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Mythological narrative art in Roman numismatics

Jenkins, Michael R 1991 , 'Mythological narrative art in Roman numismatics', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis recognizes the monoscenic mode of narrative art
(whereby an event is depicted without transgressing temporal and
spatial unity) as a legitimate method of narrative depiction and
argues that the inseparable link between the internal artistic
features of a work and its illustrative relationship to a known
story (an external reference) is that which ultimately determines
narrative art. Being the first major study of Roman numismatic
mythological types from a narrative perspective, this thesis
identifies, describes, classifies and (based on the criterion of the
perceived degree to which the viewer of a type is engaged by the
work and encouraged to respond emotionally to it), makes
assessments in regard to artistic qualities of examples of
mythological narrative coin-, medallion- and contorniate-types
struck or cast at Rome in the period from the Republic until
c.A.D. 470. In the history of numismatic production from Rome
it is found that, with two exceptions (one 'simultaneous' and one
'proto-cyclic'), no such types deviate from the monoscenic mode
of narrative expression, and that while a 'cyclic mentality' is
apparent in the planning of some minted 'series' (whereby phases
of an episode were depicted individually on separate flans), no
examples of continuous narrative can be identified. While
individually examples of numismatic mythological narrative art
are evidence for die-engravers' technical and artistic skill (either
in creating original designs or in adapting designs from
prototypes), and suggest political motivations or personal interests
in the selection of types by the minting officials or the emperors,
collectively such types reveal a hereto unnoted historical artistic
process. Whereas mythological narrative depiction on the
Republican coinage was independently developed by moneyers in
order to throw glory on their respective gentes, under the
imperial system such political messages were no longer
considered appropriate and were dispensed with. Thus innovative
mythological narrative designs disappeared during the preHadrianic
period. The regular striking of bronze medallions
under Hadrian heralded the introduction of a mature and fully
developed tradition of numismatic mythological narrative art
which, in numeric and artistic terms, reached its zenith under
Antoninus Pius. During the former's reign the issuing of the socalled
'programme series' gave emphasis to Italic myths, while
Greek traditions were further celebrated. From the reign of
Marcus Aurelius to Constantius II (when such types disappear
from the officially struck coins and medallions), the appearance
of mythological narrative types is spasmodic and
characteristically retrospective in nature (providing evidence for
the existence of a 'reference collection' of earlier dies or
'proofs'). The production of contorniates ('unofficially'
produced medallion-like objects of the late empire) witnessed a
significant revival in mythological narrative types, providing
evidence for a corrupting copying process and giving some
insight into the artistic processes occurring in the contomiate workshops.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Jenkins, Michael R
Keywords: Coins, Roman, Art, Roman, Mythology, Classical, in art, Narrative art
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1991 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1992. Includes bibliographical references

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