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About This Artwork
Aureus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Nero, December AD 67/December AD 68, issued by Nero
Diam. 1.8 cm; 7.31 g
Obverse: [IMP N]ERO CAESAR AVG PP
Reverse: IVPPITER CVSTOS
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4863
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
This work appears in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring art historical essays and conservation reports on artworks from the ancient Roman world in the Art Institute’s collection. Entries include new high-resolution photography, stunning 360-degree views of the works, and in-depth technical imaging and analysis. The volume is free to the public.
"Ruling Familes" - 1997-2001
Theresa Gross-Diaz, “Cats. 40-41 Two Coins Portraying Emperor Nero: 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.