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 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.
Currently Off View
- Ancient and Byzantine Art
- Ancient Roman
- Denarius (Coin) Portraying Pompey the Great
- 42 BC–40 BC
- Obverse: MAG PIVS IMP [ITER] Reverse: PRÆF (above) CLAS.ET.ORÆ / MARIT.EX.S.C
- Diam. 2 cm; 3.95 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson