In 1856 J. M. W. Turner bequeathed the sum of £20,000 pounds for a gold medal for landscape painting. The task of designing the medal was given to the Royal Academician Edward Hodges Baily, the sculptor who created the Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. However the Academy eventually chose to use a portrait of Turner by Daniel Maclise RA on the face and a design by William Dyce RA on the back. The modern version of the medal, which has been cast in bronze since 1938, still uses Daniel Maclise’s original design.
From 1859 until 2008 the Royal Academy awarded the Turner Medal every two years at their Summer Exhibition. Since then the award of this much prized Medal is an annual event jointly organised by the two senior royal watercolour societies; one is given to a member of the RI and the other to the RWS. Only two medals are struck each year and are engraved with the year of their making. The picture above is of this year’s casting.