Sveonum Monumenta Vetusta. The Numismatic Collection of Elias Brenner (1647–1717) and Pavel Demidov (1738–1821)

29.06.2017 – 08.01.2018

Main Building

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts presents the exhibition dedicated to one of the best and the oldest parts of the numismatic collection of the Pushkin State Museum – the Swedish numismatic collection – as well as to its famous owners and contributors.

Elias Brenner (1647–1717) was a Swedish miniature painter, scholar, founder of Scandinavian numismatics, and one of the earliest experts in the medieval coin history. He is the author of the first treatise on the history of a country framed in the narrative of coins and medals. He wrote his main work “Thesaurus Nummorum Sveo-Gothicorum” about his own collection of coins to encyclopedize Swedish numismatic artifacts and to explore the history of Sweden through the prism of coins and medals.

Brenner’s collection was inherited by his widow who sold it to Walter Granger, an English merchant who worked in Stockholm, in 1721. Before his death in 1729, the new owner added a number of items – old coins and contemporary medals – to his collection. The next 40 years from the history of the collection are almost undocumented. The further history of the collection is associated with the name of the Russian mine owner from a noble and rich family of count Demidov who bought the collection and took it with him to Russia. The exact name of the acquirer was not known and the researchers lost the track of the 20,000 copper thaler worth collection for a long time. However, the ownership chain of the Swedish collection was restored based on a number of sources. Apparently, the three sons of Grigoriy Akinfievich Demidov, Alexander, Pavel, and Pyotr, bought it. The middle son, Pavel Grigorievich Demidov, became a famous scientist and a promoter of education, and the further history of Brenner’s collection is related with him.

Pavel Grigorievich Demidov (1738–1821) was a member of a famous noble family of industrialists. He was a scientist, benefactor, founder of the Demidov’s College in Yaroslavl. The State Yaroslavl University now bears his name. Thanks to Pavel Demidov the large part of Brenner’s numismatic collection was retained and replenished. In 1803–1806, Pavel Demidov donated his collection to the Coin Cabinet of the Moscow University, which later was moved to the reopened Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts (nowadays, the Pushkin State Museum), and now it constitutes the core of the Museum’s numismatic collection. In the Coin Cabinet of the Moscow University, they did not seem to take good care of the collection, as the items got mixed up and lost their attributions, moreover, few thousands new items were added to the collection during the 19th century.

The exhibition is unique because it is based on a fundamental research effort on studying the history and attribution of the coins and medals from the collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The curator of the exhibition managed to track down the history of the famous Brenner’s collection and glean the valuable information about its owners. The research team of the  Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts spent ten years studying the Museum’s numismatic collection and identified 453 items from Pavel Demidov’s collection, in which 175 coins and 54 medals originated from the collection of Elias Brenner.

About 300 items will be displayed in the exhibition. Most of them are coins, but you will also see 15 beautiful shells and corals, 10 rarity books, prints, and archival documents.

Coins and medals from the famous collection, the copies of the first and the second editions of E. Brenner’s “Thesaurus”, a catalog of W. Granger’s collection, books, shells, and corals from Pavel Demidov’s collection will be on display.

The main features of the exhibition include a very rare golden clipping – 8 marks from 1598 minted by the duke of Södermanland (1560–1604), the future king Charles IX of Sweden. The head side of this unusually shaped coin, shows a bunch of twigs, or a sheaf, a symbol of Vasa dynasty, and on the flip side of the coin there is a name of God in the rays of light.

A 10th century penning is another noteworthy item. On the head of this rare coin you can see quite a conventional but at the same time a telling image of Olof Skötkonung (995–1022), the first king of Sweden to rule over the Swedes and the Geats. He is depicted in a loose royal gown holding a scepter. Also, he is known as the first king of Sweden who started minting coins. His nickname means a “coin king” or a “tax king”.

Another interesting item from Brenner’s collection that tells about the Swedish coin history is a penning of Knut Erikson. Following the death of Olof Skötkonung’s son Anund Jacob, minting was stopped in Sweden for over 150 years and it was resumed only by Canute I of Sweden. Instead of dinars, he stamped one-sided coins on a very thin leaf of silver. These coins were of German type, they were known approximately since mid-12th century and referred to as “bracteates” in scientific literature. In this coin, you can see a very conventional image of a crowned head composed of embossed round “pearls”. This bracteate belongs to a trove of a Södermalm hill discovered in 1676. When Olof Bromelius, a doctor and collector who learned about the trove and got the ownership of it, sent the coins to Brenner he included them in his “Thesaurus”.

1 thaler of Eric XIV of Sweden (1560–1568) dating 1561 is a real piece of mint art. Thalers (that were called “dalers” in Scandinavian countries), the large silver coins, were first minted in the early 16th c. in Joachimsthal, a Bohemian city, which gave them their first name “joachimsthalers”. Only high quality silver was used for coinage therefore all thalers had a refined exterior appearance. On the head side of the thaler there is a very realistic portrait of armored Eric XIV holding a sword and an orb in his hands. The flip side is also interesting, it has a very rare image of the Order of the Saviour established by Eric XIV for his crowning in 1561.

Silver medals by Johann Carl Hedlinger from Demidov’s collection are the real masterpieces of the numismatic art. Exquisitely elaborated images are distinctive features of these medals. On the head side of the coin you can see a personified Sweden, portrayed as a women in antique clothing holding a shield with three crowns, a symbol of Sweden. At her feet lies a lion, a heraldic animal of the Swedish Kingdom. The woman leans against a pedestal with two horns of abundance lying on it with coins pouring out of them. A Bible, a sword, a caduceus, and a sickle are drawn on the pedestal to symbolize the four estates in Sweden: the clergy, the nobility, the citizens, and the peasants. On the flip side of the coin there is a realistic image of the “Bank of the Estates of the Realm”. This is a great example of an exquisitely realistic portrayal of an architectural landmark on a medal.

The exhibition “Sveonum Monumenta Vetusta. The Numismatic Collection of Elias Brenner (1647–1717) and Pavel Demidov (1738–1821)” is organized jointly with the Department of Rarity Books and Manuscripts of the Scientific Library of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the Vernadsky State Geological Museum, and the Zoological Museum of the Lomonosov Moscow State University.

A monograph with a complete catalog of the exhibits will be printed for the opening of the exhibition in Russian and in English.

Exhibition curator: Yuliya Krasnobayeva, Senior Researcher of the Numismatics Department

Museum general partner


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Жизнь и творчество Элиаса Бреннера (1647–1717)


Элиас Бреннер как нумизмат-медиевист


Pavel Demidov (1738–1821): Life for Enlightenment

This event is part of an educational program for the exhibition “Sveonum Monumenta Vetusta. The Numismatic Collection of Elias Brenner (1647–1717) and Pavel Demidov (1738–1821).”


History of the Numismatic Collection of Elias Brenner and Pavel Demidov

This event is part of an educational program for the exhibition “Sveonum Monumenta Vetusta. The Numismatic Collection of Elias Brenner (1647–1717) and Pavel Demidov (1738–1821).”


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Sveonum Monumenta Vetusta


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