Lasting tribute to a Swiss icon
The fiftieth anniversary of Mani Matter’s death was on 24 November 2022, the Bernese singer-songwriter whose work has become embedded in the Swiss consciousness and remains popular today across the generations. As a tribute to this iconic artist, the Confederation has decided to issue a special coin commemorating him.
When the young Remo Mascherini saved up his pocket money as a boy to buy his first-ever record, Mani Matter’s LP Ir Ysebahn (The railway) he could never have dreamt that decades later he would get to design the singer’s special coin.
Mascherini is an artist and engraver at Swissmint, the Federal Administration department responsible for the creation, manufacture and issue of Swiss special coins. „I’ve admired Mani Matter’s work ever since I was a child,“ says the designer, whose passion and creativity have forged (in the best sense!) many exceptional special coins.
„That made it an even greater honour and pleasure for me when I was commissioned to create and model the Mani Matter coin,“
explains a visibly proud and emotional Mascherini.
As lifelike as possible
Essentially, Mascherini was given complete artistic freedom, although he knew that the design would ultimately have to be approved by the Federal Council (as with every special coin issued by the Swiss Confederation). Of course, one thing was clear from the outset: the portrait of Mani Matter would have to feature on the obverse (i.e. the front or „heads“ side), and it would need to represent the Bernese singer-songwriter as he was known and is still remembered today. The artistry lay in translating the portrait into the three-dimensional format of a coin in such a way that Matter looked as true to life as possible, while also ensuring the best possible feel to the coin, i.e. making it pleasant to the touch. With this in mind, Mascherini began by making numerous drawings and drafts. When he was satisfied with the design, he engraved it into a modelling block several times larger than the actual coin.
Surprise on the reverse
So that was the front sorted – but what should feature on the back of the coin? „For me, the logical choice on a coin commemorating a singer-songwriter was to have the lyrics of a song, or rather, given the limited space, a verse from a song,“ says Mascherini. Given Matter’s extensive output there was no shortage of contenders, but in the end he went for one of his most famous works, „Dr Alpeflug“ (The Alpine flight). By contrast, the image he chose to accompany it is not well known at all. The artist came across it during the many hours he spent sifting through the archives. Among the countless documents he examined, one fascinating sketch caught his eye straight away. It was a drawing by Matter himself, and apparently nobody knew of its existence until then – not even his family. „When Mani Matter’s daughter came to Swissmint to have a look at the coin, she was taken aback by the reverse because even she had never seen that drawing before,“ says Mascherini, recalling the unforgettable moment when he got to present „his“ coin, in person, to the Matter family representative.