Wiener Letters


The Rebecca Gratz Medal, issued in 1981


The first thing to decide is what picture to base the portrait on. Thus, Gerta Ries Wiener writes (6/20/78): “I … picked the very same painting of Rebecca Gratz as you did – the one with the hat. It will be a very different looking medal for a change – lighter in mood – than the others.”


Next was the quest for a suitable quote. Wiener writes on a post card (1/25/79): “I’m getting along nicely with Rebecca G. Although her letters have not yielded a single quotable remark – and not even a usable signature! She signed either R. Gratz or R.G.”


Gerta solved the problem by “using the signature shown of the facsimile of one of her letters in the book of her letters.” (Wiener letter of 2/26/79) And in the same letter, Gerta describes how a “quotation of Shakespeare … describes (Gratz’s) personality so incredibly. I decided that this simple inscription would be a welcome change after the crowd of people decorating the reverse of my last 3 medals.”   



Gratz sketches for obverse and reverse (2-26-79)


However, at some point a decision was made to use a quote from George Sand (pen name of Amandine-Auror Lucile Dudevant): “Were virtue and religion dead, she’d make them newly, being what she was.”


Ms. Wiener points out the problem faced by many medalists, of transferring a portrait from a painting to white plaster-of Paris (10/6/79): “While I worked on the face I never was quite satisfied with the likeness when I compared it with the photo of the painting. Then, for fun, I painted the eyes, hair and mouth of the clay original which was still intact, and, lo and behold, with the hair and eyes dark it suddenly was Rebecca of the painting! What a difference coloring makes!


Gratz bronze medal



Gerta always scolded me when I mentioned her age in an article, press release, etc., as in her letter of 4/13/80 (when she was 82 years old): “I must tell you that you made me B-L-U-S-H because of all the flattering things you said about me in your article, though I could not quite see why you had to give away my age, you villain! But I’ll forgive you, as nobody cares anyway.”



Gerta self portrait (4-13-80)


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