Coins and jewelry at Citéco
Where there are coins, there’s jewelry – as shown by twin exhibitions at Citéco: “Le Trésor de Beaurains” and “New Economy” by artist Sabine Pigalle.
By Sandrine Merle.
Behind a huge steel door, in the impressive vault of its splendid neo-Gothic mansion, Citéco presents five gold medallions considered as National Treasures, which have just been purchased by the Banque de France (the mansion was one of the bank’s branches until 2006). The priceless coins were discovered in 1922, in a jar unearthed by a pickaxe during excavation work in Beaurains, south of Arras. Struck at the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century, they represent the two Augustinians, Diocletian and Maximian, and the two Caesars, Constantius Chlorus and Galerius, who headed the government of the Roman tetrarchy.
Medallions and jewels from the Beaurains Treasure
This is the very first opportunity to view these five medallions – a term that refers not to a pendant but to a prestigious coin awarded to provincial chiefs as a bonus for services rendered. It’s easy to imagine these magnificent pieces mounted as pendants… “They were primarily hoarded simply for their value,” says Véronique Beirnaert-Mary, director of the Arras museum. But the Beaurains treasure also included jewels: some were probably stolen the night they were discovered, the thirteen that have remained with us are in the British Museum (London), like the bracelet set with a succession of amethyst, emerald and garnet cabochons, or the beautiful gold wedding ring engraved with the name of Valerianus, thought to be the first owner of the Beaurains treasure.
Exhibition within an exhibition, “New Economy”
During the lockdown, the artist Sabine Pigalle made a series of collages from old coins which she hunted down and minted in the effigy of monarchs, intellectuals, political leaders or mythological figures. With humor and a lightness of touch, she has given them masks symbolizing the asphyxiation of the economic and monetary system. Here is Marie Antoinette, the bottom of her face hidden by strings of pearls evoking the famous necklace affair. Charlemagne’s mask of is a replica of his crown, while that of Margrethe II of Denmark echoes her diadem of pearls surrounded by diamonds, handed down from Louise of Prussia, daughter of King Frederick William III. On the piece, we can easily make out the pear-shaped engraving, despite the miniaturization. We also recognize the necklace and earrings set in diamonds and pearls (often worn with the tiara) offered by the Khedive of Egypt in the nineteenth century. Not to be missed.