View from a Bridge (2012)

Money does not make you happy but it quiets the nerves.’

Thus Seán O’Casey showed his respect for financial security even in the midst of his artistic endeavours. The lack of it plagued his own childhood and those of most of the children of the docklands at that time. It might please him that from his namesake bridge you could now skim a stone across the Liffey and hit Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre, where money is at the heart of everything they do. Not the British pound of O’Casey’s time but the Euro, a currency shared by seventeen other European countries. The Euro came into circulation in 2002, having been a virtual currency since 1999. The coins are specific to each member country having a map of Europe on one side and in the case of Ireland a harp symbol on the obverse.

In contrast, the seven denominations of notes are common to all countries. Each note is distinctive in size and colour but share a theme of bridges representing various eras of European architecture on the reverse. Inspired by actual European bridges, the representations are a symbol of communication within Europe and with the rest of the world.

Fifth century classical architecture is represented on the €5 note. The three tiered stone bridge depicted is thought to be the Pont du Gard in southern France, a 1st century aqueduct built by the Romans. The semi circular arches on the €10 note are typical of the high Middle Ages being Romanesque or Norman in style while the later Gothic style with the distinctive pointed arch bridge is shown on the €20 note. Renaissance order and symmetry, an architectural style of the 15th to 17th centuries is portrayed on the €50 note. Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries a lighter and more elegant bridge architecture developed, embellished grandiosely in its latter times. Distinguished by the use of the oval shaped arch, this baroque and rococo period is depicted on the €100 note.

The use of iron and glass in the art nouveau way of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is seen on the €200 note and the bridge image on the €500 note is a very modern construction, marrying the simplification and design of the modern period with the advances made in technology.

Seán O’Casey suffered poor eyesight from childhood and didn’t learn to read until he taught himself in his teenage years, little being proffered to those with any disability at the time. The denominations of Euro notes are in slightly raised printing which along with the differing sizes, colours and other tactile features allows the visually impaired to distinguish between notes. Very fitting indeed.

by Annette Black, Wicklow
Published on 30th August 2013