While journeying through “Medieval Money, Merchants, and Morality” at the Morgan Library, take care not to fall at the first hurdle. Just inside the exhibition entrance is a glinting pile of coins from a late-fourteenth-century hoard found in Chalkis, Greece. These torneselli, forged from copper-silver alloy and stamped with the lion of St. Mark, were used for everyday transactions in the Republic of Venice’s Greek colonies.

After admiring the seductive shimmer of this loose change, visitors will encounter a quote on a nearby wall panel from Petrarch’s Remedies and Fortune Fair and Foul (1360): “The shape of money is noxious, its glitter poisonous and destructive. Like a golden serpent it delights with shiny scales, pleases the eye and strikes the soul.” Touché, Francesco. (The poet, a passionate...


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