The Dassiers (Jean Dassier,1676-1763 and his two sons, Jacques-Antoine, 1715-1759 and Antoine, 1718-1780) were the only medalists of their time to have had the honour of being mentioned in the Encyclopedie by Diderot and DAlembert, in which one can read that they have rendered their names famous through their same talent: their fine medals after nature and several other works emerging from their burin prove that they are worthy of being counted amongst the most celebrated engravers. The book examines the works that established the reputation of the Dassiers, starting with an elegant silver watch case by Jean Dassier for the Fabrique de Geneve (Paris, Louvre), three series of small medals or tokens: "The Metamorphoses" by Ovid (1717; 60 pieces) and "Illustrious men of the century of Louis XIV" (1723-1724; 73 pieces) and, finally, "The Church reformers" (1725; 24 pieces). This last series was dedicated to William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury, who offered the Dassiers his support in obtaining royal authorization to strike two major series, "The Kings of England" (1731-1732) and "Famous Britons" (1731-1738).
Borrowing from the fame of his father throughout Europe, Jacques-Antoine, a former pupil of the Ecole de Rome, threw himself into the creation of a new series dedicated to worthies in England, including savants, writers and politicians. At the peak of his career, he had the privilege of producing a portrait of Montesquieu, a work that is a milestone in the history of art (1753). This European reputation ensured that he was invited as engraver to the court of Russia, where he produced his last masterpiece, The founding of the University of Moscow (1754), decorated with an extremely bold portrait of the Empress Elizabeth. The death of Jacques-Antoine in 1759 and of his father four years later marked the end of a glorious artistic and commercial enterprise after 60 years of activity.
A PhD in the history of art from Pennsylvania State University (1983), William Eisler has obtained prestigious scholarships and research grants.