Coins in art

Started by Figleaf, July 16, 2011, 04:11:08 PM

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Figleaf

This is a 15th century illustration from Le Livre des Merveilles by Maître de la Mazarine. It shows an episode from the fall of Baghdad in 1258, after a siege of just 12 days. The picture is probably inspired by a tale by Marco Polo. Polo spent time at the court of Kublai Khan, a brother of Hulagu. He was therefore far away from the action, but privy to the tales of the court.

The story goes that when Hulagu discovered how much gold and silver khalif Al-Musta'sim had, he reproached him that he hadn't spent the money on the defence of the city. He had the khalif imprisoned with his treasure to starve to death, reportedly saying "now eat that!"

The picture shows Hulagu, the victor, in a red robe. He is accompanied by an officer, who instructs a soldier. The soldier, holding a key, is pushing the khalif into the treasure chamber with an improbable large window, so we can look inside. The khalif is reluctant to go in, but offers little resistance and is dressed in fine clothes, symbolising his failures. The gold coins in the room, together with the gold objects and the purse of silver coins (a typical medieval Europan device for carrying silver on a belt) symbolise useless wealth, which would have been the message of the picture.

Picture source: By Maître de la Mazarine [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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

Overlord

Fantastic thread. I had missed it completely!
Charon and Psyche by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope



chrisild

Now it gets a little juicier. :)  Around 1537, Lucas Cranach the Elder created a painting called "Alter Mann von Kurtisanen betört". I already mentioned it here; no need to try and identify the coins.

The title could be translated as something like "Old Man beguiled by courtesans", but the Cranach Archives use "Old Man and Young Courtesans". Anyway, we see a senior citizen surrounded by a drinking glass, cards, and three young women. In the background, a couple (man and woman) who are not really involved. The three courtesans are busy grabbing the old man's money ...

Attached is a small portion of the painting; embedding the whole thing here still does not seem to work. The description is here http://lucascranach.org/PRIVATE_NONE-P161 (use the "EN/DE" link in the top left corner to change languages).

You can see the painting here: http://lucascranach.org/PRIVATE_NONE-P161/image  Double click/tap to enlarge it (or use the +/- buttons on the right). Once the viewed portion is larger than your screen, use the cursor to "move around".

Christian

Pellinore

Well, here's the whole picture, I found it on Wikipedia, or rather, Wikimedia Commons, the picture treasury of Wikipedia (49 million pictures!). Can we say something expertish on the coins involved?
-- Paul


Figleaf

There are several types of coins in the picture. Some are visibly smaller. I think Cranach had gold coins in mind. The full length crowned man, standing legs spread does not ring a bell. On some coins, I can read DANCK GOT, on others ROM (IMP?). The one at far right reads AVG. That's about as far as I get, but note that what I can read is not in the same place on all coins.

One option is that Cranach used a counter as model for his coins. They are more likely to be inscribed in German.

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

trdsf

I'm fascinated by monumental uses of coinage, especially when they involve impossible dates -- we have buildings here in town (mainly banks) that have Peace dollars dated 1908 and Walking Liberty halves dated 1954 on their façades.  Anyone know of any other examples?
Sir Terry Pratchett, on being told about the theory that the universe is a computer simulation: "If we all get out and in again, would it start to work properly this time?"

Pellinore

Quote from: trdsf on August 27, 2018, 09:40:34 AM
-- we have buildings here in town (mainly banks) that have Peace dollars dated 1908 and Walking Liberty halves dated 1954 on their façades.

Interesting, I have never seen a bank façade with coins. Is it old? Can you show a picture?

-- Paul

Figleaf

Quote from: chrisild on September 18, 2017, 02:14:03 PM
In the background, a couple (man and woman) who are not really involved.

I think they are father and daughter. The daughter looks much like the middle courtesan. Paintings of this period are often morality tales. Maybe the father is warning his daughter (see his hand gesture) not to become a courtesan by showing her that it would be immoral or worse.

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

chrisild

Could well be. The description at lucascranach.org merely says "A young gesticulating couple at the edge of the painting comment on the event." But it is quite obvious that they are used as "pointers" ...

Another object that could be of interest here is the Fangyuan Mansion in Shenyang, China. Looks like a giant cash coin. ;) (The name in the URL is wrong by the way. That refers to another high rise - the "donut style" Guangzhou Circle.)

Christian

Pellinore

To return to museum art, where this thread started, a painting I saw last week in Berlin (Gemäldegalerie). It was made by Dutch painter Jan Lievens, a fellow worker of Rembrandt. You see a rich woman giving a gold coin to an old hag with a small child, apparently asking to tell her fortune. Behind this group is a conspicuous girl with joyful expression and a light complexion, and in the shadow behind is a dark girl.

According to the text in the museum, the title is just 'A Fortune Teller', but I also found another title, 'Preciosa and Doña Clara' with the year 1631, when the painter was about 24 years old, and living in Leyden. That title points to a story by Cervantes, 'La Gitanilla', published in 1613 and soon very popular. It's about a gypsy girl, talented and beautiful, who after many trials turns out to be a countess, etc., etc. This makes sense, for it explains most of what we see on the painting, and it's a popular story of its time.

And then there's the coin, a gold piece that to me looks Spanish or Portuguese with its strong cross in a circle. But I'm sure you know more about the coin and hope you are going to tell me about it.

-- Paul



Pabitra

Quote from: Figleaf on August 27, 2018, 03:10:38 PM
I think they are father and daughter. The daughter looks much like the middle courtesan.
Does not look so.
I ran this painting through Artificial Intelligence Machine Learnt Age determining software.
The daughter and middle courtesan appear to be sisters and "father" is more like husband.

chrisild

Well, that software and I have very different opinions regarding the women in green and red. ;) 32 vs 48??  And then there is the question of what women looked like, at the age of almost 50, in the first half of the 16th century ...

Here is another coin in art - the famous German (Fed. Rep.) 50 pfennig coin with the woman planting a little oak tree. The artist Joseph Beuys used the piece for his 7000 oaks for Kassel documenta campaign. The title: "Every tree has its price".


(If the embedded link does not work, click here.)

Christian

trdsf

#42
Quote from: Pellinore on August 27, 2018, 12:12:30 PM
Interesting, I have never seen a bank façade with coins. Is it old? Can you show a picture?

-- Paul
Yeah, I'll see if I can find them and put them on Flickr -- if not, I can just re-take the pictures.  I know where they are.  :)

Edit: I may have to re-take the images; they were hosted on Imageshack and they went evil several years ago and I can't access my own zarking pictures there anymore.

Edit Edit: Much to my surprise (or not due to my digital packrat nature) I found a couple of them -- so I present the 1907 and 1954 Peace dollars:





Alas, the building that hosted the 1954 Peace dollar has since been torn down.
Sir Terry Pratchett, on being told about the theory that the universe is a computer simulation: "If we all get out and in again, would it start to work properly this time?"

Pellinore

Great, thanks very much for your pictures! So there were large eagles perched on these dollars, very curious. In my country, the analogy would be a lion sitting on a stone guilder. I must see if I can find sculpture like that.
-- Paul

trdsf

Quote from: Pellinore on August 29, 2018, 08:30:36 AM
Great, thanks very much for your pictures! So there were large eagles perched on these dollars, very curious. In my country, the analogy would be a lion sitting on a stone guilder. I must see if I can find sculpture like that.
-- Paul
I have to say, I really like the 1907 with the incuse date and lettering.  And I need to go downtown and re-shoot the 1954 Walking Liberty half just east of the State House.  The magnificently Art Deco LeVeque Tower downtown has some classical Greek coinage on its façade, but they're undated, and I have heard that there might be some more impossibly-dated coin representations inside the Huntington downtown.

I sense a photographic safari on my schedule for this weekend!
Sir Terry Pratchett, on being told about the theory that the universe is a computer simulation: "If we all get out and in again, would it start to work properly this time?"