick (1614-1626)

Busts conjoined, right, of Henry IV, King of France, and his wife, Mary de Medici. He is in rich armour, scarf, and badge of the Order of St. Esprit suspended to riband; she wears lace ruff, and large jewel in hair. (obverse)

Shields of France and Navarre under a crown, and within the collars of the Orders of St. Michael and St. Esprit; beneath shields, H crowned between two olive branches: the collar of the Order of St. Esprit also contains H’s. (reverse)

Signed : Simon Passæus fecit. (obverse)


Inscription translation: Henry IV, the most Christian King, Mary, the Queen.

Signed : Sim : Pafsæus sculpsit. (reverse)

James I,  Anne of Denmark and Prince Charles

Busts of James I, Anne, and Prince Charles similarly represented as upon 1, 4 and 6  those of the Queen and Prince are turned to left. (obverse)

Armorial shields of James and his Queen, supported by a lion, and a wild man: above, helmet, crown, and crest; below, shield with Prince’s Plumes and motto, and the mottoes of the King and Queen. (reverse)


Inscription translation: The most potent James, by the grace of God, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and the most serene Anne, by the grace of God, Queen of Great Britain, together with the most illustrious Prince Charles, Prince of Great Britain.


Private collection

Associated Literature
Edward Hawkins, Medallic illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland to the Death of George II, Volume I, London 1885;
Mark Jones, The technique of Simon van de Passe reconsidered, The Numismatic Chronicle, Vol. 143 (1983), pp. 227-230;
Jeremy Cheek, Monarchy, Money & Medals, coins, banknotes and medals from the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Spink & Son, London 2018, pp. 44-48;
Ilja Veldman, Crispijn de Passe and his progeny (1564-1670) a century of print production, Studies in prints and printmaking, volume 3, Rotterdam 2001, pp. 243-246;
F.W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish etchings engravings and woodcuts, Amsterdam 1949-2010, volume 15, 16 Ostade-Passe, Passe continued. D. Franken, L’oeuvre grave des Van de Passe, Amsterdam 1881

Simon van de Passe (Cologne c.1595 - 1647 Copenhagen), London, 1616-1619

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