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About This Artwork
Coin Showing the Emperor Nero, A.D. 57–58
Diam. 1.9 cm; 7.70 g
OB:NERO CAESAR AVG IMP
REV: PONTIF MAX TR P IIII P P
EX S C
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4862
The purpose of the first portrait coins was to identify the ruler. The front side became a mirror of the sovereign’s self-image. The back was often used to communicate the ruler’s accomplishments or intentions. The profile portrait was used because it suited the very shallow depth and limited surface of the coin. The tiny images were carved by engravers into bronze dies, one for the front and another for the back. Whereas modern coinage is cast by pouring molten metal into molds, these coins were struck, one by one. PORTRAITS: REALISM OR IDEALISM The primary purpose of portraiture was to create an accurate likeness of the subject. These three coins show, in painful detail, the gradual disintegration of the mental and physical health of the emperor Nero (r. A.D. 54–68).
"Ruling Families" 1997 -2001
Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago. vol. 72, no. 5, September-October, 1978, p.2.
Alexander, Karen B. 2012. "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago." in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester, p.29. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press.