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. Whereas modern coinage is cast by pouring molten metal into molds, these coins were struck, one by one.
Portraits:Realism or Idealism
The primary purpose of portraiture was to create an accurate likeness of the subject. During the three-month rule of Otho (r. A.D. 69), he issued two coins. They show him at his real age, sixty-eight years old (not pictured here), and as a more vital younger man.
Currently Off View
- Ancient and Byzantine Art
- Ancient Roman
- Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Emperor Otho
- 69 AD
- Obverse: ΑYTOKPATωP MAPKOC OΘωN KAICAP CεBACTOC Reverse: εTOVC A (below)
- Diam. 2.8 cm; 14.51 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson