Launched in 2015, Art Mint’s Mandala Art series has continued with a single annual release ever since, growing in sophistication and ambition as time has passed. The series has taken the concept of the mandala, a geometric pattern of squares and/or triangles in a concentric pattern, and applied it to a selection of world cultures, expanding it out from the Sanskrit origins it’s most closely associated with. In truth, the mandala style is an ancient one with use throughout history and with a geographically diverse distribution, from MesoAmerica to the Euphrates Valley.
The first coin stayed focused on the traditional origins of the mandala and set the design ethos for the series to move forward with. These are three-ounce fine silver coins with an antique finish and an inset mineral at their centre. Each annual issue has a distinct cultural flavour or style, with a different insert each time. We’d consider the series to have two distinct stages. The first three coins have plenty of detail and look great, but it’s with the fourth coin, Moresque, that the series really came alive.
That issue brought with it an enhanced level of relief, with plenty of sharply defined detail – something hugely important on what is essentially a geometric design. The following Gothic and Persian issues are simply stunning in both design and realisation. Each is covered in exquisite detailing that is on a whole other level to the debut coin. Gothic is a personal favourite. By contrast, the series has a common obverse comprising of a simple Fijian emblem surrounded by the inscribed issue details.
Last year saw Art Mint issue a special edition to mark the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, sadly almost destroyed in a huge fire that barely saved the ages old architectural icon. This was limited to just 100 pieces, instead of the usual mintage of 500, and was a reworking of the Gothic release but with the stained glass reproduction, incorporated to ape the look of Notre Dame’s famous Rose Window. A simply sublime coin and one of the very best of 2019. The series is still going strong, with Persian Mandala having just emerged, selling out in short order. One of the best series in modern numismatics today.
The Kalachakra Mandala is a circle which is a device for the Buddhist Tantric meditation. It is a visual aid for concentration and introversive meditation leading to the attainment of insights and to activation of forces culminating in “Siddhi” supernatural forces. The Mandala is the graphic representation of this process.
The illustration represents “palace of purity” a magic sphere cleared of spiritual obstacles and unpurified. The square of the “Sacred palace” proper is end used in multiple circles of flame, Vajra, eight centuries (appears only in wrathful deities) lotus, then the inner square to reach to the deity of the Mandala “Shakyamuni Buddha” represented for the crystal.
Celtic art is generally used by art historians to refer to art of the La Tène period across Europe, while the Early Medieval art of Britain and Ireland, that is what “Celtic art” evokes for much of the general public, is called Insular art in art history. Both styles absorbed considerable influences from non-Celtic sources, but retained a preference for geometrical decoration over figurative subjects, which are often extremely stylised when they do appear; narrative scenes only appear under outside influence. Energetic circular forms, triskeles and spirals are characteristic.
The interlace patterns that are often regarded as typical of “Celtic art” were in fact introduced to Insular art from the animal Style II of Germanic Migration Period art, though taken up with great skill and enthusiasm by Celtic artists in metalwork and illuminated manuscripts. Equally, the forms used for the finest Insular art were all adopted from the Roman world: Gospel books like the Book of Kells and Book of Lindisfarne, chalices like the Ardagh Chalice and Derrynaflan Chalice, andpenannular brooches like the Tara Brooch. These works are from the period of peak achievement of Insular art, which lasted from the 7th to the 9th centuries, before the Viking attacks sharply set back cultural life.
Chinese culture doesn’t employ geometric patterns in the same way that oth3r cultures do, so the use of the mandala is limited in comparison. The coin hints at that with what is comparatively speaking, the least geometric design in the series to date. The repeating patterns are there, but not the sense that the stone at the centre is representative of the sun, for example, and that the rest of the design is radiating out from it. A beautiful coin, but the least mandala-like of the first six issues.
The style this year is Moresque, a mix of Islamic and Christian Renaissance Europe architectural art forms. First appearing in 15th century Italy (particularly in Venice), the stylised flow of leaves and tendrils is attractive and very well implemented in the coin strike. The style continued into the 16th century Mannerist movements. The blue Swarovski crystal in the centre doesn’t look out of place for a change – they usually can be quite jarring and out of place, but not here.
Islamic art makes extensive use of geometric patterns, primarily because the depiction of humans in religious buildings was not allowed. They came to prominence in the Islamic Golden Age, when much progress was achieved in science (especially maths) and the humanities.
Forms which are evocative of mandalas are prevalent in Christianity: the Celtic cross; the rosary; the halo; the aureole; oculi; the Crown of Thorns; rose windows; the Rosy Cross; and the dromenon on the floor of Chartres Cathedral. The dromenon represents a journey from the outer world to the inner sacred centre where the Divine is found.
The Cosmati pavements, including that at Westminster Abbey, are geometric mandala-like mosaic designs from thirteenth century Italy. The Great Pavement at Westminster Abbey is believed to embody divine and cosmic geometries as the seat of enthronement of the monarchs of England. Similarly, many of the Illuminations of Hildegard von Bingen can be used as mandalas, as well as many of the images of esoteric Christianity, as in Christian Hermeticism, Christian Alchemy, and Rosicrucianism.
The choice of Art Mint here is clearly based on the large Gothic windows that adorn the most impressive cathedrals in Europe. Indeed, the same base design seen here was used for the Special Edition for Notre Dame detailed below.
Notre-Dame de Paris is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it’s among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass serve to contrast it with earlier Romanesque architecture. The cathedral treasury contains a reliquary, which houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics, including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.
The stained glass windows of Notre-Dame, particularly the three rose windows, are among the most famous features of the cathedral. The west rose window, over the portals, was the first and smallest of the roses in Notre-Dame. It is 9.6 metres in diameter, and was made in about 1225, with the pieces of glass set in a thick circular stone frame. None of the original glass remains in this window; it was recreated in the 19th century.
The two transept windows are larger and contain a greater proportion of glass than the rose on the west façade, because the new system of buttresses made the nave walls thinner and stronger. The north rose was created in about 1250, and the south rose in about 1260. The south rose in the transept is particularly notable for its size and artistry. It is 12.9 metres in diameter; with the claire-voie surrounding it, a total of 19 metres. It was given to the Cathedral by King Louis IX of France, known as Saint Louis.
Despite popularly being associated with the Indian Subcontinent, the mandala has plenty of history elsewhere, including Ancient Persia. Even dating back to 6th century BCE, Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, can be seen to have employed the motif in wall decoration, and there are many examples in Persian art also. Because kings of this empire often employed artisans from India, it is thought the motif was brought to Persepolis that way.
The Persian motif was called ‘Shamseh’ and was usually depicted as many rays projecting out from a centre. The centre represents god, with the rays meant to symbolise all of the creatures of the universe. The tighter pattern closer to the middle are those creatures closer to god. The Shamseh was widely used in the later Safavid period in Iranian/Persian history. The ceiling of the Sheik Lotfollah mosque in Isfahan is a perfect example.
|DENOMINATION||$10 FJD (Fiji)|
|MODIFICATIONS||HR, inset mineral|
|BOX / C.O.A.||Yes / Yes|
The meaning of mandala comes from Sanskrit meaning “circle.” It appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in many other civilizations, religions and philosophies. Even though it may be dominated by squares or triangles, a mandala has a concentric structure. Mandalas offer balancing visual elements, symbolizing unity and harmony. The meanings of individual mandalas is usually different and unique to each mandala.
The mandala pattern is used in many traditions. In the Americas, Indians have created medicine wheels and sand mandalas. The circular Aztec calendar was both a timekeeping device and a religious expression of ancient Aztecs. In Asia, the Taoist “yin-yang” symbol represents opposition as well as interdependence. Tibetan mandalas are often highly intricate illustrations of religious significance that are used for meditation. From Buddhist stupas to Muslim mosques and Christian cathedrals, the principle of a structure built around a center is a common theme in architecture.
In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe. Representing the universe itself, a mandala is both the microcosm and the macrocosm, and we are all part of its intricate design. The mandala is more than an image seen with our eyes; it is an actual moment in time. It can be can be used as a vehicle to explore art, science, religion and life itself.
Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.” It is “a synthesis of distinctive elements in a unified scheme representing the basic nature of existence.”