The New Chaos
(DAS NEUE CHAOS)
1917, Cast iron uniface, 141.6mm, 141.0g, UNC, Ernsting WVZ 163a
Wide and flat edge-line frame with slightly raised field. The images are plastically raised and overflow the edges of relief on the sides. Script is incised
This medal exhibits a comprehensive description of a disrupted world view unique among other medals of the war period. In common with other artists of the Munich School, Gies adopted the medieval images of the Dance of Death , and in another medal of 1917 he depicts a weary group of German soldiers being led into battle by a skeleton. Here ‘The New Chaos’ surpasses these pieces in many respects.
The scene is a landscape formed out of the folds of the robe of a giant figure. Fate, as a Norn, spins the thin and fragile thread of life, whose essence is derived from the masses at the bottom right. Death, having propped his scythe against the distaff, stretches out his arms over the crowd of victims-to-be. The giant figure bows her head, radiating light, to look upon the factory buildings and machinery in her lap, symbols of the armaments industry whose lethal products guns and tanks are being poured onto the battlefields in the foreground. The groups of crosses to the left and to the right sides evoke the graves of the countless victims, the mass graves of extinguished hopes of happiness and fulfillment. At the bottom we are shown the consequences of war: A ruined church, with an all but overthrown crucifix; a huge pile of corpses; and an angry mob toppling the throne and the old Order with it.
A world-view is disrupted; illusions and plans for the future are destroyed. An entire generation has had its awareness of life profoundly changed by the horrors of the Great War. Fate, personified in the overpowering figure of the Norn, is enigmatic and implacable. Gies with his sensitive nature was conscious of this crisis, so it is not mere chance that his talent for story telling was able to unfold so richly here in particular. In addition, the staging of a war and its effects within the confines of a medal, moreover whose planes are defined by the folds in the garment of a single figure, is at the apex of Gies’ art.
"Ludwig Gies: The Munich Years", Bernard Ernsting
This iron example was only rumored to exist as it was first mentioned in a J. Schulman catalog in 1918. This is the first time the piece has been seen in public display since its discovery several years ago. It is unique in iron among known examples.
Known Examples: 4 (3 bronze, 1 iron)
Number in Museum Collections: 3 (3 bronze) located at H, M, and V2.
Number in Private Collections: 1 (iron)
|B1 Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums).
B2 Brüssel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Albert I Penningkabinett (Royal Library).
D Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (State Art Collection).
H Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg Arts Center).
L1 Leverkusen, Städtisches Museum Schloß Morsbroich (Museum Morsbroich).
L2 London, British Museum, Department of Coins and Medals.
L3 London, Imperial War Museum.
Sheldon Rarity Scale
R-6 Very Rare (13-30)
R-7 Extremely rare (4-12)
R-8 Unique or Nearly So (1- 3)
|M Munich, Staatliche Münzsammlung (National Coin Collection).
N New York, American Numismatic Society.
P Paris, Musée d’Historie Contemporaine (Museum of Contemporary History).
R Ramat Aviv, Kadman Numismatic Museum.
S Stuttgart, Württembergisches Landesmuseum (Württemberg Regional Museum).
V Vienna, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Museum of Military History.
V2 Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum (Art History Museum).