Programme of lectures
Meetings take place at 6-7.30pm on the third Tuesday of each month. Please note that some meetings will take place on Zoom only, while others will be in-person and recorded on Zoom. The venue for the in-person meetings is the Society of Antiquaries of London (Burlington House, Piccadilly).
Zoom log-in details for Tuesday 16th November
19th October Marie-Astrid Voisin Pelsdonk (PhD candidate, Utrecht; Secretary general of FIDEM). Venue: Zoom.
‘On the quest of a Swedish royal gift to Pius VI: a gift of friendship and peace lost to the Napoleonic armies?’
Abstract: In 1783 to 1784, the Swedish king, Gustav III, a great patron of the arts, made a trip to Italy. He arrived in Rome on Christmas Eve of 1783 and was the first Protestant Swedish king to visit and attend a Catholic mass in the Vatican. On the occasion, Pope Pius VI gave the king a guided tour through parts of the Vatican Museum and its Library. The king left Rome on Good Friday in 1784 and left a gift of “three boxes of wood, containing a collection of Swedish medals in gold and silver” to the Pope. A gift which “left Rome in astonishment”.
What did these “three boxes” contain? What has happened to this gift, which is a historical and art historical testimony of peace and friendship from a Protestant king to a Catholic pope? And where is it today? Did the medals follow Pius VI to Paris in 1799 when he was imprisoned and the Papal State was changed to a Roman Republic? Were they left in Rome or looted by the French armies? Or were they, like some parts of Pius’ collection, returned to the Vatican after his death and the fall of Napoleon?
16th November Debbie Marriott (Design Lead, Banknote Development, Notes Directorate, Bank of England). Venue: Zoom
‘Designing banknotes: the story of designing the new Turing £50 note note’
Abstract Debbie joined the Bank of England in 1990 having graduated with a BA in Fine Art. She was the first woman Banknote designer employed by the Bank of England and is most recently responsible for the design and project management of the new £20 and £50 polymer designs. Debbie worked closely with specialists including scientists, engineers and designers as well as anti-counterfeit, production and quality control teams to ensure the £50 banknote design optimises all the necessary security features and can be manufactured to a high quality.
15th December Helen Wang. Venue: Zoom and Society of Antiquaries.
Annual General Meeting to be followed by the speaker.
18th January Medallist’s Lecture: François de Callataÿ (Royal Library of Belgium, RNS Medallist for 2020-21). Venue: Zoom.
To be followed by presentation of the Society’s Medal for 2021-22.
15th February Early Career Lectures. Venue: Zoom.
- Emily Rowe (PhD Researcher in English Literature and Linguistics at Newcastle University)
‘Shaved crowns and washed heads: Coining crimes and haircutting in early modern England’
Abstract: In John Taylor’s A shilling or, The trauailes of twelue-pence (1621), a shilling narrates its travels across Europe. Speaking of those who illegally alter it, the shilling says, ‘Some of my Masters would take paines to haue me, / And like to Barbars, wash, clip, poll, and shaue me’. Washing and clipping (also referred to as ‘shaving’) were common methods of removing valuable metals from coins and to ‘poll’ and ‘shave’ could mean both to cut hair or to steal. Taylor’s playing on haircutting and coining crimes alerts us to the shared language of these acts. Closer attention to the materiality of these acts, however, throws light on how closely connected they were. Looking at coin clippings preserved in the archives, it is striking how similar they appear to locks of hair, often having the appearance of being clipped in one motion with a pair of shears. Coin clippers and barbers share more than shears in common; both profit from, as the pamphleteer Thomas Nashe puts it in 1596, the ‘excrementall superfluities’, or the ‘trimmings’, of the ‘crowns’ they clip. This paper examines the material and metaphoric relationship between coining crimes and haircutting in early modern England. In this context, I will then discuss Nashe’s extended metaphor on coin clipping to haircutting in his 1596 dedication to the Cambridge barber-surgeon Richard Lichfield, who Nashe describes as the ‘chiefe Crowner or clipper of crownes’ and requests that he ‘cut’ and ‘shave’ the head of Nashe’s literary rival, Gabriel Harvey.
2. Olivia Denk (Department of Ancient Civilizations, University of Basel)
‘Imaging Hellenistic astronomy on coins: Rethinking the coinage of Ouranopolis’
Abstract: Probably in 316 BC, Alexarchos, the brother of the Macedonian king Cassander, founded Ouranopolis (“Heavenly City”) on the Chalcidice peninsula in northern Greece. The location of the city is linked today with the area of ancient Sane near modern Nea Roda, where a Hellenistic cult building has been excavated. The archaeological material suggests that Apollo or Apollo-Helios was worshipped in a trinity with Artemis and Leto or with Selene and Eos. The coinage of Ouranopolis represents a particularly interesting case in terms of the illustration of astronomic related components. The silver and bronze coins show on the obverse a solar disc or an eight-rayed star or rather a star with a crescent moon, while on the reverse sits a figure usually interpreted as Aphrodite Ourania on a celestial sphere with special headdress and holding a scepter. The legend reads ΟΥΡΑΝΙΔΩΝ (the Ouranids) or ΟΥΡΑΝΙΔΟΩΝ ΠΟΛΕΩΣ (of the city of the Ouranids), providing an insight into a unique community. The aim of this paper is to discuss the attribution to Aphrodite Ourania through literary sources and archaeological remains in relation to the symbols depicted on the Ouranopolitan coins. The celestial elements (sun, crescent moon, star) and other features will be analysed with the focus of a new interpretation, which proposes that the coin depict the god Helios or the personification of the sky (Ouranos) instead of the heavenly Aphrodite. This case study explores a new interdisciplinary approach to Ouranopolitian coinage and reveals the value of numismatic imagery to investigate Hellenistic astronomy.
15th March Cecilia von Heijne (The Royal Coin Cabinet, National Museum of Economy, Sweden). Venue: Zoom.
19th April Elina Screen (Departmental Lecturer in History, Classics & Archaeology, Birkbeck, and College Lecturer in Medieval History, Trinity College, Oxford). Venue: Zoom.
17th May Ellen Feingold (Curator of the National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution). Venue: Zoom.
21st June Presidential Address: Roger Bland. Venue: Zoom and in-person (location TBC).
‘Problems in ancient numismatics 3. The trustworthiness of coinage in the ancient world’
Abstract This talk will explore the question of how far ancient coinages were fiduciary or bullion in nature. This is sometimes called `chartalism’ as against `metallism’. Could states enforce the value of their currencies and does their ability to do this change over time and place? What trends can we detect and what are the effects of the debasement on the economy?