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GIES: WWI "Sea Engagement" art medal

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See Gefecht [sea Engagement], 1917, Cast Bronze, 67mmX40mm uniface oval medal, RRR (only one available outside museums), (Ernsting WVZ109, Frankenhuis 1328; Bernhart 111).


Two carp engage in defensive water-spitting as they approach each other in pre-battle. On their backs are groups of medieval Landsknechte* warriors with pikes (spiess), military forks**, shields, battle banners and standards***.


Throughout the WWI period, Gies used medieval symbolism as a mirror to the struck commemorative medal he refused to make. He was already seen as a defeatist in the eyes of authority and he refused to draw his art from the emotional depiction of heroes fighting and dying in fictitious theatres of war in a patriotic spirit of sacrifice.


Medal Availability/Location

Cast Bronze

(1) Hamburger Kunsthalle

(1) London British Museum

(1) Munich Staaliche Munzsammlung

(1) Vienna Kunsthistoriches Museum

(1) Available for private collection


Cast Bronze, Versilbert (silver plated)

(1) Stuttgart, Wurttembergisches Landesmuseum


Cast Iron

(1) Available for private collection





*Landsknechts (singular Landsknecht, German plural Landsknechte, sometimes also in English publications) were European, most often German, mercenary pikemen and supporting foot soldiers from the late 15th to the late 16th century, and achieved the reputation for being the universal mercenary of the European Renaissance.


**Military Fork - a weapon consisting of a pronged pair of blades or spikes affixed to the end of a long staff. Military forks were of fairly low popularity, but could easily be adapted from agricultural implements. They were influenced by the Trident, which although not a medieval weapon was remembered as a gladiatorial weapon


*** Battle Banner/Standard A flag of heraldic design, long and tapering, possibly with a rounded or double-rounded (lanceolate or double-tailed descate) fly carrying the owner’s badge and motto (sometimes also a national symbol or personal arms), and bordered in his livery colours. Originally used as an identifying symbol by medieval noblemen, and still occasionally flown by those entitled to it – a heraldic.

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The carp on the right looks far more aggressive, the eye is bulging forward and the tail is in an upward position. Plus to me it looks as if that is the one 'spitting', the water comes from inside its mouth, also appears to be moving rapidly & making waves in front. In contrast the other carp looks afraid! and stationary.


Placing land troops at sea seems strange at first glance, but this was the age of the Dreadnoughts, perhaps this is the meaning of Ludwig Gies medal.


"CAPTAIN MAHAN'S thesis that in any great war the nation possessing the greater sea power is likely to win, has been splendidly illustrated during the World War. The great English fleets have been the insuperable obstacle to the ambitious German plans of world dominion"


"Germany had for many years well understood the necessity of power upon the sea. When the war broke out it was the second greatest of the sea powers. Its ships were mostly modern, for its navy was a creation of the past fifteen years, and its development was obviously for the purpose of attacking the British supremacy. The father of this new navy was a naval officer by the name of von Tirpitz, who, in 1897, had become the German Naval Minister. With the aid of the Emperor he had aroused among the Germans a great enthusiasm for maritime power, and had built up a navy in fifteen years, which was second only to the English navy"


Perhaps the Battle of Jutland was his inspiration. After which, the German fleet remained in port for the rest of the war.


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