Currency, condition Fine; Mercury/Marianne watermark
112 mm x 180 mm (4-3/8” x 7”)
HISTORY: In 1908, Banque de France contracted the eminent French painter and illustrator Luc-Olivier Merson (1846–1920) to design several unique banknotes for them. Released in 1910, these were the first four-color banknotes ever issued by Banque de France, and they continued publication for several decades. As an artist and a teacher, Merson was awarded the Legion of Honor by the government for his contributions to French culture.
These note blanks were stamped, as needed, with the month, day, year, signatories, serial number (in this instance, B.36261), order number (208), and control number (906501208).
OBVERSE: A marble altar dominates the center of this banknote with a watermark (Mercury/Marianne) encircled above and an apple orchard behind. A carved portrait of Mercury, god of trade and merchants, faces left, while Marianne, goddess of liberty and reason, faces right. To the left is a peasant maiden, resting one arm upon the altar while holding a shovel with her left hand. Standing in front is a naked boy guiding a goat. (Mercury is often portrayed with a ram or goat as a symbol of fertility.) To the right, is a maiden from town, leaning her right elbow on the altar and cradling a staff on her left shoulder. A young, naked boy in the forefront struggles with a heavy sack.
The bottom left reads “LVC OLIVIER-MERSON DEL” (sic) and to the bottom right is the Italian engraver “ROMAGNOL SC.”
REVERSE: An exhausted, hard-working blacksmith rests while taking a break, his hand still lingering on his hammer. Coming to his aid is Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck, fate, and fortune. Her left foot is on Rota Fortunae, the Wheel of Fortune, and an upright cornucopia (horn of plenty) is on her left arm. To her right is a naked youth with a laurel wreath wrapped in his left arm while proffering an olive branch in his right hand. This allegorical scene seems to represent the promise of rewards for honest, hard labor.
In the center of the banknote, below “100 FR” and above the lemon bushes, appears the face of Mercury.
The bottom left reads “LVC OLIVIER-MERSON DEL” (sic) and to the bottom left are the engravers “F. FLORIAN