Recreating coin portraits at the Grosvenor museum

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An exhibition of coins from the vaults of the Grosvenor Museum opens on the 23rd July.

“Minted: Making Money and Meaning” will draw upon the museums vast collection of coins, tokens and paper money. The exhibition will chart the history  of people’s interaction with wealth, and documents political issues, cultural attachments and even fashion.. Visitors will be able to find out about how money was made, how it was used by those who created it, and what it meant to the people who owned it. One section will focus on propaganda as Liz Royles of the museum explained when we went behind the scenes at the museum:

“In the past Kings and Queens subjects would only ever see the image of their ruler on a coin. They could basically put whatever messages on that they wanted. ” Rulers would use the portraits on coins to create images of power, strength or beauty.

“We wanted to recreate modern coin portraits to see if the same messages carried across. That was their official image, there was a lot of artistic license, you could pretty much put whatever you wanted on the coins. ”

12 coins have been selected  including images of Queen Mary, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II and others.  Photographer Kat Hannon appealed via social media for models to be styled as the respective rulers. The models were then styled by  hair and make up artist Louise O Callaghan.

“Do you want a serious look ?” says volunteer Keith



Kat photographed  the 12 portraits over 2 days, with models wearing grey and against a grey background “keeping all the tones nice and simple, so the features stand out. ” The portraits will then be printed onto circular board and displayed near the original coins so people can compare them.


Volunteer Keith as the  Roman Emperor Diocletian

Hair and make up artist Louise  said that some of the portraits had been quite tricky due to the range of styles and periods. “I got Kat to show me the models and which coin was going with each particular coin. We had to work out what their hair texture was like … We have used a few hair pieces , and its worked quite well!”

Joanne Davies was styled as Queen Mary and said that she “loved being a Queen if only for a little while!”

The museum lecture theatre as makeshift make up and photo studio

Welsh student Harrison, who was spotted busking on the streets of Chester was styled as Anglo Saxon ruler Aethelred.

Harrison as Aethelred

You can see the full range of portraits at the exhibition which runs from the 23rd July to the 16 October.

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