The Fontainebleau Boar Hunt

Louis XIV of France hunting near the Palace of Fontainebleau by Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742)

The cold air sharpens the noise of the crashing branches, and suddenly the forest comes alive with exhilaration. The dogs, having stealthily followed the trail, now give free reign to thrill. A boar has been found and the chase has begun. Twenty minutes ago a sip of brandy kept the chill away from the belly, and now, as the hunters try to keep up with the dogs in the chase through the woods, only their toes and their lungs feel the cold.

The wild boar is a tenacious, intelligent target for such a pursuit. The excitement of the chase sometimes turns to alarm when the boar turns and pursued becomes pursuer. There is no doubt as to the outcome; the wild boar will be caught. The hunters will not be able to catch up until the dogs finally corner it. The dogs will distract the boar while one of the hunters lances it, being careful not to mar the trophy. Sometimes the dogs get hurt, occasionally even a handler. Most injuries to the hunting party though, occur from the reckless chase through the woods. At the lodge the cooks are preparing delicacies while they wait to prepare the kill.

Fontainebleau, the Camp David of the French royalty, has been around for ages, at least since the twelfth century. A conglomeration of additions built around an abundance of courtyards and gardens, and surrounded by a mixed tree forest, it is opulent enough to receive popes and heads of state. Here, fifty-five kilometers from Paris, the Renaissance came to France.

The Fontainebleau Boar Hunt

This medallion, with a reference to the wild boar hunts at Fontainebleau, is one of the largest items of exonumia suidae I possess. It is bronze, 68 millimeters in diameter and 4.4 millimeters thick, with deep relief. The obverse depicts a wild boar, whose ears have been caught by a pair of collared hunting dogs. They are surrounded by mixed vegetation. The words “TAPISSERIE DU QUINZIEME SIECLE” appear at the top and “CHASSE AU SANGLIER FONTAINEBLEAU” at the bottom. The reverse depicts a kneeling female figure holding Château Fontainebleau in her hands with “A LA GLOIRE DE BARBIZON ET DE FONTAINEBLEAU” circumscript.

Note: In my collection the obverse is the side with the pig, the reverse is the “other” side. This does not always correspond to the numismatic descriptions.

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