The Royal Society of Arts silver ‘President’s Medal’ was given in 1880 for a discourse delivered to the society on improving the manufacture of artists’ materials and pigments.
That discourse has been the subject of various academic papers by Pre-Raphaelite scholars and gives an insight into his working practice.
At the time he considered himself the only one of the Pre-Raphaelite artists to not have abandoned their original principles.
The medal is one of a group produced for the RSA by the die-engraver Leonard Charles Wyon (1826-91) which were created in both bronze and silver.
Sandy Rich of Tregeagle Fine Art had bought the medal online. He said: “I recognised it at once as a ‘President’s Medal’ (my grandfather was the recipient of a similar example).
“It was correctly described but, as with many medals, what sets each medal apart is who they were awarded to and for what reason.
“The vendor had not mentioned the edge engraving.
When I asked, out of curiosity, what was written on it, I was quite stunned.”
The 2in (5.6cm) medal is engraved with: W Holman-Hunt, for his paper on “the present system of obtaining materials in use by artist painters, as compared with that of the old Masters”. 1880 and is still in its original purple leather box, lined with blue velvet.
Tregeagle, founded in 2017, sold the medal to the museum with a “significant institutional discount” for under £1000.
Dr Colin Harrison, acting keeper of Western art and senior curator of European art at the Ashmolean, said it hopes the medal will form part of the forthcoming Colour Revolution: Victorian Art, Fashion & Design exhibition in September, in a section on Hunt’s contribution to the colour debate.