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The percep­tion of clas­sical anti­quity via ancient coins by anti­qua­rians in the Renaissance

BMBF Joint Inter­di­sci­pli­nary Project, 2009–2012

The aim of this three-year project was to carry out a compa­ra­tive analysis of how scho­lars and anti­qua­rians of the early modern period unders­tood the culture and history of the period 49 BC to 96 CE through the lens of ancient coins.

For this project, the Kunst­his­to­ri­sches Institut in Florenz (KHI) digi­tized an important coll­ec­tion of numis­matic lite­ra­ture, from Andrea Fulvio to Fran­cesco Ange­loni. These texts were made available as a digital corpus of Early Modern Numis­matic Lite­ra­ture, freely acces­sible and searchable on the internet.

The Münz­ka­bi­nett in Berlin, the largest coin coll­ec­tion in Germany, also took part, offe­ring the oppor­tu­nity for project parti­ci­pants to study the original coins toge­ther with the lite­rary tradi­tion. The Münz­ka­bi­nett cata­logued and photo­gra­phed all of its coins dating between the eras of Caesar to Domi­tian and made them available online in their inter­ac­tive online cata­logue (IKMK).

The Census evaluated the 16th and 17th-century numis­matic lite­ra­ture digi­tised by the KHI. At the core of this inves­ti­ga­tion were the coins of the Julio-Clau­dian and Flavian eras. Images and descrip­tions by anti­qua­rians were inte­grated into the Census data­base and records were linked to full texts. Renais­sance repre­sen­ta­tions were juxta­posed with genui­nely ancient coin types, most of which could be found in the Münz­ka­bi­nett in Berlin. This work formed the basis for analy­sing methods of numis­matic rese­arch in the early modern period.

The project focused both on the history of the Roman Empire and on the 16th century, shed­ding light on the Renais­sance inter­pre­ta­tion of the ancient past. Through the crea­tion of a digital corpus of early modern numis­matic lite­ra­ture and the expan­sion of the online data­bases of the Münz­ka­bi­nett and the Census, a substan­tial body of mate­rial was made available to rese­ar­chers, opening up new possi­bi­li­ties in the fields of art history, numis­ma­tics and archeology.

Enea Vico, Omnium Caesarum veris­simae imagines ex anti­quis numis­matis, 1554, title page

Kunst­his­to­ri­sches Institut in Florenz (Max-Planck-Institut)
Prof. Dr. Ales­sandro Nova, Director
Dr. Jan Simane, Head of the Library

Münz­ka­bi­nett der Staat­li­chen Museen zu Berlin (Stif­tung Preu­ßi­scher Kultur­be­sitz)
Prof. Dr. Bernd Kluge, Director
Prof. Dr. Bern­hard Weisser, Curator

Census of Antique Works of Art and Archi­tec­ture Known in the Renais­sance (Humboldt-Univer­sität zu Berlin)

Coor­di­nator: Dr. Ulrike Peter (Berlin-Bran­den­bur­gi­sche Akademie der Wissenschaften)

This Joint project was funded for three years as part of the call ‘Über­set­zungs­funk­tion der Geis­tes­wis­sen­schaften’ (grant number 01UB0908) and was completed in March 2012