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About This Artwork
Solidus (Coin) of Honorius, A.D. 405
Diam. 2.1 cm; 4.39 g
OB: D N HONORIVS P F AVG
REV: VICTORIA AVGGG
(in exergue: RIV COMOB)
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4906
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.
Coins were an excellent way for leaders to advertise their victories whether in battle or at the Olympic Games. Rather than defending the Roman Empire, the emperor Honorius (r. A.D. 394–423) lived to see Italy overrun by Visigoths led by King Alaric, who virtually ended the rule of Rome.
—Permanent collection label
The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 155, April 20, 1994 - February 22, 2004 and May 16, 2004 - February 6, 2012.
"Coin Production in Ancient World" 1994-1997
Houston, TX, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston"The Centaur’s Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art" 22 February – 16 May 2004.
Louise Berge and Karen Alexander. 1985. "Ancient Gold Work and Jewelry from Chicago Collections." The Ancient World. Vol. 11, nos. 1 and 2, p. 22.
Karen Alexander and Mary Greuel. Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections, (1990), n.pag.(n.61).
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.