As trade expanded, banks were established, and money production increased, medieval Europe underwent a major transformation: suddenly, money was everywhere in daily life. However, although economic development has rewarded some, significant disparities remain, giving rise to new moral dilemmas.
A new exhibition in New York Morgan Library and Museum-titled “Medieval money, merchants and morality» – traces the ethical and theological debates arising from the growing role of money in medieval European life.
“The interesting thing about money is that it affects everything in society,” explains Deirdre Jackson, curator of the exhibition on site, at New York Times“James Barron. She notes that “most people, even the poor,” were caught up in the new money economy.
One of the first exhibits in the exhibition focuses on low-denomination coins, which entered people’s daily lives at that time.
“Previously, mints produced few coins, and these were of high value. This situation could not support growth at all levels of the economy,” explains exhibition curator Diane Wolfthal. ArtnetIt’s Richard Whiddington. “After the year 1100, more coins, including lower denomination coins, began to be produced, which was essential for market penetration into the daily lives of ordinary people.”
Dull and somewhat dull in appearance, the pieces on display at the Morgan stand in stark contrast to the shiny silver and gold that museums typically display.
“We’re turning the idea of hoarding on its head, and we’re doing this to show that low-value coins were minted in large numbers,” Jackson told the newspaper. Times. Although perhaps less visually impressive, these pieces helped boost the economy, she says.
Yet even though cash permeated every aspect of life, its presence raised a number of moral concerns within medieval culture, Jackson explains. Fast businessThis is Talib Visram.
For example, the exhibition features a 15th-century painting by Hieronymus Bosch Death and the miser, which depicts a man on his deathbed faced with a choice between good and evil: an angel on the right beckons for salvation; on the left, a demon-like creature holds out a seductive bag of money. The dying miser is caught in a moment of indecision between material gain and spiritual redemption – a reflection of wider debates about the dangers of avarice and “Christian ideals of poverty and charity”, according to a report. statement of the Morgan.
Another artifact reflecting the stark divisions between rich and poor is an elaborate 800-pound steel safe believed to have been used to store money – a lot of it – in the house. Elsewhere in the exhibition, a painting from around 1500 depicts St. Francis, removing sumptuous garments purchased from his family’s textile business. In their place, he puts on a simple dress.
“He was questioning the ethics of a society in which there was such disparity in wealth and access to resources,” Jackson told Fast business. “For its time, it was a really radical thing to do.”
These are relevant questions to consider in this particular space, since J. Pierpont MorganFortune built the mansion the museum occupies. Its collection of medieval manuscripts makes up a large part of the exhibition. “To some, he represented a captain of industry; for others, one of the famous robber barons,” writes Fast business. “As in the Middle Ages, the Gilded Age asked fundamental questions about the fairness of capitalism.”
These overlapping stories are a reminder of how relevant the subject of the exhibition remains today.
“I hope visitors will see how complex medieval discussions about money were and think about the role money plays in their own lives,” Wolfhal said. Artnet. “We have much to learn from the medieval past. »
“Medieval money, merchants and morality» is on view at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York until March 10, 2024.