The works of Caravaggio are reproduced on a silver coin series in the 450th anniversary of his birth

A hugely influential artist, the late 16th century painter, Caravaggio, had an intense visual style, no doubt tied in with his intense and violent personality. His paintings are bold, often brutal, rarely sexual. On the 450th anniversary of his birth, the Mint of Poland initiated a new series of one-ounce silver coins reproducing some of his most famous works.

Bacchus, the god of wine and festivity, is the subject of the first coin. Caravaggio’s painting, undertaken around 1596, depicts Bacchus with a bowl of fruit, and was commissioned by Cardinal Del Monte (ironically…). The coin simply reproduces the original, fortunately one that was almost square anyway, and then adds a gilded, classically styled frame around it. Yes, it’s a little unadventurous, but there’s no denying the appeal to the fine art aficionado, who would likely see change as a heresy.

The latest issue is one of the artist’s more violent works, depicting the moment Perseus decapitated Medusa. Unusually, he’s replaced Medusa’s face with his own, perhaps some self awareness regarding his own violent tendencies. Also commissioned by a Del Monte, in this case the Italian diplomat, Francesco Maria, is a stunning piece of art. We can only imagine the reaction to it all those centuries ago. Like Bacchus, it’s currently held by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Again, it’s a simple reproduction, although in this case slightly cropped, as the original was done as a circular shield. The ‘frame’ is identical to that on the Bacchus coin.

Both coins have a simple obverse, although fully gilded. The Niue staple of Queen Elizabeth II’s effigy and surrounding issue descriptions is present. The presentation consists of a latex-skin ‘floating frame’, with a themed insert. Mintages are capped at 500 pieces per design, and both are available to order now.

CARAVAGGIO

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, born on 29 September 1571, lived for only 39 years, yet left behind a body of work considered one of the finest in history. Trained in Milan, he did most of his painting in Rome, although he spent the last four years of his life in other places after a brawl led to the death of a man, Caravaggio being known as a violent and antagonistic individual. Indeed, he may actually have been murdered en route from Naples to Rome, leaving the former city after another violent altercation, which raised questions about his mental health.

His nature permeated his work, full of strong emotion and contrasting lighting, often depicting scenes of realistic brutality. His style was an inspiration for the Baroque movement, and he was credited as an inspiration for such masters as Rembrandt, Rubens, and Bernini. He painted directly onto canvas, eschewing the use of drawings, working at great speed, and with live models. Though some are disputed, his known works number around 88, although some were destroyed in Berlin in 1945, and one disappeared after its theft by the Mafia.

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $1 NZD (Niue)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams
DIMENSIONS 40.0 x 40.0 mm
FINISH Proof
MODIFICATIONS Colour, Gilding
MINTAGE 500 per design
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes
MINT OF POLAND