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About This Artwork
Denarius (Coin) Portraying Pompey the Great, 42–40 B.C., issued by the sons of Pompey 42–40 B.C.
Diam. 2 cm; 3.95 g
OB: MAG PIVS IMP (ITER)
REV: PRAEF CLAS ET ORAE (MA) RIT
EX S C
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4851
Ancient and Byzantine Art
Not on Display
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 AS PUBLICITY
Coins were an efficient form of publicity, particularly when new rulers needed to legitimize their succession or strengthen their reputation. After Pompey’s defeat by Julius Caesar, his sons tried to revitalize their father’s reputation and thereby enhance their own stature by issuing coins with Pompey’s portrait.
—Permanent collection label
The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 155, 1994 - February 2012.
"Power Struggles: Cleopatra's Relatives and Their Rivals," Gallery 155 (Coin Case), November, 2001 - 2007.
Alexander, Karen and Mary Greuel. 1990. Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections, n.pag.(n.63).
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.