Featured Faustina Friday – The Most Talented Die-Engraver in Rome!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Mar 5, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Let's see your coins of Faustina you consider to be of "fine style"!

    I have a handful of denarii in my collection whose portraits are quite likely to have been carved by the same die-engraver. This die engraver was clearly a master and his portraits are of a particularly fine style. I have identified the following characteristics of his work:

    His portraits clearly portray Faustina wearing a stola fastened at the shoulder with a looped-shaped fibula and a palla over her stola. Unlike the situation with Julia Domna, where the loop-shaped fibula is a characteristic of the "Laodicea mint," the presence of such a design element on the coins of Faustina is not a regular feature, nor is it indicative of a particular mint. Similarly, the stola is not usually so clearly distinguished from the palla on Faustina's coinage and her portraits typically show only the palla or just the barest hint of a stola underneath. If you are unfamiliar with these particular garments, I refer you to an article I have previously written about Roman women's clothing.

    The coins depict the empress with her second hairstyle under Marcus Aurelius, from AD 161 to c. 166.* This is characterized by a frame of waves bordering her face and rows of more or less wavy hair pulled back into a chignon low on the back of her head at the nape of the neck. Coins of all engravers during this period depict the empress' hairstyle in this way; however, features characteristic of this die-engraver include prominent wisps of hair across the cheek in front of the ear, as well as below the ear on the nape of the neck. In addition, he may have adorned the empress' ears with earrings.

    Here are two coins I'm convinced are by the same hand:

    Faustina Jr HILARITAS denarius.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.40 g, 17.4 mm, 5 h.
    Rome, AD 161-164.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed bust of Faustina II, draped, right.
    Rev: HILARITAS, Hilaritas standing left, holding long palm-branch in right hand and cornucopia in left hand.
    Refs: RIC 686; BMCRE 100; RSC 111; RCV 5254; CRE 182.

    Faustina Jr IVNO denarius diademed.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.01 g, 19.6 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, AD 161-164.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust of Faustina II, right, wearing stephane.
    Rev: IVNO, Juno standing left, holding patera and scepter; peacock at feet.
    Refs: RIC 688 var. (stephane); BMCRE 109; RSC 120b; RCV 5255 var. (stephane); CRE 189.

    And possibly this one, too:

    Faustina Jr SALVS standing denarius.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.20 g, 17.6 mm, 6 h.
    Rome, AD 165- c.166.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: SALVS, Salus standing left, feeding snake rising from an altar and holding scepter.
    Refs: RIC 715; BMCRE 141-145; RSC 197; RCV 5261; CRE 214.

    For comparison, see these coins engraved by different artists of varying degrees of skill.

    Faustina Jr IVNO denarius diademed LAC.jpg
    BMCRE 109, London Ancient Coins, Auction 42, lot 408, 1 April, 2015.

    BMCRE 142, British Museum specimen.

    Faustina Jr IVNO seated denarius.jpg
    BMCRE 112-15; my own collection.

    Lastly, based upon the treatment of the stola and fibula, and upon the details of the hair, the shape of the empress’ nose and chin, and general excellence of workmanship, I think this coin with her final hairstyle (c. AD 170-175)* may also be a product of this talented die-engraver:

    Faustina Jr IVNO denarius.jpg
    Faustina Jr, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR Denarius, 3.54 g, 18.4 mm, 6 h.
    Rome, AD 170-175.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: IVNO, Juno, veiled, draped, standing left, holding patera in extended right hand and scepter in left hand; at left, peacock.
    Refs: RIC 688; BMC 105; Cohen 120; RCV 5255; CRE 190.

    And possibly this one, too:

    Faustina Jr MATRI MAGNAE denarius.jpg
    Faustina II, AD 147-175.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.20 g, 17.7 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, c. AD 174-175.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: MATRI MAGNAE, Cybele seated left holding branch in right hand, resting left arm on drum; at her side, lion.
    Refs: RIC 706; BMCRE 134; Cohen 192; RCV 5281; MIR 26; CRE 173.


    *Szaivert (MIR, p. 231) notes that the end of the phase using this hairstyle is uncertain and suggests a possible break in the issuing of coins for Faustina, perhaps of several years, between this phase and the period characterized by her final hairstyle. The fact that no reverses struck for Faustina appear to celebrate the elevation of her sons, Commodus and Annius Verus, to the rank of Caesar in 166, or the birth of a last daughter in 169, suggests that the issuing of coins for Faustina may have ceased in 166 and did not resume until possibly 170. However useful Szaivert’s dating scheme may be, it’s important to note that it is tentative. Many reverse-types appear with multiple hairstyles, indicating continuous or repeated issue, and might have been in use simultaneously at times.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2021
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  3. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member

    Couple of my junior Faustina, although too worn to pick out any nuances :(
  4. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I'm not sure if I'd consider the portrait on my Faustina denarius below fine style, but I do think the reverse is better executed than most... except that the engraver seems to have forgotten about Ceres's torch!

    Faustina II - Den Ceres ex Meisner 3073.jpg FAUSTINA II
    AR Denarius. 3.4g, 19.5mm. Rome mint, AD 161-164. RIC 669 (Aurelius). O: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right, hair pulled back and tied in bun behind neck. R: CERES, Ceres seated left on chest, holding grain ears in extended right hand [and short torch cradled in left arm].
    Ex Cardinal Joachim Meisner Collection

    For portraits, this one is my favorite.

    faustina jr pudicitia400.jpg
    AE Dupondius. 11.56g, 26.7mm. Rome mint, AD 147-150. RIC III 1403 (Pius); BMCRE 1086; Cohen 179. O: FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, diademed and draped bust right. R: PVDICITIA, Pudicitia standing left, holding out cloak in both hands; S-C in fields.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Probably not an oversight!! After seeing a bronze with this same design and reading the dealer's caveat that the coin had been smoothed, I initially thought the coin had been a victim of tooling and smoothing. See here. But then other CTers came to the rescue and found additional examples of the coin!!

    Because all of these coins were die-matches ... we thought it was the result of a single die-engraver forgetting to add the torch.

    But we're apparently all wrong because now you've found a denarius with the same reverse type as the bronze without the torch!!! This reverse variant must have been purposeful!

    Here are the bronzes with this reverse type identified by the contributors to that thread:

    Kunker sale:


    The Jose Herrero specimen:


    The Soler y Llach specimen is a DOUBLE die match to the OP (Kunker) specimen.


    Fascinating stuff!
  6. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Interesting! However, it seems to me that on the sestertii her left arm is held close to her body, whereas on my denarius she holds it further away, as if she were meant to cradle the absent torch?
  7. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..roses are red violets are blue..mines a bit worn, but he might've done it too :D Faustina jr. denarius 002.JPG Faustina jr. denarius 003.JPG
  8. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Thanks for another Faustina Friday article. I love seeing fine style Faustina portraits. I recall seeing two Diva Faustina Senior gold aureus back in January (CNG Triton) showing her younger-looking portraits. Beautiful, but prices are out of my reach.. :(

    Anyway, here are a few Faustina Junior portraits I feel having "fine style". Personal taste though. Unsure if they are made from good engravers' hands.
    Faustina Junior Sestertius.

    Another Faustina Junior Sestertius

    Faustina Junior Denarius. Great with obverse

    Faustina Junior Denarius. Later hairstyle.
  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I don't see any particular resemblance to your examples, but this is my favorite Faustina II portrait:

    Faustina II [Junior] (wife of Marcus Aurelius & daughter of Antoninus Pius), AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 161 AD. Obv. Draped bust right, hair in chignon behind, wearing stephane, FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / Rev. Two infant boys seated on draped throne (pulvinar), each raising an arm towards the other, with hands touching [compass dot between them], SAECVLI FELICIT. RIC III [Marcus Aurelius] 712, RSC II 191 [variety without stars above boys’ heads], Sear RCV II 5260 (ill.), BMCRE 139, Dinsdale 005600(a) [Dinsdale, Paul H., The Imperial Coinage of the Middle Antonines: Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus and Commodus, Ch. 4, Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (http://romanpaulus.x10host.com/Marcus/04 - Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (med_res).pdf) at p. 57; photo at p. 62]. 17.5 mm., 3.39 g., 12h. [The two infant boys are Faustina II’s twin sons b. 31 Aug 161 AD: Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus (the older twin, d. 165 AD) and Commodus, the ninth and tenth children of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina II.]

    Faustina II with children - jpg version.jpg

    My other favorite Faustina II portrait was on this coin, which I really loved and ordered a couple of years ago from a dealer in Belgium, but unfortunately never received:

    LOST Faustina II - jpg version.jpg

    If anyone ever comes across it, please let me know!
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  10. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I have always liked her portraits that were minted during the reign of Antoninius Pius. Faustina Junior Ae Sestertius Rome147-150 BC. Obv bust right draped wearing double band of pearls around head. Rv. Venus standing left. RIC1388 (Pius) 25.00 grms 32 mm photo by W. Hansen fausjnrs4.jpg What is interesting is that I have one of her portraits on a sestertius struck during the reign of her husband and it is clear that we are looking at the same individual only slightly older. I really like the delicacy of this image how the celator managed to draw the hair with such care and finesse making it extremely detailed but not so "electric" as to overwhelm the face. Thus the image is both charming and gentile
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  11. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Another fine Faustina Friday, RC.

    Here are two with what I believe are late-period portraits:

    Faustina II - Den. MATRI MAG Jan 2021 lith (0).jpg
    Faustina II Denarius
    n.d. (c. 170-175 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed draped bust right / MATRI MAGNAE, Cybele seated left holding branch in right hand, resting left arm on drum; at her side, lion.
    RIC 706; BMCRE 134; C192.
    (2.44 grams / 17 mm)

    Faustina II - Den. IVNONI REG lot Jan 2021 (0a).jpg
    Faustina II Denarius
    n.d. (c. 161-176 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right / IVNONI REGINAE, Juno
    veiled, seated left, holding patera and sceptre; peacock at her feet.
    RIC 698; BMCRE 122; RSC 145.
    (3.02 grams / 19 mm)

    In contrast, here is an early portrait with what I consider the loveliest die-work in my small Faustina II collection (despite the wear). In addition to the portrait, I really like the large, devil-may-care lettering on the reverse:

    Faustina II - Laetitia den Apr 2018 (0).jpg
    Faustina II Denarius
    (147-149 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, draped bust right with double circlet of pearls /
    LAETITIAE PVBLICAE, Laetitia standing left, holding wreath and sceptre.
    RIC 506b; RSC 155a.
    (2.95 grams / 18 mm)
  12. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Excellent thread RC.

    @Terence Cheesman I think that there were some superb die engravers working in Rome making bronze for the young Faustina and Marcus Aurelius as Caesar. Some of my favourite portraiture on coinage overall is from this period, and yours is a stunner.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  13. Restitutor

    Restitutor Well-Known Member

    Just won this in the recent NN auction so have to use the houses photo as by the time the coin arrives this thread will be quite old! It’s my first Faustina II; the toning caught my eye and I was instantly hooked.


    FAUSTINA II (Augusta, 147-175). Denarius. Rome.

    Draped bust right.
    Fecunditas standing facing, head right, holding sceptre and infant.

    RIC 677 (Aurelius); T&M 176.

    Condition: Extremely fine.

    Weight: 2.85 g.
    Diameter: 20 mm.
    robinjojo, Pellinore, Bing and 6 others like this.
  14. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Congrats on your new addition. Surely a very nice denarius. Has complete legends and great obverse, besides toning.
    Restitutor and Roman Collector like this.
  15. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Nice one. Here's a not-so-nice one:

    Faustina II FECVNDITAS den Jun 2019 (0).jpg

    Faustina II Denarius
    (145-161 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right / FECVNDITAS, Fecunditas standing right, holding sceptre and child.
    RIC 677 (Aurelius); BMCRE 91 (Aurelius); RSC 99.
    (3.09 grams / 18 mm)
  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Since others have posted some younger portraits of Faustina II that they like, I'll post a young portrait that I happen to think is quite lovely, even though the coin is more worn than I generally prefer:

    Faustina II [Junior] (wife of Marcus Aurelius & daughter of Antoninus Pius), AR Denarius, Rome mint, 147-149 AD (under Antoninus Pius). Obv. Draped bust right, single circlet of pearls around head, FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL / Venus standing left, holding apple in right hand and, in left hand, rudder set on dolphin, VENVS. RIC III [Antoninus] 517c, RSC II 266a, BMCRE [Antoninus] 1067. 18 mm., 3.45 g.

    Faustina II - young (under Antoninus Pius) - jpg version.jpg
  17. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    I guess this is one of my better portraits of Faustina Jr., even though the coin's rough surfaces, uneven strike, patina break on the reverse and a worn reverse die do detract to a certain extent. This coin, posted before, came out of a group lot of 3 sestertii, and if I recall correctly, cost around $25, so I can't complain about that.

    Rome, 161-176 AD
    Faustina II
    Obverse: FAVSTINA AVGTSTA, Faustina II facing right draped, two pearls, hair elaborately waved in nearly vertical lines and fastened in a low chignon at back of head.
    Reverse: (JV)NO, the goddess Juno, draped, standing left, holding patera in extended right hand and scepter in left hand; at left, peacock, S to her left and C to her right.
    RIC 1685 (Marcus Aurelius), Van Meter 40 (Faustina Junior)

    20.6 grams

    D-Camera Faustina II reshoot sestertius Rome Juno Standing 161-176 AD RIC 1685  20.6g 3-8-21.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2021
  18. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    A lovely portrait indeed, Donna.
    The hairstyle during this time period is very unique as well.
    DonnaML likes this.
  19. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Here's another Faustina II sestertius, one that I forgot about though it's been here for a while. I guess my brain is turning into tapioca pudding pretty rapidly.

    I don't know if this portrait is fine style or not, but it is a nice rendering.

    Roman Empire, 176 AD
    AE sestertius
    Faustina Minor, Augusta
    Obverse: DIVA FAV-STINA PIA Draped bust of Faustina Minor on the right, with her hair pulled up in a bun.
    Reverse: SIDERIBVS RE-CEPTA / S | C, draped Diana standing to the right, holding a lighted torch with both hands.
    C.215 var.(10f.), RIC.1715 (S), BMC/RE.1584, MIR.18/64 , RCV.-
    Good brown-green patina.

    25.54 grams

    D-Camera Faustina II sestertius, DIVA FAV-STINA, Diana reverse, C.215 var 25.54 grams 3-9-21.jpg
  20. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Faustina I (2020_11_18 03_38_31 UTC).jpg
    Faustina I Sestertius RIC Rome 1128.JPG

    Neither of these are necessarily "fine," but it's all I got folks.
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