One of my all time favorite museums in the world is the Israel Museum, which holds one of the largest collections of antiquities in the world, the original copy of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, outstanding modern art, and I have never visited there without seeing something amazing. This time I am going to talk about three exhibitions in three separate blogs. If you are one of my students there is something for everyone in these three postings so enjoy. The first is from a small gallery that always has a surprising gem of antiquity to share. Those of you in Art Appreciation are just starting to explore ancient art and those of you in Ancient Art History just completed your look at Greece and Rome so you will appreciate this too.
The gallery showed exquisite original Roman gold coins and in the center had a 360 degree option to look at these coins on both sides.
Coins dating 211-294 CE, the portraits are less delicate and more rugged perhaps to emphasize that these emperors were soldiers as well as rulers and some did not come from “high society” either. We even can detect variety ethnicity since most of these emperors were not of Roman or even Italian origin.
These coins date from 294-335 CE show that individual realistic portraits were replaced with a standardized one. The large faces are meant to have a pensive upward gaze that still invokes a sense of power and superiority.
3rd Century CE was a turbulent period with those seeking to seize control striking coins bearing their image and circulating them widely as an attempt to project independence. They often portrayed themselves as soldiers. Since these usurpers didn’t last their coins are very rare as not many were made.
Roman emperors also placed their family members on coins meant to convey to the empire how women were supposed to appear and behave. Sometimes they even depicted their ancestors as gods which would make them sons of gods.