Featured Faustina Friday -- an unusual left-facing bust of Faustina I

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Following the death of his wife Faustina I, Antoninus Pius issued an astonishingly large series of posthumous issues in her name, dwarfing the coinage produced in her lifetime. There are literally dozens of different reverse types in each denomination of these posthumous coins. In contrast, her lifetime issues are limited in scope and reverse types and are not nearly as commonly encountered in the market.

    Her lifetime issues are typically divided into three periods, characterized by different obverse legends.

    The first issue, AD 138-39, appears limited to denarii, and bear the legend FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG, "Faustina, (wife) of Antoninus." The issue consists of three reverse types, Concordia standing, Concordia seated, and Vesta seated. I have discussed these scarce issues in an earlier thread.

    Silver and gold coins of the second issue, AD 139-40, reflect Antoninus Pius' title of Pater Patriae, "Father of the Fatherland," and bear the inscription FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG P P.

    The silver and gold issues of the third issue, AD 140, bear the legend FAVSTINA AVGVSTA.

    The inscriptions on the aes coinage are even more limited; all reflect Pius' title of Pater Patriae and were issued from AD 138-140. They bear the inscriptions FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII P P or FAVSTINA AVG PII P P (on a single issue, RIC 1077b).​

    You may see examples of all three types and of some bronze issues in an earlier thread.

    Today's featured denarius is of the third issue and therefore dates to AD 139-140. The reverse depicts a pulvinar, a special couch set out for use by the gods and adorned with their accoutrements, during such rites as the lectisternium or supplicatio. The coin's inscription reads "For Juno the Queen," and depicts her pulvinar, scepter, and sacred bird, the peacock. As queen of the Romans, Faustina is likened to the queen of the gods.

    There are numerous denarii of Faustina I depicting a throne on the reverse, differing in reverse legend, left-facing or right-facing bust, bare-headed or veiled bust, whether or not a peacock is present, the position of the peacock, the direction a scepter may be pointing, and the the presence or absence of a wreath. There are variations in breaks in the obverse legends and so on. I have previously written about some of these here and here.

    Faustina Sr IVNONI REGINAE Peacock under Throne denarius left-facing bust.jpg
    Faustina I, AD 138-140.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.17 g, 17.3 mm, 12 h.
    Rome, AD 140.
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, left.
    Rev: IVNONI REGINAE, Throne, against which rests transverse sceptre; below, peacock with tail spread.
    Refs: RIC 339b; BMC 143; Cohen 220 (no collection cited); Strack 405 (citing BMC and Reka Devnia); Reka Devnia 1313; RCV --; CRE 132.

    You'll note the specimen has an unusual treatment of the hair, and if you're familiar with the coinage of Faustina I, you'll see how odd the portrait appears. Here, for example, is the usual version of the coin (RIC 339a, BMCRE 139, Cohen 219) from my own collection.

    Faustina Sr IVNONI REGINAE Peacock under Throne denarius.jpg

    Because of its odd portrait, Mattingly (BMCRE p. 24 note) suggested the British Museum specimen may be an ancient forgery.


    Here is the British Museum specimen for comparison.

    Faustina Sr IVNONI REGINAE Peacock under Throne denarius left-facing bust bmc.JPG

    But the example in the British Museum was struck from the same dies as the American Numismatic Society specimen (1944.100.48327).

    Faustina Sr IVNONI REGINAE Peacock under Throne denarius left-facing bust ANS.jpg
    Each of these is a double-die match to my coin. A fourth example of the coin is in a private Ukrainian collection illustrated in the catalog by Temeryazev and Makarenko.

    Faustina Sr IVNONI REGINAE Peacock under Throne denarius left-facing bust CRE.jpg
    This was struck by a different die pair than the examples in the BMC, ANS and my collections, and indicates that the issue was official, being produced by at least two die pairs. The online catalog of the British Museum collection no longer indicates doubt about the coin's official nature. Moreover, a coin with a very similar reverse type (the peacock is on the pulvinar, not under it), has a left-facing bust from the same die as the Temeryazev and Makarenko specimen, but with a different reverse type. These die-linkages, involving two obverse and three reverse dies, indicate this is an official issue, not an "ancient forgery."

    CNG 96, lot 808, May 14, 2014.

    But the empress's hairstyle was somewhat asymmetrical, and it looks different from the left side. When you look at the bust of her in the Capitoline Museum from the left, the portrait on the coin doesn't seem so weird.

    1212 Faustina-Major Capitoline.jpg

    The coin appears to be very scarce, and no examples have been sold at auction in the past 20 years, according to the coinarchivespro and acsearchinfo databases. The specimens appear to be limited to:

    1. My coin
    2. The BMC specimen (cited by Strack)
    3. The ANS specimen
    4. The Reka Devnia hoard specimen in Sofia (cited by Strack)
    5. The specimen cited by Cohen (unclear which collection he is referencing)
    6. The specimen illustrated in Temeryazev and Makarenko.

    As always, please post comments, coins with pulvinaria, coins with unusual bust styles, or anything you feel is relevant!
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2021
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  3. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Nice article, @Roman Collector

    I wonder if left facing Faustina portrait only have this matching reverse design. Or there are others.
    galba68 and Roman Collector like this.
  4. Yorkshire

    Yorkshire Well-Known Member

    Very nice, looks like she's wearing a helmet.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    There are only a few others and they are extremely rare. This is the only one I have for Faustina I in my collection. In terms of the lifetime denarii only (there are a few left-facing aurei but no left-facing bronze issues), the following left-facing busts are known:


    CONCORDIA AVG, Concordia seated l. (RIC —; BMCRE —; Cohen 150; Strack 394?)
    VESTA, Vesta seated left (RIC 334b; BMCRE 48; Cohen —; Strack 399, all citing the same example in the British Museum) is an ancient fouree counterfeit.

    Third issue (FAVSTINA AVGVSTA):

    CONCORDIA AVG, Concordia standing l. (RIC —; BMCRE 133 note citing Reka Devnia, p. 59; Cohen —; Strack —)
    IVNONI REGINAE, Throne with peacock below (my coin)
    IVNONI REGINAE, Throne with peacock on it (see OP, above).

    Among her posthumous issues, there are a fair number of different aurei with left-facing busts as well as a few denarii and bronze issues. Time constraints today prohibit me from enumerating them in greater detail here.
  6. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Nice and rare denarius Roman Collector.
    I only have Diva Faustina with throne without peacock on reverse:
  7. AuldFartte

    AuldFartte Supporter! Supporter

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  8. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Wow an awesome write up and a fantastic coin.I saw it as well and my first instinct was to buy it immediately. I am glad I did not because it belongs in the collection of a specialist like yourself
    Roman Collector likes this.
  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Wonderful write-up.

    My only coin with a pulvinar comes from Faustina II:

    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 only Faustina I lifetime issue, with her conventional hairstyle:

    Faustina I [Senior] [wife of Antoninus Pius], AR Denarius 139-Oct 140 AD [lifetime issue], Rome Mint. Obv. Diademed and draped bust right, FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / Rev. Concordia standing left, holding patera with extended right hand and double cornucopiae with left arm, CONCORDIA AVG. RIC III 335 Antoninus Pius, RSC II 151, Sear RCV II 4668 (ill.), BMCRE 133, Dinsdale 008710 [Dinsdale, Paul H., Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius Caesar AD 138-161: Antonine Coinage (2018) at p. 99; photo at p. 100] [see http://romanpaulus.x10host.com/Antoninus/04 - Faustina I - Undated 139-140 (med_res).pdf pp. 10-11]. 19 mm., 2.84 g.

    Faustina I jpg version.jpg
  10. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great write-up as always, RC.

    I have a "bargain" version of the more common right-facing bust.

    Faustina I lifetime peacock Apr 2018 (0a).jpg

    Faustina I Denarius
    (c. 138-141 A.D.) (Lifetime)
    Rome Mint

    FAVSTINA AVGVSTA; draped bust right. / IVNONI REGINAE; throne, draped, sceptre against it; below peacock with tail spread.
    RIC 339a; RSC 219.
    (2.68 grams / 18 mm)
  11. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    An interesting observation that Faustina's hair is shown differently on the left-facing bust than on her right-facing busts!

    A left-facing, lifetime middle bronze of Faustina was shown by Adrianus on Forum in Oct. 2012, unfortunately too worn to show the coiffure details clearly. See his picture below.

    In your specimen list above, no. 5 reported by Cohen was probably the same coin as no. 2 acquired by the BM in 1845. Cohen should have seen this BM coin, since he had visited the museum to collect material for his catalogue before publishing the first volume of his first edition in 1859; see his list of sources in the preface to that volume, p. VIII. Now Cohen generally acknowledged BM coins that he described with the designation "Musée Britannique" or the letter "B", and similarly Vienna coins with "Musée de Vienne" or "V"; but on p. IX of his preface he admits that for less important BM and Vienna coins he had sometimes omitted these indications of source, "in order not to overload the work with citations." I suspect also a certain reluctance on his part FaustinaIMBBustLeftConcordiaStgAdriano.jpg to credit the BM and Vienna with possessing coins that were missing in the Paris collection!
  12. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you so much, @curtislclay, for weighing in on this coin. Your comment about the identity of the specimen cited by Cohen is very helpful.
    curtislclay likes this.
  13. ashbel73

    ashbel73 New Member

    Hello Comrades and apologies for being a bit late with this post on the matter! While trying to get rid of my pitiful collection of Imperial Romans, I have just re-discovered this coin (sorry for the drops, could not figure out how to attach pics) which I bought some 15 years ago from a local coin dealer. That gent was not a specialist in ancient coins either, so we stroke a deal that satisfied us both by the pleasure of negotiating. Now, I can not find any other example or mentioning of this particular type, so that naturally, I was wondering if this is just another trick of the Easter European smiths, or a genuine discovery of the new coin type? The oxidation, patina, striking etc. all look fine to me, but I am not an expert in Roman coins and iconography, nor in the Bulgarian forgeries. Any idea on what it could be? Cheers, Alex
  14. Harry G

    Harry G Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
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  15. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for sharing your coin, @ashbel73. You have something unusual but it is attested in the numismatic literature. I see no reason to believe your coin is not genuine.

    I have taken the liberty of posting your images below so that others may see your coin.

    Faustina Sr CONCORDIA AVG seated denarius left facing bust CT member.jpg
    Your coin is not listed in the major English-language references for Roman coins, RIC and BMCRE. Nor is it in Strack's comprehensive work. It is in Cohen as no. 150. Here is the listing in Cohen:

    Capture 1.JPG
    Capture 2.JPG

    This example was sold at Helios Numismatik GmbH (Auction 4), 14.10.2009, lot 458. It differs somewhat from yours in the details of the cornucopiae placement as part of the goddess' throne on the reverse.

    Capture 3.JPG
  16. ashbel73

    ashbel73 New Member

    Thank you very much for your response! I was that seller indeed. I packed the coin for shipping, but then a message came from an "eBay expert" advising this coin looks like a fantasy item. I immediately cancelled the order and sent the buyer refund + gratuities. I have to admit that not being an expert in Romans myself, means keeping no extensive library of books and auction catalogues on the subject, I usually screen each coin I sell through the forgery network resources and recent sales, just to make sure there is no obvious issues with it. Before posting this coin, I did the usual search and having found no other examples of this time online I just mark it as "interesting" in my description and raised the price above the typical for the type. Now, looking at your materials, I think I might have been overcautious, which still is better than than being neglectful and careless these days. THANKS A LOT!!! What a relief! BTW, the reverse of my example and that published are different. So, I guess somebody was not exactly right re: scarcity of the left-facing Faustinas :)
    Harry G likes this.
  17. Hamilcar Barca

    Hamilcar Barca Well-Known Member

    Excellent work Roman Collector. Your write up is why I come to this site. Here is my example:
    Diva Faustina Senior. Died AD 140/1. Æ Sestertius (33mm, 25.77 g, 12h). Rome mint. Struck under Antoninus Pius, circa AD 146-161. Draped bust right, wearing pearls bound on top of her head / Aeternitas standing left, holding globe surmounted by phoenix and raising hem of skirt. RIC III 1105 (Pius); Banti 5. Brown surfaces, smoothed, scratches, glue residue on reverse. VF. Not perfect but this is reflected in what I paid.
  18. Harry G

    Harry G Well-Known Member

    Ah, I do apologize. I jumped the gun with my assumption. It's a very nice coin!

    To be honest, you'd probably do much better selling it at a specialist auction rather than eBay, given the scarcity of the piece, and how unusual it is. Roma's the main ancient coin auction house in the UK, so it may be wise asking them for an appraisal :)
  19. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for the kind words! I'm glad you find my "Faustina Friday" installments enjoyable.

    Your coin was issued in AD 150 and shortly thereafter to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the empress' death in late October/early November AD 140. It was part of an enormous series of coins with the DIVA FAUSTINA obverse legend and the AETERNITAS reverse type.

    Here's my example of the coin. I'll bet the same craftsman engraved the obverses of both of our coins.

    Faustina Sr AETERNITAS S C Aeternitas standing sestertius.jpg
  20. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    Another specimen of the left-facing Faustina denarius is in Vienna according to Strack 394.

    Cohen's specimen (Fontana Sale) is correctly reported in BMC 40 note and RIC 327 note. RSC 150, however, records only the bust right variety.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  21. ashbel73

    ashbel73 New Member

    This new data and refs are ... overwhelming! Seriously, I must keep the coin for a while and do a proper piece of research. I doubt that the dealer I bought it from many years ago would even recollect where it had come from into his stock. He is buying any coins that people bring to him and re-sells from his market stall with a minimum profit. Well, I was about to quit on my Roman coins, but now I am trapped in they snares again. See what them Romans did to us!
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