On 7 March 2012, an exhibit entitled Second Life. Coins and medals in European applied art opened in the Blue Bedroom of the Winter Palace.
This exhibition includes more than 80 pieces, coins and medals which, ceased to be used for their original purpose and became a source of inspiration for masters of applied art of various countries, eras and stylistic movements. The pieces in this exhibit cover a timeframe of more than two millennia.
The tradition of using numismatic artifacts in jewelry dates back to Ancient Greece. Two fragments of a necklace made with Roman Denarii coins from the 2nd century B.C - 3rd century A.D. can serve as a striking example of the creativity of early masters. A necklace from the 3rd century A.D. with a coin from the same period is one of the rare examples of using coins and settings from the same time period.
Beginning in the Renaissance in Italy, antique coins were used to decorate various silver vessels and chalices In the 16th 17th centuries, items decorated with contemporary coins and medals, or, more rarely, ancient ones, enjoyed wide popularity in Western Europe. These medals were often attached to chains to create pendants/medallions. They were the primary artistic element in pieces of this sort.
As an example of the work of European silversmiths of the 17th 18th centuries, who created a large quantity of representational chalices, cups and other items made to serve as awards or for commemorative purposes, we can consider various ways of using coins and medals for decorative purposes in this type of applied art. The work of the German artistic school is represented at this exhibit by a large group of pieces, including the work of the jewelers of the Northern Germany.
New interest in ancient numismatic artifacts appeared in the 18th century, as their diverse uses indicate. For examples, coins and medals can be seen mounted in the bottoms of spoons or in broach/medallions. This exhibit includes porcelain items decorated with coins, like cups. For example, there is a set of mugs made at the Meissen manufactory in 1730 1740. These mugs have silver lids, decorated with Saxon, Polish, Lithuanian and Silesian coins of various periods, which give the pieces the symbolic status of numismatic antiquities. This exhibit also includes piece of furniture decorated with medals; two French coin cabinets, made using the Boulle technique, with a bronze background and a tortoise-shell pattern. The medals that decorate them are dedicated to events from French and Russian history.
A separate section of the exhibit is dedicated to numismatic pieces used to decorate the work of the Petersburg masters of the 18th century. These medallions, tobacco boxes and chalices were made by the capital's best jewelers. Pieces from the reign of Catherine the Great are particularly well represented at the exhibit. Such pieces were often specially made as gifts and were decorated with medals and coins that symbolized significant events in Russian history. The creators of these works were the best Petersburg medal craftsmen.
The leading masters of the House of Faberge are represented by pieces made in the neo-Russian style, and are a reflection of new artistic preferences, connected with a rethinking of the achievements of Russian art of previous eras. The use of 18th century silver coins gives them a striking decorative quality. The most recent items at the exhibition, made in the 20th century in the Republic of Cuba, testify to the further development of European artistic traditions.
The curator of this exhibit is Igor Dmitriyevich Arsentyev, junior academic
associate at the Department of Western European Applied Art.