About This Artwork

Roman, minted in Rome

Denarius (Coin) Portraying Plautilla, AD 202/05, issued by Septimius Severus

Diam. 1.9 cm; 3.62 g
"Empress Plautilla"
"Eternal Concord"

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4886

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.

—Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Theresa Gross-Diaz, “Cat. 60 Denarius Portraying Plautilla: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

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.

Karen Alexander and Mary Greuel, Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections (Art Institute of Chicago, 1990), n. pag. (n. 55).

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