John Mellman and Arthur Shippee passed along this Yale News article about the new Bela Lyon Pratt Gallery of Numismatics that we discussed earlier. Thanks!
The Circus Maximus, the stadium where Romans gathered by the tens of thousands to watch chariot races and other spectacles, had lap counters shaped like dolphins. Those dolphins are visible on the sestertius of Trajan, an ancient coin celebrating the Emperor Trajan's restoration of the grand arena in A.D. 103.
One of the finest known examples of the sestertius is on view in the new Bela Lyon Pratt Gallery of Numismatics at the Yale University Art Gallery.
Named for Bela Lyon Pratt, a noted Yale-educated sculptor and medalist, the first-floor space is specially designed to showcase numismatics — coins, tokens, medals, and paper money. Its 16 display cases contain about 260 of the museum's smallest objects, including the remarkable sestertius of Trajan.
One side of the ancient coin features a profile bust of Trajan, who ruled the Roman Empire from A.D. 98 to 117. On the reverse, the Circus Maximus, which no longer exists, is rendered in precise detail.
The new gallery exhibit occupies a small room adjacent to the museum's central elevator lobby and near the study room. The display cases are brightly lit but the room is otherwise dark.
The goal was to create an intimate space, Hellings said.
We leaned into the close quarters here and played with the lighting to produce that intimate feeling where visitors can feel comfortable pondering the objects for a little while.
The label text is concise — usually just a sentence explaining an object's significance. QR codes below each case allow visitors to access additional information from the museum's website about the items on view.
The exhibit moves from antiquity to North America during the 16th to 20th centuries with examples of the New England shilling, the oak tree three pence, the gold $20 double eagle, and other American objects.
Not all the objects on view fit into a wallet or coin purse. The silver Naseby Cup, created in 1839 to commemorate the Battle of Naseby during the English Civil War, gleams from its display case. Seventy-two coins, counters, and medals from the period of the English Civil War are integrated into the cup, which was commissioned by John and Mary Frances Fitzgerald, the Lord and Lady of Naseby Manor.
I think it's one of the most fascinating objects on display, Hellings, said.
It is an ostentatious and spectacular display of wealth from an English manor combined with unique and rare coins.
There are cases devoted to the production of coins and their use in international trade and commerce from the 8th century through the 19th century. A case devoted to medals includes an 1804 medal commemorating Napoleon's conquest of upper Egypt. The design borrows crocodile imagery from a coin struck in 28 to 27 B.C. to celebrate Octavian's successful Egyptian campaign, an event that set the stage for the ambitious former triumvir to become Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor. That coin, the denarius of Octavian, is included in the case on the Roman World.
The new gallery offers visitors a glimpse of numismatics related to Yale. The Nobel Prize Medal for Literature presented in 1936 to playwright Eugene O'Neill, whose archives are at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, is displayed in a singularly dedicated display case.
To read the complete article, see:
Not your ordinary pocket change: new gallery showcases money and medals
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
YALE'S BELA LYON PRATT GALLERY OF NUMISMATICS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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