Coins and Medals Department, Pushkin
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Сoins and medals in the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

Coin collection of the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best in Russia. At the present time the Coins&Medals Department totals over 200 000 items - both originals and copies. The basis was formed by the numismatic collection of the Moscow Imperial University at the end of the 18th century, which became part of the University Department of Fine Arts and Antiquities.

The fact that numismatic collection belonged to the University defined its structure and characteristics. Coins and medals were being used mainly for educational purposes. It is well known that courses in numismatics and heraldry were already taking place at the University as early as 1757. In 1803/04 academic year the University opened classes on the history of trade with special focus on coins for the Moscow public.

Unique anonymous donations were made to the University in 1770 and 1772. Unknown benefactor presented Lippert's Dactylioteca encounting c. 3800 casts made from carved stones and gems stored in various European museums as well as a group of European coins and medals.

In the beginning of the 19th century one of the most remarkable contributions to the University collection became a donation from Pavel Demidov (1738-1821). Nearly 4000 coins and medals were presented by him to the museum during 1803-1806. This gift comprised  a group of rare Swedish coins and medals dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries and coming from the former collection of the Swedish numismatist Elias Brenner (1647-1717).

The University numismatic collection did not suffer in the fires of 1812 as it was moved to Niznii Novgorod. Thanks to this, highly artistic medals from Demidov's collection as well as Lippert's Dactylioteca and rare numismatic books were safely added to the University collection after Patriotic War of 1812.

Numismatics has always been attracting a great deal of interest both on amateur and professional levels and has been practised by the widest range of people. When the state collection was created not only educational institutions and societies were interested in its development but all those who understood and valued Russian culture and its legacy. Prominent persons, priests, civilians and academic officials, students and ordinary Moscovites are among those included in the lists of donors of numismatic memorial pieces to the University . In this way a wonderful collection of coins and medals, which was reorganized in the special Münzkabinett came into being. It happened after the Patriotic War of 1812 .

In the middle of the 19th century the Münzkabinett was included within the structure of the University Department of Fine Arts and Antiquities. Greek, Roman and West-European coins and medals from the Münzkabinett then made up the basis of the collection of originals in the Alexander III' Museum of Fine Arts, founded in 1898 by professor Ivan V. Tsvetaev. According to his plan the new museum was to contain an Antiquary, Library and Auditorium as well as Sculpture, Architecture and Art Departments. It was namely in the Antiquary that the Numismatic Cabinet was to be placed. In the 1920s the Cabinet was included in the Classical Sculpture Section and was reorganized into an independent Numismatic Cabinet only in 1930. In 1945 it became Coins&Medals Department.

The Moscow University Müntzkabinett collection had always been depictured by the leading numismatic specialists of the time. In 1830s Oriental coins from the Moscow University collection were published by the academician H. Fren . A manuscript of Catalogue of Roman coins was compiled by A. Podshivalov in the 1880s and catalogue of Ancient Greek coins by A. Oreshnikov came out in 1891. The same importance had  manuscripts of catalogues by former curators of the collection - K. Goerz (who ran the Cabinet of Arts and Antiquities from 1861 to 1883) and A. Zograph (who was a curator of the collection from 1918 to 1922).

The years after the First World War and the Civil War were the time of large number of acquisitions made for the Museum both by State and charity organisations. The most interesting and rare numismatic pieces came from the State Museum Depository, where known private numismatic collections (such collections of Counts Stroganov, Bobrinsky etc.) were accumulated after the revolution of 1917. One should mention Classical coins from 6th to 3rd centuries BC, early Medieval and Oriental coins. A collection of the casts made by English engraver James Tassie originated from the collection of Brockar, and represented a reduced version of the Hermitage Cabinet of casts counting around 12000 pieces. The Tassie Cabinet was made by the order of Catherine II, reproduced in systematised order according to subject antique and modern (until 1780s) gems from the collections of many European Museums. The manuscript of the Catalogue of the Cabinet was compiled by the famous writer E. Raspé, who helped Tassie to set up his Cabinet. Now the Collection of casts in the Museum gives us a wonderful impression of the best European collections of coins, medals and carved stones.

An entire row of other interesting collections were received by the Museum from owners who had specialized in the collecting of a specific groups of numismatic material.

In 1924 and 1939 part of Vasilii Rozanov's former collection of antique coins (about 1500 specimens) was partly given to the Museum by the Institute of the Classical Orient and partly purchased from his daughter. V.V. Rozanov (1856-1919) was a famous Russian writer, publicist and philosopher. He had his own distinctive approach to the collecting of Classical coins. In his memoirs A. Benoi wrote of Rozanov: "He collected antique coins and found boundless enjoyment in scrutinizing them, seeing more and more in the profiles of the kings, emperors and symbolic figures decorating the reverse side, to witness once prevailing ideas and aspirations. Fingering the silver discs which he kept in exemplary conditions, he would let the reflections of the lamp play on the surface and from this he received a purely aesthetic joy, moreover he would say delightful things about the technical excellence of the coins and the beauty of the modelling". Rozanov's collection was notable for the plenitude of Greek and Roman coins, the high quality and wonderful undamaged state of the pieces.

It is worth mention as well a notable donation of the collection of Alexander Golikov (1865-1940) given to the Museum by his widow in 1941 and in 1947 in accordance with his will. Golikov's collection was exceptional both in size and quality since it numbered 10618 Classical, Russian and Medieval coins and gems. Golikov was collecting coins for more than 40 years. Whilst gathering his collection Golikov was guided by the highest of the principles. He wrote that "it is essential to collect only those examples which represent scientific interest and could serve me in the future as a topic of scientific research and in-depth study", and that "the numismatic researcher must on the one hand be a linguist and on the other - a historian". Apart from numismatics Golikov was a qualified expert of the highest standing in porcelain. From 1930 he was a member of the Archaeological Commission. Golikov also collected the masterpieces of Russian artists. His collection contained paintings and drawings by Vrubel, Repin, Kramskoy, Levitan and Vereshchagin, which were purchased later by Tret'yakov Gallery. Golikov brought more than his collection to the museum, he also brought his knowledge and works. The scientific legacy he left behind included over 40 works and his collection was exceptionally highly valued by his contemporaries. Golikov's Russian coins set laid the basis of a new section of the Museum's numismatic collection.

The donation from Golikov can be compared only with the arrival of parts of Evgenii Pakhomov's collection in 1966 and 1971. Professor E.A. Pakhomov (1888-1965) headed the Archaeology and Numismatics Department of Baku University and was one of the organisers of the Azerbaidjan Museum of History. Numismatics was Pakhomov's passion and the subject of his scientific works. He gathered his collection over a period of 65 years. This collection, exceptional in the size and scope of the various fields of numismatics, was divided according to the last will and testament of the owner among four museums: the Azerbaijan Museum of History, the Georgian State Museum, the State Hermitage and the State History Museum in Moscow. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts acquired around 10 000 Russian and 2 000 Oriental coins from the collector's widow (Evgenia Batalina). They comprised rare pieces and coin hoards as well.

Another interesting collection belonged to Anatolii Smirnov, who was the artist and expert in the Central Asian antiquities. The collection was made up of coins and various objects gathered by the collector during his travels around the historic memorial sites of Khorezm. After Smirnov's death in 1967 his sister (Olga Smirnova) gave his collection of ceramics and bronzes to the State Museum of Oriental Arts.Numismatic part of the collection (around 3000 exhibits) came to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in 1965.

Vladimir Stepanov (1893-1963) left what was to became a vital input into the completion of the Soviet numismatic section. In 1978/79 the museum acquired more than 3000 coins from his widow - Z. Lomakina. V. Stepanov was an entomologist and a forestry specialist. His outstanding entomological collection of more than 18 000 specimens, amongst which were many new types of beatle, went to the St. Petersburg Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences.

Archaeological excavations were an important source of material for the University, and later for the Museum collection. Some of the most important pieces acquired in the 19th century were coins from P. Leont'yev's excavations in Tanais (1853) and K. Goerz excavations in Phanagoria in Taman (1859), where 80 coins were found during one season. During the period from 1927 to 1930 the museum expeditions to the Taman peninsula were run by the head of the Numismatic Department Lev Kharko (1899-1961). Up until the 1980s any coins found in the ancient settlement sites of Phanagoria, Panticapaeum or Hermonassa came straight to the numismatic collectionof the Pushkin Museum. Around 3500 coins from these ancient settlements were restored and identified in the period from 1945 to 1986. The majority of numismatic material found during excavation works consisted of examples of local coinage. Greek and Roman coins as well as Byzantine coins were often found in the early medieval layers of the settlements.

Some archaeological finds belong to the really interesting and rare pieces. Noteworthy is f.e. Cyzicos stater found in Panticapaeum in 1948 and dated from the 2nd half of the 6th century BC. Another coin dating from the 3rd century BC and found in Phanagoria belongs to a group of rare staters from the period of the Bospor Kingdom. Two gold Byzantine coins, namely, solidus dating from the time of Basil II and Constantin VIII (976-1025) as well as golden coin of John I Tzimiszes (969-976) were found in 1976 in Hermonassa. In 1978 at the excavation site at Panticapaeum two rare golden republican aureoi dating from the time of Juius Caesar (45-44 BC) were discovered.

Known curators and specialists have always worked with the coin and medal collection at the Pushkin Museum. At the very beginning Alexander Zograph identified and systematised the coins (from 1918 to 1922). His pupil and successor Lev Kharko (1899-1961) ran the Numismatic Department from 1924 to 1952. He did a great deal of work in the restocking, popularization and the systematisation of the collection. In the Museum halls he set up an exhibition of Ancient coins and West-European medals from the 19th century. From 1951 Konstantin Golenko (1929-1975) worked in the Numismatic Department of the Museum, initially as research fellow and then as a keeper (1969-1973). His works on the coins from the northern Black Sea littoral are well known to Russian and foreign specialists.

The Classical section of the collection comprises c. 27 000 Greek, Roman, Parthian and Byzantine coins.

More than 2 000 coins among them  belong to the coin issues of Greek towns situated in the norhern Black Sea littoral. The first volume of SNG edition of the Pushkin Museum Collection of Black Sea Coins is in print now. Most of these coins were minted in the capital of the Bosporan Kingdom, Panticapaeum.  Rare gold staters of the middle of the 4th century BC with image of satyr's head on the obverse and lion-headed griffin on the reverse are among them . Tetradrachm of Mithridates VI (120-63 BC) with image of stag on reverse  is a wonderful example of Hellenistic coinage. There are as well some coins of Phanagoria, Nymphaeum, Theodosia and Gorgippia. We should take note as well of two rare golden staters with name of king Perisades dated from the turn of the 3rd-2nd century BC. The Olbian coinage is fully represented. Rare examples include silver stater with the name of Eminacos and image of Heracles stringing his bow and golden stater of the king Pharzoios dating back to the 1st century AD. A small subdivision (of about 150 coins) gives an impression of the coinage from the time of Tauric Chersonesos, Tyras and Cercinitis.

The collection of Roman coins is notable for its high quality and the quantity of specimens (there are around 11 500). A great contribution to this part of the Museum's collection came in the form of a donation from K. Gubastov, the Russian ambassador in Vatican at the time of the opening of the Museum in 1912 and Golikov's collection which was donated to the museum in 1940. The earliest gold Roman coin in the collection is aureus of 46 BC from the time of Julius Caesar minted in his third consulate. Aureus from the time of Didius Julianus, solidus from the time of Constantine I, aureus from the time of Probus, Alexander Severus, Julia Domna, Trajan Decius, Lucilla. Claudius and Agrippina became important replenishment of the Roman part of the collection as well. The hoards stored in the Museum are also very interesting, for example the famous Gerzeulskii hoard of Roman coins which came to the Museum in 1971.

The collection of  Medieval and Late European coins and medals is made up of approximately 40 000 specimens. Its important part is former Moscow University collection coming back to the 1770s.

Period after Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 until the end of the 1950s is marked by the processing the numismatic treasures brought from Germany. An inventory of all the coins and medals was prepared by specialists of the Department, such as Ju. Shultz, A. Luppol, N. Rozanova, A. Kosareva, V. Leonovich and G. Kister. In 1958 c. 150 000 exhibits from a unique numismatic collection of Saxon kings were returned to Germany.

In 1949 the museum put on display presents made to I. Stalin, among them numerous coins and medals.
A group of Swiss and French gold coins from the 19th and early 20th century came to the museum due to donations from G. Dimitrov. It comprised medals by the artists Kalman Ranner (Hungary), Bogomil Nikolov and Ivanka Mincheva (Bulgaria), Kauko Ryasanen (Finland). We should not forget to mention donations of modern Finnish medals from T. Rotert and medals in honour of important figures of German culture by O. Shvidkovskii. The collection was regularly replenished by the numerous donations from collegues and friends of the Museum. In 1980 the Museum acquired around 400 medals dating from the period of the 18th-20th centuries originating from various Baltic and North-European countries as well as carefully selected group of French medals, issued to commemorate events of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1981 a collection of 141 gold coins dating from the 19th century/ beginning of the 20th century was purchased from I. Garshnek, and 250 medals dating from the period from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century were purchased from M. Rehemets.

Denarii dating back to the 10th-12th centuries, which were struck at the mints of Elzase, Lotarigne, Perineas, lands of Central and Southern Germany as well as in England and Ireland were acquired from D. Moshnyagin's collection. The collection of Polish coins is equally interesting. There are more than 1500 coins dating from the 10th to the 20th centuries, including rare examples of trial coin issues.

The Russian section of the Museum's numismatic collection came into being significantly later than the others. The basis was laid with the arrival of Golikov's collection to the Museum. It contained 3 272 Russian coins dating from the end of the 14th century to the beginning of the 20th century. E. Pakhomov's collection included around 10 000 coins dating from the rule of Basil III to Nikolai II and it is notable for the good selection of mass-issued silver and copper coins. Between 1971 and 1975 the Hermitage gave to the Pushkin Museum part of its duplicate stocks. Among them there were more than 5 000 Russian coins of the imperial period and thus it filled many gaps in this part of the Russian collection. All types and versions of silver mass coinage were represented and there were rare exhibits amongst the gold and platinum coins. In 1978 and 1979 another significant collection came to the Museum - 3 200 coins from V. Stepanov, which constituted a large subdivision of Soviet numismatics issued before 1961. This last section included examples of the first coinage issued by the RSFSR and the USSR, some of which were struck at the London mint. Between 1962 and 1994 the Museum regularly received samples of coins, medals and badges from the Moscow and Leningrad mints. More than 40 000 Russian coins are presently kept in the Department, of which only a very insignificant number represents coins of specific mintage. The tsarist period is best represented. There are interesting coins from the Moscow governement - a golden denga from the time of Basil Shuiskii and a gold copeck from the time of Vladislav Sigizmudovich. Coins from Novgorod include specimens from the period of Swedish intervention of 1611-1617. There are Yaroslav coins of the people's volunteer corps 1611-1613 and also Danish copecks with the names of Christian III and IV, which were minted according to the form of Moscow copecks upon permission of the goverment of Mikhail Fedorovich for the trade purposes of the Danish merchants in Lapland. Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich's attempt to reconstruct the monetary system of the Russian state is represented in a collection with a half-poltina of 1654 and yefimok of 1655 minted as thalers. There are many rare coins of the imperial period: tchervonets (ten-rouble piece) from 1710 with the initials of the mintmaster Johann Lewis Lang who worked in Moscow; rouble from 1707 etc. The collection has trial 10-copeck coins of 1741 with a portrait of the young Joann Antonovich, minted at the St. Petersburg mint. From the reign of Peter the Great until the Alexander III the portrayal of the emperor on coins was replaced by an indication of the face value or a monogram. Also worth noting are gold Dutch ducats which were secretly minted in Russia from 1768 to 1867 in order to finance Russian military expeditions and individuals abroad. There are very interesting coin-souvenirs in this section, which were used for friends and members of the imperial family. One example in the collection is rare gold coin of 1876, one of hundred issued with a value of 25 roubles, minted at St. Petersburg by order of the Great Prince Vladimir Alexandrovich. Another rare gold coin is 37 roubles 50 copecks or 100 francs-piece, which was manufactured in 1902 at the Paris mint. Almost all commemorative issues from the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century are also represented in the collection. Two gold tchervonets of 1925 represent extraordinary rarities. They came to the Museum in 1955 from the Leningrad mint.

Along with acquisition of whole collections and separate groups of coins, the Museum received coin hoards as well.
The collection of Russian medals is made up of nearly 14 000 memorial pieces from the period of Peter the Great up until the present day. The first quarter of the 18th century is particularly well represented thanks to the acquisition in 1983 of around 400 medals  from Alexander Stakhovich's collection (1884-1959), presented now as the electronic Catalogue at this Web-site.

Coins from the former University collection became the basis of the Oriental section. More than 23 000 Oriental coins, medals, decorations, paper-currency tokens are kept in the Department. There are gold coins of Kushan Rulers and a small selection of Sasanian coins although the best represented Oriental coins come from Central Asia and Far East and date from ancient to modern times. More than 3 500 pieces of Chinese monetary issues from the early coinage - coin-knives, hoes and keys - up to decorations and medals from the time of the Chinese Revolution of 1911 belong to the collection as well as Japanese credit tokens - the bamboo shoots and Japanese clan paper money - "Han-Satsu" from 17th and 18th centuries. We should note a particularly interesting collection of Georgian numismatics and selection of Arabian coins, seals and amulets of Central Asia.

Now the Museum starts to realise the program of electronic publication of its collection. But even using the most modern methods of developing the museum's work, we have always remember the enormous amount of work and experience of previous generations of curators, who formed  this unique collection of coins and medals. One should talk not only on the work during the 100 years that the Museum has already been existing, but during the period of about 250 years of the history of the collection itself.