Sunday, November 27, 2011

To the pyramid of Cestius please !

There is no such thing as coincidence
In my previous post I portrayed the Romans as Egyptomaniacs. While doing some research for that article I found out about the pyramid that was built in Rome as a tomb for Caius Cestius. Shortly after the post was published, I continued reading the Women in Finance exhibition catalogue. To my big surprise, the catalogue showed that pyramid depicted on a share certificate. Well, some people say that coincidence does not exist. Wow !

S.A. per il Servizio Delle Automobili da Piazza in Roma e Altrove
Share of 100 Lire, Rome 1908

image source Wertpapierwelt, Olten
The share was issued by the Italian Public-Auto company in 1908. Lovely designed in Stile Liberty, the Italian version of Art Nouveau,  the shares of this public transport company show two of the attractions in Rome that every tourist was supposed to see : the Castel Sant'Angelo and the Pyramid of Cestius.

Piramide Cestia
We already know the pyramid was built as a tomb for the Roman Caius Cestius, a Roman magistrate. It was built around 12 BC outside the city walls. It measures almost 30 m square at the base and is 37 m high. Like many ancient Egyptian pyramids, also this one was already plundered in Antiquity. In the year 270 the Vandals and the Juthungi, Germanic tribes, invaded northern Italy. The Roman emperor Aurelian responded with the construction of the Aurelian Walls, a 19 km long line of defensive walls around the city. In order to save expenses and speed up the completion existing buildings were incorporated into the structure. The Cestius pyramid was one of these and that explains largely why it is one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in Rome.

In the Middle Ages, people forgot about the origins of the pyramid. Overgrown with vegetation, the citizens of Rome believed it to be the tomb of Remus.  Between 1660-1662 Pope Alexander VII ordered the excavation of the pyramid upon which the ancient Roman inscriptions were rediscovered. The pope would later order Bernini to create an obelisk for him.

Today, Cestius pyramid is more than 2000 years old. It is located near the Porta Ostiensis, perhaps these days better known as the Porta San Paolo. Clearly Cestius wanted to be commemorated forever. I'm pretty sure that he'd loved to know about this remarkable piece of scripophily.


Reference link : Wikipedia's Pyramid of Cestius

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Doctor's diagnosis : Egyptomania

Which definition is most applicable to you?
  1. Mania : an excessively interest, enthusiasm, or longing; a craze
  2. Egyptomania : the fascination with ancient Egypt
  3. Egyptology : the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, and art
As far as we know today, the oldest hieroglyphs, the writing system of
the ancient Egyptians, date from more than 5200 years ago (3200 BCE).

Egyptomania existed in Antiquity
Actually you are wrong if you think that Egyptomania is a modern phenomenon.  The Romans were Egyptomaniacs, at least a part of them. When their legions came home back from Egypt after long field marches and a voyage on a hot Mediterranean, they shipped most of Egypt's obelisks to Rome. Emperor Constantius II decorated the Circus Maximus with an obelisk. Wealthy Romans ordered the production of obelisks as replicas of the originals. These were manufactured in Egypt and even in Rome. It is known that the Romans held Egyptian costume parties: always a fun thing to do. Some of their villas were decorated with mosaics of Nile sceneries. Caius Cestius, a Roman magistrate even let built his own tomb in the shape of a pyramid. He incorporated his pyramid into the city walls of Rome close to the Porta Ostiensis.
Action Ordinaire, 1899, Bruxelles
Société Belge-Egyptienne de L'Ezbékieh
Printed by Lithog. du "Messager de Bruxelles"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Uncharted - Belgian artist Posch

Many Belgian shares and bonds issued at the end of the 19th century are beautifully designed by the artist Charles Posch. I believe there is no other artist in the world that has been as productive in the field of securities.  His artwork is often signed with C. Posch or Ch. Posch.

Nevertheless Posch remains a mystery because I simply can not find any information about him or his work. Regrettable !

Who can provide some information about Charles Posch ?

View on the city of Vienna  (seen from the Belvedere? )
Signature of C. Posch in the lower right corner.
Double-click to enlarge.

Compagnie des Eaux de Vienne
4.5% Obligation de 500 Francs, 1895
Design by Posch
Printed by Lithographie de la Cote Libre, Bruxelles
Double-click to enlarge