Author Topic: Coins in art  (Read 14008 times)

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Offline Figleaf

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Coins in art
« on: July 16, 2011, 04:11:08 PM »
I am indebted to Christian. One of his threads gave me the idea for this one.

There is not just art on coins, coins also figure in art. Artists may use them to strengthen their message or to add to detail. They also provide great background on how coins were used.

"The money changer and his wife" (1514) by Quentin Matsys is an excellent example. There is quite a bit of analysis of this famous painting on the net. I am just noting the smal, collapsable hand balance and the interlocking weights set (sluitgewicht). I am wondering about the black rectangular object in front of the man. Could it be a touchstone for determining the fineness of the coins?
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2011, 04:44:47 PM »
Here is a print made in 1553 from the national print room in Amsterdam. The theme contrasts the material (money) with the spiritual (death). The title above says "You fool, this night your soul will be claimed, who will then own what you have assembled?"

To the rich man's right (left on the print) is a desk with drawers that can be locked. One open drawer shows long cross small change. On his left is a cabinet with double doors. The open door reveals sacks of money. On top of the cabinet are sealed documents, presumably having value (letters of exchange or ownership?) as well as a small hand balance. There are probably more valuables in the case on which the rich man is sitting: it can be locked. The valuables are kept at home and the rich man would need staff to protect him and his money and pay them well enough to keep them from turning against their master. A delicate balancing act.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Ukrainii Pyat

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2011, 04:48:29 PM »
It is a beautiful piece of art for many dimensions, the placement of the mirror in front of the subjects - with the reflection of an open window draws your attention away from the subjects for a brief moment, as though to suggest there is something else going on at the same time.  I love how the wife is depicted with an open book, suggesting that she is literate - very rare for the time.  Yeah, it is a work I am familiar with and can easily stare into with wonderment for a long time.
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2011, 05:10:07 PM »
Another one on the same theme, referring to the biblical story of the calling of Saint Matthew (1536, Alte Pinakothek, München.) The tax collector, the sinner, the traitor Matthew becomes one of Jesus' disciples, forsaking the money he collects for the Roman emperor. The artist, Jan Sanders van Hemessen, pictures the scene as if it were contemporary. The young woman in the foreground handles a box that would contain a hand balance and counterweights for current coins. The gold and silver coins come in several sizes. This painting was originally described as a scene in a tax office. Jesus (right) was added almost 100 years later to turn a neutral painting of a commercial scene into a moral story and a biblical scene.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2011, 05:27:20 PM »
Tax collectors never were really popular :-X. Marinus Claeszoon van Reymerswaele painted a whole series called "two men in an office" (mid 16th century.) The office is clearly a tax office. One man is keeping books. The other is supervising. A scarred mouth turns his face into an ugly grin and his hand is like a claw. The coins are hard to pile, though an effort has been made. They must have been checked on receipt, as there are no instruments on the table.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2011, 05:57:32 PM »
An elegant, rich young couple has come to the jeweller to buy wedding rings. The jeweller is well stocked in luxury items. He uses a hand balance and a box of interlocking weights any money changer would recognize. Moralizing is restricted to the mirror, showing two young men with hunting falcons, symbol of empty materialism. Wealth will seldom get a more sympathetic treatment.

There is a reason. This is an altar piece commissioned by the guild of goldsmiths, silversmiths and money changers of Brugge. The jeweller is saint Eligius of Noyon, patron saint of the guild and said to have been a jeweller. The artist is Petrus Christus and the piece is Saint Eligius with bridal couple (1449, Metropolitan Museum, New York)

Many of the coins on the painting were identified. They include goldgulden from Mainz, saluts d'or from Gascogne under the English king Henry VI and gold riders of Philip of Burgundy. The details serve to illustrate the wealth of Bruges and its international connections.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2011, 06:30:54 PM »
There is a box again with the hand balance and weights and a frame, where coins are neatly exhibited in rows. Nothing ugly or moralistic in sight. The artist, Jan Sanders van Hemessen, painted "A girl weighing gold" (Gemäldegalerie - Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz) around 1530 - 1535. He is known for his religious paintings and caricatures. Here, he painted a beautiful girl in her best clothes making delicate movements. My best guess is that this is a celebration of beauty, an early genre piece, possibly an "inspirational piece" for the master bedroom ;)

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2011, 06:49:20 PM »
Here is the counterpoint for the previous painting: "De goudweger" (1654, museum Boymans van Beuningen) by Salomon Koninck. Same scene, same instruments. Only the actor has changed. An old man instead of a young girl. The most important thing to the artist is the light coming from the window, not the man or his activity.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2011, 07:10:25 PM »
The usurer, by Gabriel Metsu (1654, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) has the same hand scale and a heavy case to lock his wealth in. He is unmoved, even irritated by the crying woman with the document. She will have to look for sympathy elsewhere. Behind the man is an allegory on miserliness. The man is dressed in a warm cloak and hat. He doesn't want to spend money on heating.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Ukrainii Pyat

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2011, 10:17:30 PM »
Might not be another who enjoys this topic, but myself I am rather duly intrigued.  Of course I have spent many a fine hours sauntering hither and tither in Rijksmuseum, the Louvre, the Orsay etc.  I could very easily desire to study them much more.  I enjoy a lot of Italian renaissance, but Dutch masters are the pinnacle of my pursuits.
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2011, 11:42:10 PM »
Not a coin in sight, but this (pretty awful) painting is all about coins. It originally showed the minters, later the transfer of responsibilities from Dordrecht mint master Jacob Davidtse to mint master Johannes van der Linden on 24th July 1677. Davidtse is seated, second from right. Van der Linden is top row extreme left. He was added later. All the others are the serment of the mint, the top officials of the mint and of the Estates of Holland responsible for coinage. All had to be shown clearly to avoid fights over who was the most important, so that there was little place for perspective, light and shadow. This is not meant as a work of art, but rather as an official decoration on the walls of the better part of the mint, an official picture, rather than a realistic scene. It was meant to be replaced by a new painting at the next transfer of the mint.

And yet ... looking at those faces, you can easily imagine meeting these people in the streets of Amsterdam. Instead of uniform lace collars and black cloaks, they'll be wearing uniform jeans and windbreakers and instead of whigs, they'll be balding, but doesn't it all amount to the same thing?

"The minters", by Anthony Vreem (1674, Dordrechts Museum)

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Ukrainii Pyat

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2011, 11:58:39 PM »
Prolly smelled good, months or more of not bathing, no deodorant.   :P
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2011, 12:07:47 AM »
I you had been born 400 years ago, this might have been you. This painting shows Jean Warin, chief engraver of the Paris mint, teaching young Louis XIV about coins and medals in his coin cabinet (François Lemaire, around 1643-1648, Musée de la Monnaie). Young Louis liked his coins and medals. He expanded his collection, now the French national collection, considerably.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2011, 12:41:08 AM »
Here is a portrait of a 15th century Italian gentleman said to be Giovanni Candida by Hans Memling (1468, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp). Our hero is holding a bronze Roman coin to show that not only royalty was interested in collecting coins. The detail of the coin's legend is sharp enough to identify it as a coin of Nero.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Coins in art
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2011, 01:03:14 AM »
Portrait of a young man by Sandro Botticelli (around 1474, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). This medal was also identified: Cosimo de Medici, surrounded by the legend MAGNVS COSMVS   MEDICES PPP. The maker of the medal was painter and engraver Niccolo Fiorentino. Some say the young man is Fiorentino himself.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.