Jewelry Collection: Between Eternity and History: Seoul

Barakat Seoul is proud to present the exhibition “Between Eternity and History”, an exhibition that explores further the universal and human aspiration of power through a unique and exclusive type of jewellery, that combines ancient coins crafted, through their contemporary settings. 

From the ancient times to our days, jewellery has existed in conjunction with the humanity’s own desire to manifest itself as Opulent. The presence of jewellery goes back to the prehistoric period with simple shell, bone and stone ornaments, and progressively continued to evolve, along the centuries simultaneously to the development of metalworking techniques, blossoming into more sophisticated and advanced artistic works of art. More than just being a personal adornment, jewellery also served as an authority and status symbol of the wearer, with a number of individuals pursuing the continuity of power in the afterlife by including valuable jewellery to be buried with them in their tombs. 

Whereas jewellery represented luxury items created to satisfy personal needs of attraction and fulfillment, coins on the other hand were created as currency by very specific financial and commercial purposes. Ancient maritime trade was advanced by the Greek city-states at the end of the 6th century B.C. to such a level that minting the first coins came as the most natural consequence. There was also a kingdom of gods, and as a result these first gold, silver coins were decorated by the images of gods and mythological heroes. Alexander the Great, hereafter, began issuing coins with a portrait of Zeus and Hercules that combined their appearance or attributes with his image. He recognized the need to deify his regality in order to integrate diverse cultures into a single nation and actively used coins to do so. The Roman Republic, culturally influenced by ancient Greece and starting from around 150 BC. had the portraits of rulers and later of emperors engraved on coins. 

With the illustration of an eminent human figure presented on the surface of the obverse, coins become a symbol of authority than just a mere mean of transaction. The emperor Augustus clearly demonstrated that he was the lawful heir to continue the line of power by using the portrait of his great-uncle Julius Caesar on his coinage, whereas all consequent emperors followed his example by issuing commemorative coins to openly manifest their succession to imperial dominion. As a consequence, Roman nobility began to enjoy using coin jewellery as visual aid to display their authority. In particular, coin rings decorated with the Emperor’s image became extremely popular and were also used as wedding rings amongst patrician families, as a symbol of unity blessed and guaranteed by the imperial effigy. Coins at the time became the most powerful symbols of authority and thus much preferable to any precious gem for decorating jewellery. 

The exhibition “Between Eternity and History” attempts to capture this specific desire for power that coin and jewellery share, at the same time unfolding their intricate relation to Greek and Roman history. Coin jewellery decorated with the images of Gods reveals the god-centered worldview of ancient Greece whereas the individualistic portraits of important rulers such as Alexander and Constantine the Great shows a clear correlation between power and coin jewellery. Coin jewellery adorned by the assorted images of the Five Good Emperors, namely Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, who presided over the period known as the Pax Romana, by the figure of emperor Nero, a notorious tyrant, and by the infamous emperor Caracalla imply a certain duality of power, by individually highlighting the power that was expressed in somehow conflicting forms. Following the connection of important events in this historical narrative, the human desire for coins and jewellery becomes timeless, just as the rare coins that form our collection of coin jewellery symbolize an enduring permanence. 

Last though certainly not least, this exhibition will be simultaneously held to a presentation of multifarious Classical artworks along with the ancient Greek and Roman handcrafted coin jewellery. The Entries presented are unique for their historical and aesthetic value, since the majority of them was created during the classical periods of Greek and Roman art, considered by numerous scholars and critics as representing the origins of classical beauty. Thus, it will be an exceptional opportunity for our audiences to be able to experience in person such extraordinary examples of ancient Greek and Roman art.