Did You Know?
The Nobel Peace prize medal depicts 3 naked men with their hands on each other‘s shoulders.
When Erik Lindberg was commissioned to design the Swedish medals, he was living in Paris, and was greatly influenced by the contemporary French engravers. He decided that all of the medals should have a common obverse with a bust of Alfred Nobel and the dates of his birth and death in Latin (NAT-MDCCC XXXIII OB-MDCCC XCVI). Lindberg finished his obverse design in October 1901 when it was sent to Janvier’s in Paris to be reduced and then cast in Stockholm. Since Gustav Vigeland, the designer of the Peace medal, was not an engraver, Lindberg was asked to produce the dies.
Lindberg decided that he would use two different reverse designs: one for chemistry and physics, the other for literature. On all of his Swedish medals is the line from Virgil’s Aeneid (6th song, verse 663), “Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes.” This is loosely translated, “And they who bettered life on earth by new found mastery.” The centerpiece of the reverse of the chemistry and physics medals, according to the Nobel Foundation, is a representation of “Nature in the form of the goddess Isis, emerging from the clouds and holding in her arms a cornucopia. The veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science.” The line from Virgil’s Aeneid runs across the top of the reverse, while on the bottom is, “REG. ACAD. SCIENT. SUEC.” (The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences). The Nobel Laureate’s name is engraved prominently on a plate at the bottom of the reverse. For the Physiology or Medicine medal, Lindberg depicts the Genius of Medicine holding an open book in her lap and collecting water from a rock to give to a sick girl. On the top is the line from Virgil and on the bottom is, “REG. UNIVERSITAS MED. CHIR. CAROL.,” which stands for the Karolinska Institute. As typical of the Swedish medals, there is a plate onto which the Laureate’s name is engraved.
The last of Lindberg’s medals is for Literature, which depicts a young man sitting under a laurel tree, listening and writing the song of the Muse on the reverse. There is Virgil’s line at the top and the words “ACAD. SUEC.” (Swedish Academy) at the bottom. This medal also features the plate for the Laureate’s name. Today, these medals are cast by Myntverket, the Swedish Mint, located in Eskilstuna, Sweden.
Both sides of Vigeland’s medal for the Peace Prize differ from Lindberg’s designs. The obverse depicts an enlarged portrait of Alfred Nobel (it only shows his face as opposed to the Swedish medals which go down to his shoulders) with the same inscription as the Swedish medals circling around the perimeter of the obverse. On the reverse is a portrayal of three men, holding each other’s shoulders, which the Nobel Foundation describes as “forming a fraternal bond.” Circling around the image is the text “Pro pace et fraternitate gentium” which is translated as “For the peace and brotherhood of men.” Unlike Lindberg’s medals, the Peace medal does not have a plate onto which the name of the winner is engraved on the reverse, so the edge is used instead to inscribe “Prix Nobel de la Paix” (Nobel Prize for Peace), the year the prize was awarded, and the name of the Laureate. The Peace medal is currently cast by Den Kongelige Mynt, the Royal Norwegian Mint, located in Kongsberg, Norway.