Late Renaissance composer Orlando di Lasso was famous for his numerous musical compositions, including many religious choral pieces. Also known by Roland De Lassus, di Lasso joined the court of Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria in 1556, at the age of about 24, creating a musical establishment to rival other major courts in Europe.
He was successful in composing music that made him quite famous in Bavaria and across Europe. In 1570, Emperor Maximilian II conferred nobility upon di Lasso – something incredibly rare for any composer. He went on to be knighted by Pope Gregory XIII (1571) and King Charles IX of France (1573), believed to be in efforts to get him to leave Munich for their courts. He remained until his death in 1594, writing over 2,000 works during his life.
In 1849, a statue by Maximilian Ritter von Widnmann was dedicated to the musical maestro and placed in Odeonsplatz, a public area in Munich. A commemorative 2 thaler or 3-1/2 gulden coin was also struck for the event. Weighing 37.12 grams in .900-fine silver, it features the bust of Maximilian II on the obverse and on the reverse appears the statue of di Lasso with the inscription: “STANDBILD DES ROLAND DE LATRE GEN. ORLANDO DI LASSO ERRICHTET IN MÜNCHEN V. KÖNIG LUDWIG I 1849.” The coin also exhibits two different edge description varieties. One bears an edge stating “VEREINSMUNZE” and the other denotes “DREY EIN HALB GULDEN.”
The history of the monument wouldn’t end with the placement of the statue and its commemorative coin in 1849. A little more than a dozen years later, in 1862, the statue was relocated to Promenadeplatz, a public square located west of Marienplatz and still in Munich. During World War II, the original statue was destroyed. The statue was re-cast in 1958 and repurposed in 2009 when American “King of Pop” artist Michael Jackson died. Across the world, monuments and shrines popped up to memorialize him. One such monument was the statue of di Lasso. However, unlike the case with other monuments, this continued long after others were removed and forgotten. Situated near the hotel Bayerischer Hof, where Jackson stayed some nights while in Munich, the memorial continues drawing tourists and fans of Jackson who still use the statue of the Renaissance composer as a makeshift tribute to the American pop artist.
The Bavaria 1849 commemorative 2 thaler / 3-1/2 gulden commemorating di Lasso is a scarce and desirable coin. A cleaned example can still fetch over $1,000 while a PCGS MS65 example sold for over $17,000 in a February 2022 WAG auction. While the original statue no longer exists and the monument is today more popular as a tribute to Michael Jackson, the coin is something original carrying a story that continues to unfold.