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Essays in Beekeeping History:
Who was Charles Pillet?
Karl Showler and Claire Waring
An e-mail from America led us on a historical detective hunt across Europe and the USA
IN SEPTEMBER, Claire Waring, Editor In the distant background are two dictionary of sculptors working in the art
of Bee Craft, received an e-mail from workmen gathering a swarm. nouveau style. Running through the listhe found Charles Phillipe Germain
Frank Brichacek, a reader in the We were fortunate that Karl has the Aristide Pillet who was born in Paris in
USA, asking for help in identifying a catalogue issued in April 1980 by the 1869 and died in 1960.
beekeeping medal in his German Auction house Munz Zentrum
Albrecht + Hoffmann GmbH, Cologne. As a young man, Charles Pillet studied possession. Claire, knowing Karl
This is a large illustrated sale catalogue under two leading medallists, Jules-Showler’s historical interests,
of 2893 medals of which 472 covered Clement Chaplain (1839–1909), whoreferred the question to him. At our
bee- and beekeeping-related subjects. duly became the official medallist to the
request Frank e-mailed two images Each medal is shown obverse and French Government, and Henri Michael
of the medal showing its obverse reverse with a printed description. Antoine Chapu (1833–1891), who was
and reverse sides. also a neo-classical sculptor. CharlesA careful scan of the illustrated entries
Pillet attended the French Academy atThe medal has not been dedicated to made it possible to identify the medal as
the Villa Medici in Rome where hea particular recipient on the panel with lot 2461 which was described as follows:
received the coveted Grand Prix delaurel branches on the obverse side
2461 Bronze-Medaille o.j. (19.Jh), Rome de gravure en medailles in 1890.
but the sculptor’s name ‘Pillet’ was von Pillet, Imkerin zwischen
shown just below the hive on the Pillet exhibited regularly at the Salon of2 Bienenkorben/Zweige, 36 mm,
reverse. This hive was open with a the Société des Artistes Français.Vorzuglich 20.
lady in a long Edwardian dress Subsequently famous for producing[An undated nineteenth-century medal
smoking the bees. Behind her is a medals, he exhibited at the Expositionby Pillet, showing a lady beekeeper
skep under a European style hackle. Universelle 1900 in Paris where he wasbetween two types of hives – size awarded the silver medal. He received a
36 mm, indicated price 20 German first class medal in 1905. At the 1908
marks]. The final price at auction was Franco–British Exhibition he showed a
120 marks which placed the medal in bronze plaque illustrating Britain
the lowest quarter of the price range welcoming France to England. For his
obtained. wide ranging work, in 1911 he received
The next question was, who was Pillet? the Legion of Honour from the French
An Internet search showed that there Government.
were Pillets in France and Belgium and Not only did Pillet produce medals
a great number in the USA. relating to agriculture and beekeeping
Karl Showler took the next step when but he designed the Romanian
he visited the main Powys County 50 Bani, 1 Leu and 2 Lei coins of 1914.
Council library at Brecon. The librarian, The Cleveland Museum of Art holds a
Chris Price, found a biographical 6 cm diameter plaquette, in effect a
single sided medal, dedicated to Pillet in The reverse side of the medal shows a
1919. lady beekeeper opening a hive.
Pillet's name is just below the hive At the end of the 1914–1918 war, he
was one of 15 artists commissioned by
Edward Lutyens to produce bronze
plaques for the Australian War
Memorial located at Villiers
Bretonneux. Charles designed the one
entitled ‘Heroes of Verdun’.
We are indebted to David Symons,
numismatist of Birmingham City
The obverse of the medal showing Museum for giving his time to answer
laurel leaves but no inscription our questions. z
Bee Craft Digital November 2008 Page 19
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