Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Simon, Abraham

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SIMON, ABRAHAM (1622?–1692?), medallist, born about 1622, was the son of Peter and Anne Simon, and elder brother of Thomas Simon [q. v.], the well-known medallist. He was educated with a view to the church, but, being a skilful modeller in wax, he devoted himself to art. During a visit to Sweden he made portraits in wax of several eminent persons, and was given a position at the court of Queen Christina, who employed him as her agent in procuring works of art, and presented him with a gold medal and chain. In his wax-model portrait of himself he appears wearing this decoration, and Horace Walpole said he was supposed to have been in love with the queen. He attended her on her visit to Louis XIII, and, on account of his odd appearance, was arrested as a suspicious person while trying to model the king from the gallery of the royal chapel. He subsequently worked for some time in Holland.

He came to England in 1642 or later, and for several years was much employed in making medals and wax models of leading parliamentarians and others. He also made a large number of wax models (some now in the British Museum) for the portrait medals executed by his brother, Thomas Simon. His own medals are cast and chased, and are signed A. S. They are graceful and simple in treatment, but, being usually in low relief and of small module, seem occasionally deficient in vigour.

After the Restoration, Simon modelled the portrait of Charles II at the price of one hundred ‘broads.’ The Duke of York afterwards had his portrait done by him, but only proposed to pay him fifty broads. Simon then took up the wax model, and in the duke's presence deliberately defaced it. By this conduct he lost favour at court, and other sitters complained of his impatience when they offered any criticism of his work. In the later years of his life he seems to have received no further commissions, and he died in obscurity, and perhaps in poverty, about 1692. He was married, and had two daughters named Anne and Judith.

Simon's portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller. Of Lely's portrait there is a mezzotint by Blooteling. There is, in the British Museum, a portrait in wax of Simon by himself, and from this original a chased medal was made by Stuart circ. 1750. Simon was a little man, ‘of a primitive philosophic aspect,’ and always wore his hair and beard long. His eccentric dress excited derision in the street, but he was an excellent artist, and a man of the same independent character as Benedetto Pistrucci [q. v.] Evelyn (Diary, 8 June 1653) calls him ‘fantastical Simons (sic), who had the talent for embossing so to the life.’

Among his medals are the following: 1. Earl of Loudon, 1645. 2. William Pope, 1645. 3. Lord Inchiquin, 1646. 4. Albert Joachim the ambassador, 1646. 5. Sir Sidenham Poyntz, 1646. 6. Earl of Dunfermline, 1646. 7. Earl of Lauderdale. 8. Martinay, 1647. 9. Henry Cromwell, 1654.

[Hawkins's Medallic Illustrations, ed. Franks and Grueber; Grueber's Guide to English Medals in Brit. Mus.; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 2, 3; Vertue's Medals, Coins, &c., by T. Simon.]

W. W.