The Istituto Poligrafico Zecca della Stato (IPZS) has issued the latest coin in their ongoing and exquisite numismatic series, “Italy and the Arts.” This year, the coin pays homage to the fascinating and ancient Riace Bronze statues.
Discovered in August of 1972, just 26 feet underwater and some 220 yards off the coast of Riace Marina, the Riace Bronzes are two of the most representative icons of ancient Greek art. According to recent historical-archaeological research, the superb statues date back to the 5th century B.C. and are now preserved at the National Archeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.
On August 12, 1972, an amateur scuba-diver caught a glimpse of what appeared to be an arm of sorts protruding from the sandy bottom of the Ionian Sea. The Antiquities Department of Calabria was alerted to this find and just four days later, despite stormy seas, two enormous bronze statues were raised and carried to land.
The first statue retrieved was of a young man with a thick, curly beard. The second statue appeared to have lost his shield, lance, and Attic helmet. He has a full, flowing beard, and a more mature appearance. Restorers later revealed that his right arm was in fact not part of the original cast, but soldered on at a later date. In the days that followed, 2000 years of marine debris and deposits were carefully cleaned away, and nearly 133 pounds of foundry earth, dust, clay, and sea sand were removed from inside the statues to reveal extraordinary workmanship and detail. While the statues had been cast in bronze, the eyes were an exquisite mixture of ivory and glass, the teeth were silver, and the lips were copper.
Although recovered together, the two statues may only have been united on their fateful voyage. Although they both represent the ideal warrior hero, they are somewhat dissimilar in style. Scholars theorize that the young man is the work of Phidias (c. 460 BC), while the older man was made by Polyclitus (c. 430 BC). There is also speculation that they may have come from a temple built by the Athenians to commemorate their victory over the Persians at Marathon. Another possibility is that they were the work of Pythagorus, considered the greatest artist of Magna Graecia and the first sculptor to represent such anatomical details. Today, the statues can be seen in a specially designed exhibition at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria.
The coin is designed by IPZS artist Maria Angela Cassol and prominently features the faces of both statues in precise detail. The obverse side bears a depiction of “statue A,” which includes a bearded head in three-quarter view, facing left, with a band holding his flowing hair. Below the head is the name of the designer “CASSOL”. The border of a Greek-key decoration partially frames the bust of the statue’s head, along with inscription “REPUBBLICA ITALIANA,” which is separated by a star.
On the reverse is a depiction of “statue B”: a bearded head facing right and showing traces of the now-lost helmet. On the left of the bust is the letter “R” identifying the Mint of Rome, along with the value “10 EURO,” and the year of the coin’s issue, “2015”. The arch-shaped inscription “ITALIA DELLE ARTI” is at the base of the head, and the text “RIACE” is placed underneath it. The frame of a classical Greek-key design fully frames the design.
|10 EURO||.925 silver||22 grams||34 mm.||Proof||4000 pieces|
First begun in 2010, “Italy and the Arts” is an annual coin series that has grown in popularity with each issue and highlights various historical objects housed in the many museums in Italy. For more information on this and other coins on offer from the IPZS, please visit their Web site. Information is offered in Italian, with international orders dispatched where applicable.