Late Roman and Byzantine Art at the Cabinet des Médailles
The Coins, Medals and Antiques Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, or the “Cabinet des Médailles”, was formed from the collection of the kings of France. From the Middle Ages onwards, Philippe Auguste, Jean le Bon, and Charles V brought together all kinds of precious and rare ancient objects: manuscripts, silverwork, engraved stones, and, undoubtedly, antique coins, referred to at that time as “medals”. From Henri IV onwards, what had been an amateur’s private collection became a “national” collection, if not a public one. As such, the Cabinet du roi can claim to be France’s oldest museum.
The Revolution provided the Cabinet with exceptional objets d’art, levied as taxes and thus saved from destruction, from the treasure-houses of Saint-Denis, the Sainte-Chapelle, and other religious institutions. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Cabinet of the “imperial” and later the “national” Library received further large donations. The most famous example is the collection of coins and antiques brought together by the Duke of Luynes and added to the Library in 1862. The Coins, Medals and Antiques Department has been based at its current premises since 1917.