Figure 1: Joseph II Large Gold Honor Medal, 1766-1780, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.


In 1766 when Maria Theresia was ruling the Austrian Empire as coregent with her son Joseph II, as Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary some medals were issued with Joseph’s image on the obverse. In this case the medal known as the Joseph II Honor Medal (Joseph II Gnadenkmedaille) also referred to as the Virtute Et Exemplo Medaille) was issued with his image to recognize those who had rendered especially meritorious service to the empire.

Medal Numismatics:

Date Issued:  1766—1780

Reason Issued:  Awarded to commanders of the imperial army and to those persons who had performed with special merit.

Classes or Types:  Three

  • Large Gold Medal
  • Large Silver Medal
  • Silver Medal

Interesting Facts:

  • When it was decided ( August 18, 1766) that Joseph II would be Co-Regent with his mother Maria Theresia it was necessary to change the inscription on the obverse of the honor medals to reflect the new status of Joseph II.
  • The word Gnaden (grace) as used in the name of this medal had a different meaning when it was issued than it does today. Thus “grace” should be interpreted as “honor” therefore the title in today’s terminology would be the Emperor Joseph II Honor Medal
  • From 1764 when this type decoration was established until 1790 when it was discontinued there were 14 variations of the award issued.
  • The periods in which variations of this decoration were issued were from 1765-1766 (previous to this medal which was described in an earlier blog) when Joseph II was the Roman King, 1766-1780 (This medal) when Joseph II served as Emperor and Co-Regent and 1780-1790 (A later version of he medal which I will describe in a later blog) when he was Emperor and ruled Austria.
  • This medal was issued as a wearable medal with a suspension ring and as a table medal.
  • Bronze examples of these medals are copies that were made for the collector trade

Hallmarks:  None Known

Design:  A round medal with a flat attached round suspension eye at the top.

Figure 1: Joseph II Large Gold Honor Medal, 1766-1780, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse:  A youthful bust of Joseph II, facing to the viewers right. He is portrayed with long flowing hair in which is a laurel wreath near the temples. He is dressed in a suit of armor and wears the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The image is somewhat larger than in the 1764-1766 version of the medal. At the bottom of the bust is what appears to be a portion of an open cloak.  Paralleling the rim around the upper two-thirds of the medal is the inscription: JOSEPHVS II . D.G . IMP. G. ET. H. REX. COR. ET. HERES. R. H. B. A. A. D. B. ET. L. M. D. H. & C.  near the lower edge of the medal is the signature of the medalist: A. Wideman (Anton Wideman)

Figure 2: Joseph II Large Gold Honor Medal, 1766-1780, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse: The eye of God (a triangle with eye surrounded by a wreath of rays) overlooking a globe surrounded by clouds. Superimposed on the globe are a sword and a tiller which are crossed. Both are interwoven with boughs of oak and laurel. Along the top margin of the medal, above the eye of God is the inscription: VIRTVTE ET EXEMPLO (by virtue and example). The eye of god is larger on this medal then on the preceding medal, the clouds are denser and the motto is bolder.


  • Gold Medal = 84 grams or 24 Ducats (known to exist in 15 and 20 Ducat versions)
  • Large Silver Medal = 54 grams
  • Silver Medal = 35 grams


  • Gold Medal = 50 mm
  • Large Silver Medal = 50 mm
  • Silver Medal = 46 mm

Figure 3: Joseph II Large Silver Honor Medal, 1766-1780, obverse of the table medal version. Image from the author’s archive.

Type of Material:  Gold and Silver

Variations:  E. Holzmair reports that there were 14 versions of this medal issued from 1764 to 1790. Among the variations noted are:

  • Medal with attached eye
  • Medal without eye
  • Medal with steel crimp-on eye
  • Table medal

Designer: Anton Wideman

Manufacturer: Vienna Hauptmunzampt (Vienna Mint)

Number Issued:  Unknown

Case:  Unknown


  •  Gold medals were awarded on a gold chain
  • a 39 – 40 mm wide strait scarlet ribbon

Figure 4: Scarlet Red Ribbon of the Joseph II Honor Medal. Image from the author’s archive.

Attachments:  None

Miniature:  None known


I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Next time I will discuss the Franz Joseph 1915-1917 Bravery Medal


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