Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




Money Makes the World Go Round

Trade and coins in early modern times



When the little "moutons d'or" were devalued to twelve "sous parisis", there was no bread, no wine nor anything else. The money changers refused to pay a decent rate of exchange. And people hoarded their money although it was worth nothing. Many simply tossed their coins right over the money changers' shops into the river.

From the diary of an anonymous Parisian, 1427



Money raining down on the people: At the coronation or King Joseph II, coins are thrown to the crowds, 1690


The term "trade" was first used in the modern sense in ancient Egypt. From the fourth millennium ВС, the land of the Pharaohs maintained trade links with other civilisations. These commercial ties consisted primarily of the bartering of goods, such as raw materials, hides, tools, even the brightcoloured feathers of exotic birds, valuable shells and, of course, precious stones. The Persians were the ones to invent the mintage of coins. The bartering of goods gradually yielded to payment in currency, although the heyday of the coin did not arise until the Middle Ages, when importing goods became of primary importance. Suddenly Venetian, Genoese and Pisan ships were sailing across the Mediterranean to meet caravans bringing silk overland from China or spices from India. On returning to their home ports, the Italian manners sold their valuable cargoes to merchants. In the Holy Roman Empire, for instance, powerful mercantile enterprises sprang up everywhere. The Hanseatic League controlled trade to and from the North Sea and the Baltic coasts.

Once the era of overseas discovery and exploration was well underway, trade became a global matter. At that time, paper money (a Chinese invention) was used in Europe merely as a receipt for monies tendered, and the material value of coins still corresponded to their nominal value. Yet money looked different depending on where one went. Only money changers were able to determine the value of a coin by looking at it through a magnifying glass and by placing it on the scales to find out its exact gold or silver content. For this reason money changers were an indispensable part of life in the great trade centres and market towns. Even the man in the street required their services. Without the money changers a soldier who wanted a tankard of beer in the town where he was garrisoned would have had to drink water if he had carried only the currency of his native city. Flemish painter Quentin Massys observed a money changer at work in Antwerp. At that time the city was the main port of the Low Countries, and bustled with economic activity. Money changers enjoyed high status. Nevertheless, they were always suspected of being stingy, avaricious and of charging exorbitant interest. Perhaps the wife of the money changer depicted is contemplating a prayer book in the pious hope that she and her husband will not be led into temptation by the lure of riches....


Quentin Massys
The Moneylender and his Wife
Musee du Louvre, Paris


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