Gilt Bronze, AU
65 mm (2-1/2”), 113.35 grams
HISTORY: Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) was a French scientist, biologist, and chemist who discovered the principles of vaccination for the prevention of diseases. He invented the process of treating milk and wine against the contamination of bacteria, which became known as “pasteurization.” L’Institut Pasteur was founded in 1887 in Paris, France, performing research on infectious diseases. To this day, it is an important research center with branches throughout the world. On July 14, 1927, el Instituto Pasteur was inaugurated in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
OBVERSE: This beautiful, low-relief bronze medal was created by sculptor “C. Sforza” (signature bottom center). The Sforza family, an Italian dynasty since the 1400s, continues to this day. This sculptor may or may not be a direct family relation; otherwise, I can find no additional information on this medal designer.
Encircling this medal are the words “MUNICIPALIDAD DE BUENOS AIRES” and “INSTITUTO PASTEUR,” which is now the Zoonosis Labratorio Pasteur, specializing in veterinary care.
The image is of Angitia, the healing and snake goddess. Her knowledge is of healing herbs, curing snake bites, and practicing witchcraft. In her right hand she holds a flame, while her left hand caresses the back of an ailing patient whose hair is woven with snakes. To Angitia’s right is another victim, snakes writhing through her hair. Snakes have long been a symbol for the healing arts as witnessed by the caduceus, the snake-entwined staff of Greek god Hermes (Roman god Mercury), symbol of the medical profession.
REVERSE: Continuing the theme at the bottom, Sforza sculpts two snakes facing each other over an urn. At the top are a cornucopia on either side of a cameo, illustrating two moored sailing ships with a (smiling) rising sun behind, and an anchor in the foreground. Buenos Aires is a natural harbor facing the sunrise.
In the center are the names of individuals probably responsible for making el Instituto Pasteur possible. Leading the list is “PRESIDENTE DE LA NACIÓN - DR MARCELO T. DE ALVEAR.” President Marcelo T. de Alvear (1868–1942) served from 1922 to 1928 and led his country to prosperity. A public servant by heritage, his father had been the first mayor of Buenos Aires. One year following de Alvear’s departure from office, the Great Depression struck, wiping out all of his gains.
Beneath the list of luminaries is the historic date, “JULIO 14 DE 1927.”