Nobel winners get cash, a gold medal and a piece of original art

The World
Triptych of Nobel art

Original Nobel award art for 2014 peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, 2015 peace laureate The National Dialogue Quartet and 2015 economics laureate Angus Deaton. Original artwork by Ruth Elisiv Ekeland, Willibald Storn and Hasse Karlsson. 

Photos by Thomas Widerberg and Lovisa Engblom. Courtesy of The Nobel Foundation. 

The Nobel prizes are being announced this week and next. At awards ceremonies in December, winners will receive their share of each nearly million-dollar prize and a gold medal.

According to a tradition dating back to 1901, most will also get something more obscure: a piece of original art meant to capture the essence of their work.

Obama Nobel

Nobel diploma for 2009 Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama. Original artwork by Per Fronth. 


Photo by Thomas Widerberg. Courtesy of and copyright (C) The Nobel Foundation. 

The Nobel artists find out alongside the public who the winners are each year, so they have just a few weeks to create their works of art.

This year, that means the Swedish watercolorist selected to create the physics award art will have just a few weeks to wrap her head around the achievements of three British scientists being honored "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter."

Artists often find themselves deriving inspiration from complex topics as they create this bespoke art.

In 2013, abstract collagist Susanne Jardeback made the artwork for the pair of physicists who discovered the Higgs Boson. She alluded to the particle’s nickname of “The God Particle” with a collage in celestial deep blues and aquamarines and a hint of gold.

Higgs diploma

Nboel diploma for 2013 physics laureate Peter Higgs. Susane Jardeback created the collage to represent this Higgs boson and a 'holy' background fit for something called "the God particle". 


Photo by Lovisa Engblom. Courtesy of and copyright (c) The Nobel Foundation. 

The next year, Swedish painter Hasse Karlsson created three two-tone watercolors of figures in dark overcoats, bathed in light spilling from storefront windows and streetlights, for the Japanese scientists credited with inventing blue LEDs.

Nobel diploma

Nobel diploma for 2014 physics laureate Isamu Akasaki. Hasse Karlsson sought to portray LED light "awakening humanity" in his watercolor.  


Photo by Lovisa Engblom/Courtesy of and copyright © The Nobel Foundation.)

Winners of five of the six prizes, including physics, chemistry, literature, economics and peace get an original work of art as part of their prize. 

The winner in physiology or medicine does not.

Each year, the artists have as little as a week to send a sample of their work to a calligrapher so the color palate of the text on the Nobel certificate can be coordinated with the art. The final product is then sent to a book binder, who combines both elements into a custom-made leather folio.

This attention to detail is part of the Nobel Foundation’s mission to elevate scientists, economists and writers to celebrity status once a year with their red-carpet galas.