Wiener Letters


The Benjamin Nathan Cardozo Medal, issued in 1987


The preparation for any medal begins with good photographs and a suitable inscription, and so Gerta tells how she (8/29/85): “followed your advice and went to Mr. Fromer in the (Magnes) Museum, and I found, or rather the librarian, found 2 books with photos of Cardozo … that I can work from. But I don’t like that Bible quote: Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.”


A post card (9/17/85) records that Ms. Wiener “thought about the Cardozo medal, and have to do a great deal of research to find a fitting quote for the reverse. I think a quote is the best solution for this medal – or would you prefer this?” (Gerta made a sketch of Cardozo holding Justice, with the inscription “I shall remain faithful to you forever, my chosen mistress!” (Note I do not know the source of this quote, nor was Google of help.)


But her letter of 11/11/85 reveals the source of the quote that was ultimately used: “I hope the Cardozo College, which I never knew existed, will be able soon to send me photos. The quote they proposed: ‘The first cause of law is the welfare of society’ can be considered – though I’m curious what your lawyer friend may come up with.” Gerta then suggests three other quotes – but the quote from Cardozo College was the one actually used.


As of 12/12/85, Gerta hadn’t received the photos from Cardozo College, and writes: “I will start working on the head from the best photo I was able to get, although I would have preferred one that does not show the head in almost the same position as the Ochs one. At least I have a good signature to give it a different aspect.” The search for a good photograph continued, as attested by this note (1/3/86): “Here is a very poor Xerox of the picture of Cardozo which I like so much. I might be able to use the picture you sent, but copy some of the expression shown on the enclosed photo. This one must be a much earlier picture, as his hair is not white and tousled, as is so often mentioned in descriptions of him. I am trying to get a photo of the Supreme Court Building in Washington for the reverse.”



 Cardozo Xerox of photograph (1-3-86)


On 2/24/86 Gerta reported: “Here are some VERY ROUGH sketches of how I want to do the Cardozo medal. The building will be a horrible lot of work, but I found a big book that has exactly the view I want, and that’s enough to show the details clearly. I like the Cardozo head to be very uncluttered – just his signature. Everything else will be on the reverse.”


Gerta sends pictures of the final plaster models along with this note (4/9/87): “… so here you finally get photos of my 1986 labors! I hope you like Mr. Cardozo – he was a hard nut to crack, and I do think I captured his hidden smile!”




Cardozo plaster models for obverse and reverse ( 4-9-87)


At last, Ms. Wiener was happy with the resulting medals (11/18/87): “I agree with you, this time the medals did come out very well after all the mishaps. They look fine to me – and I like the reverse better in the reduction than I did in the original! At least all the trouble I had to get the steps and the columns look straight paid off!”


Cardozo silver medal



Eye Trouble in 1987


When asked to design another medal, Gerta wrote (4/24/87): “I don’t think I can. I have cataracts in both eyes, and this kind of work is a great strain on my eyes, and stretches the time I need for completion of good work out unreasonably long.” But better news eventually came (12/22/87): “I saw 2 separate eye specialists and I now have different glasses, and I think I can go on working! Good news for me! To you too?”


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