Mint 21 stuns with a brilliant silver coin commemoration of Dante’s iconic work, ‘Inferno’

Details of this new coin was sent to us by Mint XXI yesterday and it was one of those times when you’re genuinely blown away by what we were looking at. The Italian poet, Dante Alighieri has long been a popular figure because of his incredible ‘Divine Comedy’. Even a Cockney barbarian like me is familiar with the work and well aware of the intense imagery it evokes. The subject is ripe for numismatic interpretation, but not one to be undertaken lightly with so revered a subject.

The designer of this one has nailed it – perfectly. A glorious piece of coin art, there are things to look at everywhere in the detail, yet as a whole, remains a potent visualisation of Dante’s vision of Hell. The various sins are represented, all under the watchful eye of Satan himself. Struck to a high-relief and unencumbered by inscrptions apart from the title, this is just spectacular.

Neither does the attention to detail stop on the reverse face. The obverse bears a stunning profile portrait of the man, seemingly based on the 1495 painting by the master Sandro Botticelli (sadly, now in a private collection). Even the inscribed subject title ‘700 The Divine Comedy’, for it has been 700 years since its publication, is done in a beautiful, almost Art-Deco style script. Just flawless.

As you may have guessed by now, this one has hit my spot. It’s a 5 oz 0.999 silver coin, so will sadly be out of reach for most of us (around €600), but if you want to treat yourself, this is where I would go, and just 333 of you will be able to. An absolute gem of a coin and one of those issues that make all the hard work of AgAuNEWS seem worthwhile. Available to order now from Top World Coins and a few select other dealers, it comes presented in a very nice box, complete with a COA and a summary of the poem in three languages . We’d love to see The Divine Comedy revisited by Mint XXI if this quality can be maintained.

DANTE ALIGHIERI

An Italian poet born around 1265 and dieing in 1321, Dante is widely lauded for his three part ‘Divine Comedy’ which is not only considered the greatest literary work in the Italian language, but also one of the most important of the Middle Ages. He eschewed the traditional use of Latin so that more people would have access to his writing, helping to set the local Tuscan dialect on its path to becoming the modern Italian language.

His influence is quite incredible to this day. The depictions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, set out in Divine Comedy, remain one of the greatest influences on a vast body of art across multiple mediums. Great writers like Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton and Alfred Tennyson were said to be inspired by it. Countless works of art also bear its influence. Those that are familiar with, and like Scottsdale Mint’s Biblical Series of Gustave Dore based coins, will be pleased to know thaat Dore also did extensive work depicting The Divine Comedy.

He was buried in Ravenna in an ancient Roman sarcophagus. A Neo-classical tomb was built over the grave that remains there to this day.

DANTE’S INFERNO

Inferno ( Italian for “Hell”) is the first part of Italian writer Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy, followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. The Inferno tells the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth; it is the “realm … of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen”. As an allegory, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul toward God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin.

CIRCLE 1 LIMBO: A kind of lightweight heaven, here resides all those that did not know Christ. Such luminaries as Dante encounters ​ Aristotle, Orpheus, Ovid, Homer, Socrates, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, and other great ancients on this level.

CIRCLE 2 LUST: Where those that have allowed their carnal desires to overcome their reason. Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Paris, Achilles, and Tristan reside here.

CIRCLE 3 GLUTTONY: Filled with overindulgers who are condemned to wallow in “a great storm of putrefaction”. Dante linked this level with a lot of his contemporary politics, and is primarily filled with more ordinary people.

CIRCLE 4 GREED: The first circle that Dante passed through in which he did not talk to any of its inhabitants, but he did encounter the guardian of the level, Pluto, the mythical god of the Underworld. Filled again, with ordinary people, the circle is reserved for people who hoarded or squandered their money.

CIRCLE 5 WRATH: Set in the foul waters of the River Styx, the actively wrathful fight each other viciously on the surface of the

slime, while the passively wrathful lie beneath the water, withdrawn. Dante first starts to examine his own life on this level and is threatened by the Furies and Medusa.

CIRCLE 6 HERESY: As a Christian focused text, it’s obvious that those who reject the dominant religious doctrine of the time would end up in a circle of their own. Epicurus, Pope Anastasius II, and Emperor Frederick II are all encountered.

CIRCLE 7 VIOLENCE: Divided into Outer, Middle and Inner rings, each of which holds those who perpetrate different kinds of violence. The former holds those who were violent to people or property, like Attila the Hun as is guarded by Centaurs. The middle ring holds those who committed suicide, while the last ring holds thsose who commit violence against God and nature – the blasphemers.

CIRCLE 8 FRAUD: A complex circle, it holds another circle called the Malebolge (Evil Pockets) which is itself divided into 10 bolgias (ditches). Each holds those that have committed a specific type of fraud, like simoniacs (sellers of religious favours), barrators (corrupt politicians – probably the biggest circle…), and counterfeiters. Different guardians watch over each bolgia and punishments are specific to each and match the crime.

CIRCLE 9 TREACHERY: The place where Satan resides and divided into four (beginning to sense a pattern here…). The first is named after Cain (Caina) and is for those that have shown treachery to family. The second is called Antenora and references Antenora of Troy, the betrayer of Greeks and is for those that have betrayed their nations or groups. The third is named after Ptolemy, who invited Simon Maccabaeus and his sons to dinner, where he promptly murdered them. Ptolomaea is reserved for hosts that betray their guests. Lastly, Judecca is inevitaably about Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus.

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION 5,000 Francs CFA (Cameroon)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 155.5 grams
DIMENSIONS 65.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, hand polished
MINTAGE 333
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes
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