In addition to coins and seals, the Barber Institute Coin Room also houses a small selection of paranumismatica (things like or associated with coins). These provide useful teaching aids and in some cases supplement a historical understanding of coins by providing information about their creation and use in markets. In particular, the Coin Room houses … Read more


In AD 622 the Prophet Muhammad led a community from the city of Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula to the city of Medina. This date has come to form the beginning of the Muslim calendar as it represents the first founding of a community based on belief in Muhammad’s teachings and the revelation of the … Read more

Eastern Medieval

The Barber collection has significant strengths in eastern medieval coinage, including some unique examples of early Arab-Byzantine issues, a large selection of Sasanian coinage, extensive holdings of Turkmen coins and a range of Georgian and Armenian coinage. Elements of this collection are the focus of the 2013-14 numismatic exhibition Faith and Fortune: visualizing the divine … Read more

Late Byzantine

For images of the coins mentioned below, see the gallery to the right of this page. In 1092, the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118) reformed the Byzantine gold coinage to reverse the debasement which had been progressing through the eleventh century. This can be considered as the beginning of Late Byzantine coinage. The concave shape … Read more

Middle Byzantine

For images of the coins mentioned below, see the gallery to the right of this page. Around the year 830, the Emperor Theophilos (829-842) reformed the Byzantine coinage again, removing the now redundant denominational marks, which, while relevant in the sixth and early seventh centuries, had been reduced simply to the follis by the early ninth … Read more

Early Byzantine

For images of the coins mentioned below, see the gallery to the right of this page. Following the monetary reforms of Anastasius I (491-517) in 498, the Byzantine monetary system reached the height of its complexity in the sixth century. Several mints in cities across the Empire struck coins of gold, silver and base metal (copper … Read more

Byzantine Coins

The single largest section of the Barber Institute’s coin collection comprises its Byzantine coins. The most important collection of Byzantine coins in Europe, the Barber Institute houses examples of all periods of Byzantine monetary history and a number of rare specimens. Around 8,000 of the Barber’s 16,000 coins are Byzantine. The Byzantine Empire is the … Read more


Aeneas was one of the legendary founders of Rome (as well as Romulus and Remus in a different legend), whose story is most famously immortalised in Virgil’s Aeneid. As well as a founder of Rome, Aeneas was believed a son of Venus-Aphrodite, a survivor of the Trojan war, the lover of the African Queen Dido, and the … Read more

Roman Coins

The Barber Institute has a significant collection of Roman coins, including both republican and imperial issues, as well as a substantial number of Roman Egyptian tetradrachms. The Barber’s Roman coins total just over 5,000, out of the 16,000-strong collection. Roman coins are considered to continue until the reforms of Anastasius I (491-517) in 498, whereafter the … Read more

Byzantine Seals

In the Byzantine Empire seals were used, especially from the seventh century, though they had also been used in the Roman world, to verify that documents came from their official sender and to prove that they had not been opened or tampered with. They were an early form of document security and an important way … Read more

Hellenistic Coins

The Barber Institute collection of Hellenistic coins is small but contains some fine specimens of early Greek coins, the earliest examples of ancient western coinage. It also contains some of the most beautiful and finely struck examples of Greek royal coinage. The reign of Alexander the Great provides a valuable case study of the powerful … Read more

The Edgar Guest Collection of Hungarian Coinage

In April 2004, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts was given a comprehensive collection of rare Hungarian and Transylvanian coins by Edgar Guest, an alumnus of the University of Birmingham. Mr Guest has painstakingly collected numismatic issues from nearly every Hungarian ruler of the last millennium. Mr Guest also generously donated his extensive collection of … Read more


In addition to its world-class medieval coin collection and impressive selection of Roman coins, the Barber Institute Coin Room also houses various selections of modern coins, a small range of Hellenistic coinage and a small but significant collection of Byzantine lead seals. Some of these have resulted from generous donations. Others form part of the … Read more

History of the Coin Collection

In 1967 the Trustees supplemented the Barber’s magnificent works of art by acquiring over 15,000 coins from Philip Whitting and Geoffrey Haines, two distinguished collectors and numismatists. Philip Whitting had taught at the University of Birmingham (where he now has the main Byzantine Studies seminar room named after him) and so decided to donate his … Read more


A feminist re-interpretation of fairytale Little Red Riding Hood, the urban landscape, and the relationships between people and their environment and between art and medical science are among the many diverse subjects and themes explored by emerging artists in this year’s New Art West Midlands. Created in as wide a range of media – including … Read more


British Portrait Miniatures of Children and Families The family – and how its members are depicted on portrait miniatures – is the theme of this display of outstanding small British (and one French) masterpieces from two important English private collections. Complementing the exhibition Ruby’s Room, it includes delightful and intimate little portraits of children, brothers, … Read more


Photographic Miniatures by Bettina von Zwehl An intriguing eye miniature in the collection of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, was the starting point for this series of recent work by renowned contemporary photographer Bettina von Zwehl (b. 1971). While  producing a series of works inspired by historic painted portrait miniatures in the V&A and Bath’s … Read more

Pieter-Anton von Verschaffelt (1710-1793)

A Rhinoceros called ‘Miss Clara’ (1738-1758) Bronze, Model and Cast: Mannheim, Germany, about 1750-60 24.5 x 46.7 x 15 cm Plinth: 4 x 33 x 7.5 cm An enterprising Dutch sea captain, Douwe Mout van der Meer (1705-?), brought a young Indian rhinoceros to the Netherlands in 1741 and then toured her extensively across Europe. … Read more

Louis-Francois Roubiliac (1702 – 1762)

Bust of Alexander Pope (1688-1744) London, about 1738 Terracotta 62.1 x 41 x 22 cm Plinth: 14.3 x 20.8 x 20.9 cm This magnificent terracotta bust was probably the life model for several other versions, including a marble dated 1738 (Leeds). Pope was the greatest poet and critic of his day, celebrated for works including the … Read more

EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

Dancer ready to dance, the right foot forward Paris, Model: about 1885-90; Cast: 1919-21 Bronze 56.5 x 32.2 x 21.5 cm This figure is one of more than 30 studies made of ballerinas by Degas, his favourite subject matter. The pose suggests a ballerina in class or on the stage, and was probably inspired by dancers … Read more

The Collection

The Barber Institute contains one of the finest small collections of European art in the UK. The works have been purchased to fit Lady Barber’s criteria that everything should be of ‘that standard of quality required by the National Gallery or Wallace Collection’. Careful consideration has also been given to making sure that the works … Read more


Visualising the divine on Byzantine and Early Islamic Coinage Epochal moments in the early histories of two of the world’s great religions – as illustrated by the currencies their followers created and circulated – are explored in this absorbing exhibition. Coins have always provided a stage on which the dramas of religion and politics, statehood … Read more


French Prints of the Late 19th Century The 19th century was a period of immense social and artistic foment in France and throughout Europe, and this display, themed to coincide with the exciting loan to the gallery of Manet’s masterpiece Portrait of Madamoiselle Claus, explores the contrasts and conflicts of the period. Using a selection … Read more

First Impressions

Early Acquisitions of Prints for the Barber Collection The Barber Institute’s collection of works on paper is famed for its exemplary quality, due in no small part to the acquisitions of its first Director, Professor Thomas Bodkin. This display focuses on the prints purchased for the collection in 1939, the year the Barber Institute opened, … Read more

John Monks

The Process of Painting One of the most important painters working in Britain today, London-based John Monks is as much influenced by historical art and the interiors of galleries and historic buildings as he is by the work of contemporary artists. This set of captivating paintings – large canvases that include a triptych specially created … Read more


New Electroacoustic Music inspired by Art Three of the Barber Institute’s best-loved paintings – as you’ve never heard them before! In this exciting sound installation, a collaboration with the University’s Department of Music, three postgraduate composers were commissioned to create new short electroacoustic pieces, inspired by works in the Barber collection. They chose three very different pictures … Read more


Portraiture Highly original and arresting angles on the theme of portraiture feature in this display of work by emerging photographic talent from Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Birmingham City University. In the fourth of an annual selective award collaboration, students were challenged to produce their own responses to the theme that has been central … Read more


Early Acquisitions of Drawings for the Barber Collection The first works acquired for the Barber in July 1936 were drawings, their subtlety appealing to the Barber’s First Director, Thomas Bodkin, who wrote: ‘Drawings evoke rather than compel emotion; they whisper rather than call to the spectator’. Those early purchases comprised important examples by Fra Bartolommeo, … Read more


20th-Century Portrait Drawings From formal commissions to intimate sketches of friends and lovers, Defining Faces focuses on portraiture in a century that witnessed radical changes in artistic style. The exhibition – the second in a prestigious collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, London – examines the function of, and the variety of approaches to the … Read more


The great English architect and designer AWN Pugin passionately promoted the Gothic style.  He was inspired, among others, by Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), widely recognized as the greatest German Renaissance artist. As part of the Birmingham-wide celebration of the bicentenary of Pugin’s birth, this display will showcase the eight prints and single drawing by … Read more