World Coins

Market Analysis: Curly-hair and a beard on Hadrian portrait

A bearded, curly-haired Hadrian is seen on this gold aureus struck in Rome around 120 while the reverse shows Jupiter in a naturalistic contrapposto pose.

Images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group

Roman Emperor Hadrian, 117 to 138, is seen on this gold aureus struck in Rome circa 119 to mid-120 that was sold at Classical Numismatic Group’s Sept. 16 to 17 Feature Auction 115.

The obverse shows the emperor looking left, laureate, draped and cuirassed (wearing armor). The reverse depicts Jupiter, naked, standing facing, one knee slightly bent, holding thunderbolt downward in right hand and vertical scepter in the left hand. It’s an example of contrapposto, the Italian term that is used to describe the human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot, considered a naturalistic and relaxed way to depict the human form.

Hadrian ruled over a large empire from Britain to Persia, and marble portraits of him are frequently found as Hadrian traveled widely and citizens erected statues and depictions in his honor. He admired the Greeks and wore a beard, in contrast with previous Roman emperors who were depicted clean-shaven. Portraits of him often show him with luxurious curls that frame his face.

The coin, described as Good Very Fine, sold for $6,000.

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