In 1986, Baker Library issued an exhibition catalog titled Coin and Conscience: Popular Views of Money, Credit and Speculation: Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Catalog of an Exhibition of Prints from the Arnold and S. Bleichroeder Collection, Kress Library of Business and Economics, written by Ruth Rogers, then curator of the Kress Library at Baker Library. The images selected by Ms. Rogers for inclusion in the catalog represent the major thematic divisions of the Bleichroeder Collection, while also displaying its geographic and stylistic diversity. The publication provides introductory text, detailed descriptive information about seventy prints from the collection, an artist index, and a bibliography for further study.
New technology has made it possible to now bring the content of this popular publication to the Web, with the added benefit of digital access to all seventy items described in the catalog. The text below, the citations in the gallery, the artist index, and the bibliography are reproduced here from the 1986 publication.
The exhibition catalog is available for purchase through the Kress publications list.
Note on Format
Please note the following guidelines concerning image citations. All measurements are height before width. For engravings and etchings, the measurements are to the plate mark; for lithographs, they are to the edges of the image. Notation is made when the plate mark has been trimmed.
Brackets indicate information not found in the print itself, but taken from reference sources.
Latin words for the publisher of early prints (excud., divulge., formis) have been retained in the entries when they occur because publishers were often engravers themselves, and it is not always known if they had a hand in the actual artwork. They have also been included in the index of artists for this reason.
The Bleichroeder Collection
The Bleichroeder Collection of prints at Baker Library includes more than one thousand woodcuts, engravings, etchings, and lithographs, ranging in date from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. It is divided into the following general subject categories: views of stock exchanges, banks, mints, and treasuries; portraits of bankers, statesmen, and financiers; political and personal satires; national finance and taxation; images of money lenders, avarice, corruption, poverty, charity, and anti Semitism; and a large number of prints on speculation and credit. Many prominent artists are represented in the collection, including Breughel, Goltzius, Rembrandt, Hogarth, and Gillray, to name a few. A card catalog index at Baker Library provides both subject and artist access to the collection.
All of the resources in the Bleichroeder Collection are available for use in the de Gaspé Beaubien Reading Room at Baker Library. Researchers who are interested in planning a visit to use the collection should contact the Historical Collections Department reference staff in advance via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 617-495-6411. Please review the Information and Services section of the Historical Collections website for more information on preparing for a visit to the reading room.
Preface to the 1986 Printed Catalog
No other single print in the following catalog so clearly embodies the theme of the entire exhibit as this verse and engraving by Matthias Greuter (see no. 7). Through three centuries and six countries, from admonishing biblical allegory to scathing political cartoon, the images shown here resound with the same message: where there is money, there is power, vice, corruption, and misfortune. To view these prints is to trace society's changing attitudes toward money from the Reformation and the Church's injunctions against usury, to the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of modern capitalism.
The extensive collection of sixteenth to nineteenth century prints on money and finance from which this exhibit is drawn was given to the Kress Library of Business and Economics in 1975 by the New York firm of Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder. It was generously presented in memory of Frederick H. Brunner, a member of the firm, who formed much of the collection. Mr. Brunner's love of banking history led him to acquire prints on all aspects of money's influence on mankind. Whether it was a humorous nineteenth century French lithograph of a self satisfied speculator at the Bourse or a stern sixteenth century Dutch allegory on the vanity of riches, he considered it important in documenting the subject. There are over one thousand woodcuts, engravings, etchings, and lithographs in the Bleichroeder Collection. It has been divided into the following general categories: views of stock exchanges, banks, mints, and treasuries; portraits of bankers, statesmen, and financiers; political and personal satires; national finance and taxation; images of money lenders, avarice, corruption, poverty, charity, and anti-Semitism; and a large number of prints on speculation and credit. Although many prominent artists are represented in the collection—Breughel, Goltzius, Rembrandt, Hogarth, and Gillray, to name a few—its subject orientation offers a unique dimension to researchers, who would otherwise have access to print catalogs only by artist or school. For social and economic historians, these prints communicate a sense of popular attitudes with an intensity that the printed word lacks.
From such treasures, seventy prints were selected. They represent the major thematic divisions of the collection, while also displaying geographic and stylistic diversity.
The early allegories and emblematic prints on the pursuit of riches are visually the most complex. They are mainly by Dutch and Flemish artists, since Amsterdam and Antwerp were then the leading centers of northern European finance and commerce. As the cities prospered, individuals increasingly turned to new and profitable trades, or became middlemen for the growing number of foreign merchants and financiers who came there to transact business. Money had to be loaned at interest to meet the credit demands of international trade. To secure these loans, various negotiable instruments were created, such as promissory notes and bonds.
The Reformation brought changes in the economic and social structure of the Netherlands, evidenced by an emerging middle class whose money and influence was considerable. Standing in direct conflict with these developments however, was the ancient Church doctrine that condemned the amassing of individual wealth, especially through usury. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt. . ." and "No man can serve two masters . . . ye cannot serve God and Mammon"1 form but a part of the Bible's powerful indictment of pecuniary endeavor. Here then, was the uneasy predicament of the merchant class: to be seduced by riches and face eternal damnation, or to shun them and be assured a place in heaven.
The prints represented in numbers 1-14 can be considered visual sermons on the struggle between the sacred and secular world. Maarten van Heemskerck and Marten de Vos, both associated with Dutch Humanism, intentionally illustrated passages from Matthew to comfort the poor and to warn the rich (nos. 1 and 8). Other prints in this group are more judgmental–portraying the folly and consequences of excessive wealth through inscriptions and symbols. The peacock for vanity, mirror for pride, bubbles and smoke for transience, among many others, are recurring motifs in these images, and were readily recognizable to the audience of the day.
Illustrations of biblical themes (nos. 27-33), mainly from the gospels, are another expression of Humanist thought, which attempted "to weld the antique and the contemporaneous into a single edifying lesson for the moral welfare of mankind."2 Usually accompanied by quotations from the Bible, these images were direct examples for the misguided to follow in achieving the uncorrupt faith of the apostles.
From such austere beginnings, the prints produced over the following three hundred years reflect growing acceptance of the notion that money does indeed "rule the world," but they are not without irony. Images of flying money devils, ruined speculators, corrupt politicians, and mercenary marriages may have departed from the theological overtones, but they all have direct antecedents in the allegories and emblematic representations of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. There is a striking similarity between Goltzius's Marriage for Wealth Officiated by the Devil (no. 36), and Eisen's L'Accord de Mariage (no. 39), although they were published at least 150 years apart. Nearly two hundred years separate Stradanus's Allegorical Hunt (no. 4) from Le Grand Diable d'Argent (no. 26), yet the characters depicted are engaged in the same quest; only the costumes have changed. Representations of gamblers and lottery drawings, the idle rich and the penniless all seem remarkably contemporary. The parallels between past and present attitudes toward money are not deeply buried—and the Bleichroeder print collection invites the historian, the art lover, and the merely curious to discover them.
- Ruth R. Rogers Curator, Kress Library of Business and Economics
- 1. Matthew 6: 19-20, and 6: 24, respectively.
- 2. Veldman, Ilja. Maarten van Heemskerck and Dutch Humanism in the Sixteenth Century, 7.