About this artwork
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. The coins were then struck, one by one, in a process similar to how modern coins are created today.
Portraits with Royal Regalia
Since few citizens actually saw their sovereign, recognizable symbols such as crowns, robes, and regalia served to identify the ruler. When Christianity became the official state religion of the Byzantine Empire, the emperors adopted Christian symbolism, most notably the cross, to stand for both the religion and the political state.
- Solidus (Coin) Portraying Heraclius and His Son Heraclius Constantine
- Byzantine Empire
- 613 AD–616 AD
- Diam. 2.1 cm; 4.41 g
- Gift of Emily Crane Chadbourne