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Note from the Curator

Coinage and sculpture have always existed in dialogue with one another, although this has been little explored, with a dichotomy between numismatists and art historians persisting for centuries. In the Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson Gallery of Ancient Art, an array of carefully selected coins are on display alongside works of sculpture, allowing visitors to closely examine the intimate relationship between these two types of objects from the ancient world. The selection highlights examples of imperial portraiture.

Unique in the world is the pairing of a sculpture and a coin depicting the Hellenistic king of Egypt Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II (ca. A.D. 116–182). The identification of the marble sculpture was based on its resemblance to the portrait on the six surviving coins issued by the king, including the one on display. Similarly, the imagery and inscriptions on a gold coin minted in A.D. 147–48 facilitated the identification of a marble bust as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121–180). This sculpture and coin, along with comparable examples depicting Marcus Aurelius’s son, the future emperor Commodus (A.D. 161–192), are discussed in greater detail in the Gallery’s audio guide. Also on display are portraits of the Roman emperor Caligula (A.D. 12–41) and the Roman empress Julia Domna (ca. A.D. 170–217) across coinage and sculpture.

Benjamin Dieter R. Hellings

The Jackson-Tomasko Associate Curator of Numismatics

A display of coinage and sculpture in the Isabel B.
and Wallace S. Wilson Gallery of Ancient Art