University of Tasmania
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Mythological narrative art in Roman numismatics

posted on 2023-05-26, 21:11 authored by Jenkins, Michael R
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.


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

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