The Vatican City State Mint has released (25th June) new silver Proof and colour rectangular coins in honour of the 450th anniversary of the birth of the great master Caravaggio. The coins mark an artistic and technical challenge of great importance, with results exceeding expectations. It is also the first time the Vatican City Mint has released a rectangular-shaped coin.
A unique talent known for his infamous temper as well as his ability to paint, Caravaggio’s short and tempestuous life was matched only by the drama of his works. Characterised by their dramatic, almost theatrical lighting and intense detail, Caravaggio’s paintings were sometimes controversial, popular, and hugely influential on succeeding generations of painters all over Europe. Born as Michelangelo Merisi on the 29th September 1571 in the town of Caravaggio, the name of his home town in Lombardy, Northern Italy, he took the name “Caravaggio” when he made his way to Rome at the age of 21. Specialising in still life of fruits and flowers, and later, painting half-length figures of models he met in various settings which he sold on the street, it would be another three years before he would receive his first break. In 1595, the eminent Cardinal Francesco del Monte recognised the young painter’s talent and took Caravaggio into his household. Through the cardinal’s circle of acquaintances, Caravaggio received his first public commissions, which were so compelling and so innovative that he became a de jure celebrity almost overnight.
Much to the horror of his contemporaries and admirers, Caravaggio was fond of painting ordinary working people with irregular, rough faces with unusual character which he would depict as saints and showed them in recognisably existing surroundings. As much as he was admired for his talent, so was he held in disdain for his fierce temper and ability to get himself into trouble. One serious incident saw Caravaggio accused for the murder of a young man ostensibly over the affections of a woman and fearful of facing justice, he fled to Malta where he remained until influential supporters could arrange a pardon from the pope. During this time, Caravaggio managed to involve himself in more altercations with one last fight in Naples which left him both horribly scarred and physically weakened. While on his way back to Rome after he learned that he had received his sought-after pardon, Caravaggio fell ill, perhaps with malaria, and died a few days later. He was just 39 years old.
The unique coins are produced by the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato (IPZS) in Rome and are designed by artist Orietta Rossi, who has recreated a small masterpiece by reproducing one of Caravaggio’s most expressive paintings entitled The Deposition of Christ, which was painted by the artist between 1602 and 1604. The painting was commissioned for the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella and is now on display in one of the rooms of the Pinacoteca of the Vatican Museums. The contrast between light and shadow becomes profound, dramatically interpreting the death of Christ, whose lifeless body nevertheless shines the light of the coming resurrection. To the left and above the primary design is the text CITTA DEL VATICANO and to the right edge is the name and years CARAVAGGIO 1571–2021. The coins’ denomination of 25 EURO is seen just below the design.
The obverse side includes the crest of H.E. Pope Francis depicting the papal mitre and crossed keys. The legend FRANCISCUS PP. is shown above the crest. The year of issue in Roman numerals, MMXXI, is placed along the left edge and the regnal year ANNO IX is placed on the right side with the text MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO, the Latin motto of His Eminence (“by having mercy, by choosing him”), shown under the crest. Pope Francis expressed his wish that papal coins shall no longer include his effigy or likeness and have not done so since the issue of Vatican coinage beginning in 2017.
|35 g||30 by 40 mm||Proof with applied colour||
The silver Proof and colour rectangular coins are encapsulated and presented in a custom case to accommodate their shape. A certificate of authenticity is also included. For additional information, please visit the website of the Commercializzazione Filatelica e Numismatica Governatorato.
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