Paper Money

'Virtuous Money' exhibit features art of Brazilian currency engraver

Dinheiro Virtuoso, or Virtuous Money, is the title of Brazilian currency engraver J. Bosco Renaud’s upcoming solo exhibition of imaginary bank notes. The exhibition is curated by a fellow Brazilian artist, Ricardo Ribenboim.

It was described in a lengthy story on the artist, known as Bosco, by Cynthia Garcia writing in Newcity Brasil.

The exhibit has some eye-catching pieces, perhaps none more so than a U.S. $100 representation, based on a 100 Swiss Franc note design, with the bust of famed gangster Al Capone in place of Ben Franklin, and a bullet hole replacing the see-through window found on much modern currency. Below the hole and above Bosco’s signature it says, “Transfer a Little Bit of Your Love for Money to People.” The bill also has a hologram in which Capone winks when it is moved.

The legend on the back of the note reads “In Gold We Trust.”

Another mock U.S. example is a $0 Federal Reserve note with Uncle Sam on the face and the Gold Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on the back. One of the seals is that of the Rio de Janeiro Federal Reserve Bank branch (which does not exist).

One of the artist’s personal favorites is based on a Swiss 100-franc note but is jointly attributed to the Banque Nationale Suisse and the fictitious Carioca Multi Bank. It features a portrait of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, with his face composed of coins, a clock in the middle of his forehead, and a lozenge holograph. In the upper left corner is a scene that, instead of showing Giacometti sculpting, Bosco says, shows the sculptor counting money, as a statement against corporations. The watermark is of the promenade at Rio’s Copacabana Beach. A total 10 of this specific piece are printed, each serially-numbered.

Among his creations, Bosco’s 100-neuro note, unlike real euro currency, depicts a real bridge, Venice’s Bridge of Sighs.

And on another piece, for the face value, a Brazilian note sports 100 irreais, or 100 unreals.

Irreverent and well trained

Despite his irreverence, Bosco is a serious intaglio engraver. He started at the Casa da Moeda do Brasil in Rio at age 16 when he won the first place in the civil service exams. He was an apprentice for six months, learning that the “tools become extensions of your hands and fingers.”

At 21 he moved to Rome to study numismatics at La Zecca, Italy’s National Mint and Printing House, where he learned all the processes of bank note production from security paper to intaglio. Two years later he went to Stockholm to study with Czesław Słania, Sweden’s chief engraver and an old mentor he first met Rio. There he learned how to produce stamps and portraits applying his personal technique of intaglio engraving.

He returned to Brazil in 1978 where he worked on the development of a new series of bank notes, and in 1990 relocated to Crane Currency in Massachusetts for two years. There he says, he developed portrait drawings for the watermark of American dollar bills and for the Mexican passport, the Mexican 100-peso note, and for other countries, including Colombia and Thailand.

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