About This Artwork

Byzantine, minted in Constantinople

Solidus (Coin) of Leo V, AD 813–820

Diam. 1.8 cm; 4.46 g

Gift of Emily Crane Chadbourne, 1940.22

The imagery of Byzantine coins, as well as their use—or not—of religious imagery, reflects the different attitudes toward representation of divine figures as a result of the Iconoclastic (from the Greek eikon, or image, and klao, to break) Controversy, a fierce debate among Byzantine theologians over the appropriate role of images in religious worship that raged in Byzantium for over 100 years from about 730 to 843.

On both sides of his coin, Leo V (r. 813–20) holds a small cross. Christian imagery is downplayed, not surprising given the emperor’s stance as a staunch opponent of the use of images in religious worship.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Karen B. Alexander, "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 (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012), p. 29.

Larry J. Feinberg, Suzanne Folds McCullagh, Christina M. Nielsen, “Western Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic World,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 30, 2 (2004), pp. 22-23, cat. 4.

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