Numiartis are kicking off 2022 with the first coin in a series that could best be described as an Asian Queen’s Beasts in concept. Sitting outside the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, sat twelve bronze heads, each representing a figure from the Chinese Zodiac. Said to have been designed by Italian Jesuit painter, Giuseppe Castiglione in the mid-18th century, they were looted in 1860 during the Second Opium War, and dispersed around the world. Many have now returned to China, although five are still unaccounted for.
While the originals were of just the heads of the various zodiac animals, coin artist Beata Kulesza Damaziak has taken those heads and depicted them attached to an anthropomorphic body. Done in an Asian style, formal and holding objects, it’s topped by what is actually a close depiction of the original bronze ox-head, now on display in Beijing’s Poly Art Museum. Focal point duties are well handled by a polished bronze half-sphere held in the Ox’s left hand. The background field is replete with floral orchid-like flourishes.
The obverse is one we believe will be common to the series, and features an image taken from a contemporary drawing of the water clock fountain and the facade of the building it stood in front of, which we’ve used above in our featured image. As a Niue issue, it has the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II sitting in the artwork.
This is a three-ounce, high-relief, 0.999 silver coin, finished in a mix of black proof and antiquing. It will come boxed with a Certificate of Authenticity, of course, and has a mintage capped at 500 pieces. We’re told that 350 of these are pre-accounted for, probably in China where the subject artifacts are very well known, so just 150 of them will be available for the European market. The second coin is currently being designed, and we’ll cover that when it appears. Available to order shortly, from both Intercoins-Berlin, and from a limited number of stockists worldwide.