The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the emergence of an early form of capitalism in Northern Europe. The first purpose-built financial exchange was the Nieuwe Bourse in Antwerp. London’s Royal Exchange was modelled on it. But trade was also carried out in less public and more intimate spaces.

The new mercantile culture generated new values, and new ways of representing these. Money acquired not only a new visibility in everyday life but also an equivocal status: it was at once metal and metaphor, visible and invisible, a token of knowledge and an object with unknowable properties. A rich iconography registers this explosion of practices and meanings across several genres of art, and locates economic knowledge in both expected and surprising spaces, in actual as well as allegorical sites.