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About This Artwork
Coin Showing Caracalla, A.D. 204
Diam. 2.1 cm; 7.23 g
OB: ANTON P AVG PON TR P VII
"Antoninus Pius Augustus, Pontif, holding Tribunican Power for Seventh Time"
REV: VICT PART MAX
"Great Parthian Victory"
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4884
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 coins portray Caracalla (r. A.D. 211–217) as an innocent child (#14) and then as an adult (#15) who killed his brother in order to rule alone. A marble portrait of Caracalla when he was crowned prince at age ten is on display nearby (case 90).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 156, 1994 - February 2012.
Theresa Gross-Diaz, Roman Art, Museum Studies: Ancient Art at The Art Institute of Chicago 20, no. 1 (1994), pp. 76-77 (ill.), no. 56.
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.