ARTHIST 729: Power and Politics in Miniature: Roman Coins and Gems

Associate Professor of Art History Eric Varner leads an exploration of Roman imperial coins and gems and the rich microcosm of ancient artistic production they represent.

Coins often reflect current trends in imperial iconography and ideology. Gems, consisting of cameos and intaglios carved out of semi-precious stones such as sardonyx, amethyst, turquoise, and rock crystal, depict a diverse array of imagery including mythological figures, animals, fantastic creatures, and portraits. These gems were produced for, collected, and worn by a wide range of ancient society from prosperous middle-class patrons through Roman emperors and members of the imperial family.

The seminar traces the history, development, iconography, and context of coins, cameos, and intaglios using the Carlos Museum’s large and significant collection of ancient gems. Issues of conservation, collecting, and display will also be addressed. Students work closely with individual coins and gems throughout the semester.