Object of the month

Belgium’s founding fathers of €urope

Since 1 January 2002, Belgium has been using a common currency now shared by eighteen other countries: the euro. The historical event marked by that date is an integral part of the history of European integration. It is thanks to the will of a few forward-looking statesmen from different countries with visions of peace and unity that the idea of a European Union could be taken forward to actually become a reality and ultimately lead to the single currency. In this month’s “Spotlight”, we take a closer look at Belgian figureheads who have played key roles – to a greater or lesser extent – in both the process of European integration and the establishment of the euro.

Portraying the fatherland

In 1869, nearly 20 years after its foundation, the National Bank of Belgium first saw big-themed bank notes roll off the presses. Their recognition value to the general populace and the level of detail put in by their creators quickly turned these drawings into a key weapon in combating forgery. The iconography also had a symbolic, nation-building purpose, and in Belgium its allegories and images typically captured the aspirations and successes of the nation state. This ‘In the Spotlight’ provides a snapshot of the way in which the National Bank has portrayed the fatherland on its franc banknotes over time.

Money That Goes Up In Smoke

Since being discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, tobacco has become a significant feature of our society. While its detrimental effects on health are now well-known, it was initially regarded as a medicine before becoming a symbol of freedom and a life style represented, for example, by the famous Marlboro cowboy. What many people don’t know is that tobacco was used as a means of payment at various times in history ….

Marcel Rau: a versatile artist

Walking from Brussels Central Station to the National Bank of Belgium’s Temporary Museum, you can’t fail to notice round sculptures dotting the walls on both sides of the National Bank of Belgium’s head offices. Depicting a variety of occupations, these sculpted roundels are the work of Marcel Rau, the artist tasked with the decorative aspect of the new premises built after the Second World War.

Money can’t buy happiness

A display case in Room 3 of the National Bank’s Temporary Museum contains a small painting depicting a wealthy man frightened by a skeleton playing a musical instrument. Nearby you can see an emergency banknote featuring skeletons dancing. What was the reason for depicting such macabre scenes on banknotes, and what is the connection between the painting and money? Find out in this edition of “Spotlight”!

This way to the money. Come and see the banking hall at the National Bank

Have you ever had occasion to enter the imposing banking hall at the National Bank of Belgium? Do you know what it looks like and the reasons why ordinary people go there? You go in via the main NBB entrance just a few steps away from the Temporary Museum. The time has come to devote this new edition of Spotlight to the banking hall.

Money and its traditions

According to tradition, 2 February is Candlemas Day, a festival widely celebrated in Belgium. What connection can there be between a Museum on the subject of money and pancakes? Quite simply, the traditions relating to money. This month’s object focuses on the various traditions and folklores surrounding the use of money.

Pointillism in the digital era: Robert Silvers’ photomosaic

Anyone who has visited the Temporary Museum must have noticed a gigantic 500-euro banknote there. This banknote appeals to one’s imagination, as it measures 1.20 metres in height and 2.30 metres in width. When standing closer, you can see that it consists of thousands of other banknotes.

There’s a cow in the museum!

After all the banknotes and coins on display at the National Bank of Belgium’s Temporary Museum, in the fifth room a large cow makes a sudden appearance. But just what is this animal doing here?

Draw me a banknote!

Nowadays, it is the design that makes up the best part of our paper money. But what exactly is hidden behind the design of banknotes? On the basis of what criteria were artists or graphic designers selected and what did their work involve? Let’s try and find some answers to these questions in this Object of the Month…