Which way is she facing?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by lrbguy, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. lrbguy

    lrbguy Supporter! Supporter

    At the time of yesterday's CNG electronic auction 425, I got busy on a project for my wife and totally forgot about the sale. Only later did I discover what I had missed. Maybe the lucky buyer is one of you and can check something about a particular coin that sold (obviously not to me). I apologize for the intrusion.

    This coin was offered as lot 514, a coin of Julia Paula with the following description:

    Julia Paula.
    Augusta, AD 219-220. AR Denarius (18mm, 2.19 g, 6h). Antioch mint. Struck under Elagabalus, AD 219-220. Draped bust right / Venus Genetrix seated left on throne with high back, holding apple and scepter. RIC IV 222 note (Elagabalus); Thirion 468; BMCRE 324; RSC 21. VF, lightly toned, a few tiny green deposits.
    Ex Classical Numismatic Group Electronic Auction 325 (23 April 2014), lot 615.


    The pattern of the hair on obverse raises question about Antioch, but my question concerns the reverse and is this: which way is the figure of Venus facing?

    For comparison here is a clear example of the same coin type from my collection:

    Note that in both coins the throne and body of Venus are oriented to face the viewer, but the head is described as turned to face the left as we see it (over the right shoulder of the figure). That is clear in the second coin, but not so clear on the coin CNG just sold. If one of you is the new owner of this coin, could you take a close look at that detail to see if the head is turned to the left (as usual) or does it in fact face the viewer? The disposition of the dangling earrings gives me some pause in dismissing this way of seeing this figure.

    Let me hasten to add that I know of no example of any coin from Julia Paula that does this, and I don't know that here. But no matter how exceptional that would be, I cannot dismiss it out of hand, because there is a precedent for such a posture among the coins of Julia Domna, albeit with an entirely different deity; i.e. Pudicitia.


    The value of the comparison is that it gives us a sense of what the proportions of the face would be for a full face image. When I look at the coin CNG just sold the head seems to have more in common with a full face image than a profile.

    So, as unlikely as it may seem, could the new owner take a really close look and tell us which way this Venus is facing?
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  3. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    i would guess left judging from the headdress. (i didn't win it)..
  4. lrbguy

    lrbguy Supporter! Supporter

    Perhaps I should have added that for the coins of Julia Domna both full face and profile views of Pudicitia are represented.

    The coin above is from Rome.
    Here is a profile view from Laodicea:
    Here is a later view from Rome, again with full face view:


    I do not know if any mint used both styles simultaneously or over time.
  5. lrbguy

    lrbguy Supporter! Supporter

    Good point. Don't know if the face could be seen if it was in hand. I'd want to angle it around to see what other lighting reveals.
    ominus1 likes this.
  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I agree with Ominus. Based on the clear portions of her headdress she is facing left.
  7. Multatuli

    Multatuli Homo numismaticus Supporter

    I think that is only a little matter of strike. Don’t seems to me a real facing. Head turned left.
    ominus1 likes this.
  8. lrbguy

    lrbguy Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks everyone, I too am leaning as you are. I was having some trouble finding a left facing Pudicitia among the Domna issues from Rome. I was sure I had one, but did not spot it among the photos. It was there after all, so here it is:

    Also, on the matter of mint, here is my example of the left facing Genetrix type for Julia Paula which I attribute to Antioch. The obverse hair is the main point of distinction.
    The OP coin from CNG is attributed to Antioch, but has a different hairstyle.
    randygeki, Johndakerftw, Bing and 2 others like this.
  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Just an opinion: You can never establish a new type/variety based on one coin or on coins that are questionable in any way. If all the coins that may be facing are weak strikes or worn, the possibility of the appearance of facing being wear related is just too strong to ignore. Worse, a single coin can not establish a new variety without careful examination to rule out tooling as a cause of the variation.

    A similar comparison from the same period is seen on Dea Caelestis riding lion coins of Septimius Severus and Caracalla. Most of these have heads facing right and wearing a hat but the more scarce types were the goddess holds a drum rather than a thunderbolt regularly show the head facing and bare. Why? IDK.
    rj4630bb0308.jpg rj4640bb0607.jpg
    My Caracalla as ('cast in Gaul') is a bit worn to be of value defining the facing had as a type but it is all I have.
    randygeki, ominus1, Andres2 and 2 others like this.
  10. lrbguy

    lrbguy Supporter! Supporter

    Doug, thanks for showing the Caelestis items. They are indeed interesting, and your approach is attractive to the puzzle-guy in me.

    I absolutely agree with this. But here I have to ask, who was trying to establish a new variety? I said up front that I wanted to get a look at the CNG coin to see what it was showing, strike weakness notwithstanding. Why? Because I was curious and had not had a chance to do that myself. The rest was an attempt to tickle curiosity among others. Maybe that was a bad idea.

    I went into this with the assumption that the coin was NOT showing a full face, but did want to explore the possibility. The comparison to the Domna material was meant to be an analog, not evidence for the coin. Believe me that I know the difference.

    Doug, all I ask is that you give me some credit for knowing how to construct an hypothesis and research it. I am not easily swayed by rationalization in lieu of evidence, and guard against it in myself constantly. But I do need the freedom to think outside the box when that strikes me. For reasons of my own if nothing else. I promise I do not mean to harm others or the list in the process.
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