Sterling Silver (US-4134), UNC
45 mm (1-3/4”), 43 grams
HISTORY: Born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475‒1564) in Florence, Italy, Michelangelo’s genius influenced the lives of people throughout the centuries. The Franklin Mint set out to commemorate the life of this unsurpassed artist. They commissioned Italian sculptor Piero Monassi to create a series of 60 medals in honor of Michelangelo’s 500th birthday, based on Michelangelo’s many works. The medals were issued between 1970 and 1976.
OBVERSE: Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere 1443‒1513) in 1505 to create his tomb. Julius II served the Papal States from 1503 until his death. As an element of the tomb’s design, Michelangelo began sculpting what has become known as “Dying Slave” in 1513, the year of the pope’s death. The 7’-4” tall marble statue was never fully completed and never became a part of the Pope Julius II tomb. It now resides in the Louvre Museum in Paris along with its counterpart, “Rebellious Slave.” The title of “slave” was not applied until the 19th century. No one knows Michelangelo’s original intent, but there is an abundance of interesting writings on the subject. Monassi chose a dramatic frontal view of the sculpture from the waist up.
REVERSE: This reverse design was used on all the medals in the “Genius” series. The calligraphic message in the outer ring describes the obverse scenes—in this case, “The Dying Slave – Noted for its formal beauty and a dreamy, spiritual quality of expression.” Radiating from the center is a 12-point lattice representing the universe, and within the center is a 12-point star called “Caput Mundi” (Latin for “Head of the World”). This design was created by Michelangelo in 1546 for the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome (see Detail 1). Michelangelo was commissioned as the architect for design of the Piazza, construction of which would take another three centuries to complete.
The geometric design of the plaza surface, however, was never realized until 1940, when Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini (1883‒1945) ordered the pavement to be completed as Michelangelo envisioned.
In the center of the 12-point star, to this day, is a replica of the equestrian-mounted Marcus Aurelius (121‒180 AD). Monassi, instead, uses this medal to feature a portrait of Michelangelo at the radiant center.
EDGE: Smooth, the top edge engraved “STERLING” followed by “©” and three square, incused mint marks (FM logo; “73” (year minted) and “P” (proof finish); and the issue number “10984”) while the bottom edge is engraved “THE GENIUS OF MICHELANGELO ‒ 40.” The plastic encapsulated images can be seen in Details 2 and 3.