Friday, January 16, 2009

Late Antiquity on display at the Musée national d'histoire et d'art (Luxembourg)

The MNHA's current exhibition L'or de la Moselle : Le trésor romain de Machtum, un cadeau impérial ends this week-end (Sunday 18 January, 2009). This exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the discovery of a Late Roman treasure, during dredging works in the Moselle River, between Ahn and Machtum (Luxembourg). 

Moselle River dredging ca. 1958 (© Sablières Hein S.à.r.l.)

Dispersed on the international art market immediately after its discovery, reassembling the Machtum treasure required considerable work by numismatists which is presented at the MNHA exhibition. The treasure consisted of over one hundred golden coins and medals, dated before 375 A.D., the propsed timing of the treasure's unexplained sinking in the Moselle River. 

Gold medal of emperor Gratian, 375 AD, Machtum, MNHA Luxembourg, © C. Weber

During Late Antiquity, the site where the Machtum treasure was discovered was very close to the imperial residence of Trier and 20 kilometers from the imperial villa of Konz. This proximity, and the inclusion of several very large medals in the treasure, indicate that it probably was an imperial gift, whose owner was a civilian or a military official. 

Konz, Ruines of the imperial villa (© Johannes Simon - 2004) 

Twelve treasures, comparable to that found at Machtum, are also exhibited in the Musée national d'histoire et d'art (Luxembourg) on this occasion. Dated between 272 and 476 A.D., they illustrate the phenomenon of largitio (largesse) and its varied forms during Late Antiquity. 

Missorium of Theodosius I, 388 A.D., Silver, diam. 74 cm, © Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid

Address :
Musée national d'Histoire et d'Art 
L - 2345 Luxembourg

Hours :
Tuesday - Sunday : 10:00 a.m. - 17:00 p.m. 

Bibliography : 
REINERT (François) et al., Moselgold: Der römische Schatz von Machtum. Ein kaiserliches Geschenk (Publications du Musée national d'histoire et d'art, Luxembourg ; 6), Luxembourg: MNHA, 2008, 256 p. ISBN : 978-2-87985-041-2. Price : 50 euros.