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Painted between 1900 and 1907 to decorate the ceiling of the assembly hall of the University of Vienna, Gustav Klimt’s Faculty Paintings were the Viennese master’s last public commission. Klimt’s critics believed they broke cultural taboos and pushed the boundaries of obscenity, but their sensual beauty is plain to see on Medicine, the fourth coin in our award-winning Klimt and his Women series.
Gustav Klimt was no stranger to controversy, but the outrage caused by his Faculty Paintings was even debated in the Austrian Parliament and became a political issue. The paintings were never actually used for their intended purpose as Klimt returned his fee and refused to deliver his artworks, which were eventually burnt by the Nazis at the end of the Second World War. A detail from Klimt’s Jurisprudence, in the form of the Eumenides, the Greek deities of vengeance, graces the coin’s obverse. Stylised snakes accentuate Klimt’s customary swirling patterns of the gorgon’s hair in the rectangular centre, while to the right stands the goddess of law. The reverse shows a detail from Medicine as Hygieia, daughter of the Greek god of medicine, with the Aesculapian snake wound around her arm and the cup of Lethe in her hand. The letter M, the fourth letter in the word “Klimt”, appears at the foot of the coin.
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