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The Typology of the Pour le Mérite
 

Because of numerous questions about the  Pour le Mérite I would like to bring some light into the darkness by pointing out the original pieces. This web page will give you a list of original Pour le Mérite decorations sorted by their age. Everything besides the below shown decorations might still be original, maybe made by a foreign manufacture, privately made as a replacement piece for a recipient or most likely fake.
You will see one example for each period. Those who want to know more about the history and the recipients of the order of the Pour le Mérite may read the general literature.

Have fun looking and comparing. Click on the pictures to see the detailed enlargement.

  


  

Pour le Mérite

    

World War I decoration in silver gilt with oak leaf, always the "938" silver content mark. This is the Wagner made piece with maker's mark "W".

 

mark on Wagner made piece

 

World War I decoration in silver gilt , always the "938" silver content mark. This is the Friedländer made piece with makers mark "FR".

 

mark on Friedländer made piece

 

The in-between model made by Wagner. Variation is made from gilt silver, but made in the same fashion its real golden predecessors were made. Two halves are coined and put together. Those pieces are heavier then the golden ones. Mostly marked just on the ring for the ribbon, sometimes also on the loop for the ribbon ring atop of the cross.

Visible characteristics are the vent holes in the cross arm sides.

 

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Scroll down to the end for the Godet designed decoration.

 

World War I decoration in gold, hollow construction. Read more about the Pour le Mérite with oak leaf awarded to General von Quast.

 

Wagner made piece

Decoration from 1866 and the Franco Prussian War 1870/71 with oak leaf, gold, hollow construction, letters are hand chased.

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Decoration from between 1848 to 1863, gold, hollow construction, crown is hand chased. Makers mark: H.u.S.

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Decoration from the 1848/49 War with crown, gold, hollow construction, letters are hand chased.

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Decoration awarded during the 1813 Napoleonic wars. Typical thin gold leaf construction with multilayer enamel built up.

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Decoration approx. 1800, the inscription and crown are laid into the enamel using a gold foil.

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A around the century change example with Crown. Made of very thin gold foil and multi layer enamel. Typical damage to the center due to the enormous tension in the enamel with almost no support from the gold foil frame. The Crown was awarded for a 50 year jubilee, hence in this case in the 1850th.

This is the decoration of Freiherrn Ernst von Klüx He received at the age of 16 in 1792 this order and lived long enough to be awarded the crown on July 18, 1844. He also received the Iron Cross 1st class in 1813 and was a bearer of the Red Eagle Order 1st class.

Decoration before 1780, the crown and inscription is painted in gold.

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Pour le Mérite for Arts and Science

  

Silver gilt decoration, silver content mark "938" on the back of the piece. Made after 1916 and identical with the golden piece below.

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Golden decoration. Made approx. 1900.

This particular pieces was awarded in 1911 to the Danish language scientist Vilhelm Ludvig Peter Thomsen (January 25, 1842 - May 13, 1927) in Copenhagen.

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This Pour le Mčrite was awarded to Henry W. Longfellow in 1875. Henry Longfellow was a poet in Cambridge, USA.

(March 27, 1809 - March 24, 1882)

With permission of: 

Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Golden decoration. Made approx. 1870. The inscription "Pour le Mérite" and the floral elements are hand chased. The ring for the suspension is made as a 3-dimensional orb.

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Golden decoration with Hossauer maker's mark, letters are hand chased. Issue period. Compared to the later pieces , the eagle in the middle of the decoration isn't set free. That way, the Hossauer piece has its maker's mark punched right in the middle of the back (a). Later pieces (eagle set free) have a golden disk attached to the back (b).
   

(a)

(b)

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Some words about the designs

  • The cursive lettering style was changed into the Antiqua font in approx. 1777

  • The light blue color of the early Pour le Mérite changed into a deeper blue by the mid 19th century.

  • The eagles in-between the cross arms aren't crowned. The Pour le Mérite has the Brandenburg eagles. The fact, that insignias with crowned eagles exists results from a shortage of decorations, especially in 1807. A lot of decorations were made in foreign countries, where the jewelers made them using the Prussian eagle. 



Besides above shown pieces made by those well know jewelers like Wagner, Hossauer....I like to show a few pictures of those pieces, that were officially made before 1918 by the famous jeweler Godet in Berlin. Godet offered high quality decorations for private purchase in his shop, but was well known as a supplier to numerous German and non German Order's Chancelleries. Find below a picture of a Godet made Pour le Mérite, that is kept in the official German "Zeughausmuseeum" in Berlin. The piece was made before 1918 in silver gilt. 

 

 

Godet & Sohn made Pour le Merits before and after 1918. Several pieces are known to be part of high profile medal groups - e.g. being part of the British Royal collection. That piece is a decoration made in identical design as shown above, but using real gold and bears the makers mark "G". Silver gilt pieces made before 1918 have to show the marks pictured below: "J·G·u·S 938". The letters and the crown are hand chased. Read more about the Godet made Pour le Mérite.

 


Haven't you wondered about the fact, that Pour le Mérite decorations not fitting in above shown typology are normally sold as pieces made in the 20th or 30th?!
How many Pour le Mérite bearer had a need during that time to get an extra one?!

 

© A. Schulze Ising, III/99


 
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