Home > Art, History > A Question from Giulio Fanti about a Byzantine Coin

A Question from Giulio Fanti about a Byzantine Coin

July 31, 2013

clip_image001He writes:

[This] face of Christ, minted in a quite common Byzantine coin of Manuel I (1143-1180 AD) is clearly different from the much more popular TS-like face of many Byzantine coins of these centuries.

It shows short hair, no beard and a strange sign, a bubble on the chin bottom. Can someone give me more information on this face?

In particular I ask for a similar image from a fresco or an icon of this period showing a face of Christ having the same featuires.

I also ask for an explanation of the bubble on the chin bottom (it is not a defect because it also appears in other different coins).

Thank you in advance. Best regards.

Giulio

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Categories: Art, History
  1. July 31, 2013 at 11:10 am

    How do we know this is meant to represent Christ?

  2. Fr. M.
    July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Good point, David. Take a look at the CATALOGUE OF THE LATE BYZANTINE COINS 1081 – 1453. There are coins with The Holy Theotokos ( Θεοτοκος ) and Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God on the obverse with the emperor on the reverse. What Giulio calls a bubble on the chin seem to be a common feature for Mary. Is Giulio’s coin such a coin? Does he have full coin pictures for us to examine?

    Also, there seem to be some pictures of Jesus without a beard. An inventory by dynastic period might be useful.

    http://www.orthodoxcoins.com/books/catalogue-of-late-byzantine-coins-vol1/intro-chap6.pdf

  3. July 31, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I’m not trying to be irreverent but to me that is not a close resemblance of Jesus. If I wasn’t told that it was Jesus then I would have to guess at it. Just looking at it makes it hard to tell.

  4. daveb of wellington nz
    July 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I checked out the catalogue URL ref above. Catalogue Ch IV refers to those issued under Manuel I. But only the intro and Ch VI are shown in the ref. Full catalogue has some ~585 pages.

  5. daveb of wellington nz
    July 31, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    ‘Wildwinds’ web-site has thumbnails and text description of coins minted under specific rulers. This web-page has several examples of Manuel I, last significant Byzantine emperor before 4th crusade:
    http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/byz/manuel_I/t.html
    However even zooming to 400%, I still wasn’t able to find Prof Fanti’s example. However there are several links to other pages. A common theme seems to be either Mary or Christ crowning the emperor, and similar motifs.

  6. Matthias
    August 1, 2013 at 3:04 am

    totally random thoughts…the circle on the chin might represent a small beard…and doesn’t the shape under the chin look a bit like the mark under the chin on the shroud ie.a rectangle missing the higher horizontal line
    also, to me the hair doesn’t necessarily read as short
    so potentially the coin is quite shroud like

  7. Hugh Farey
    August 1, 2013 at 5:41 am

    These bubbles seem to be called “pellets” by numismatists. Try Googling “pellet on the chin” for a few examples of a similar technique from Britain. D.M. Metcalf’s “Byzantine Scyphate Bronze Coinage in Greece” (http://numis01.zxq.net/Numis10/PDF/Metcalf11.pdf) is also relevant, I think.

  8. Max Patrick Hamon
    August 1, 2013 at 6:29 am

    The over stylised face-type on the coin obverse of Manuel I (1143-1180 CE) is common to many late 12th – mid 13th century CE Byzantine coin side featuring the beardless, nimbate head of Christ Emmanuel (see Isaiah 7:14).
    Besides the word-image play on the name of the emperor “Manuel”, an allusion to his young age (24) at his accession to the throne and the Byzantine tradition to use the portrait of Christ as an apotropaic shield (i.e. as both a protection of Christ for the emperor and the coin owner), the three roundels two and one of eyes and chin distributed in the manner of the Greek capital letter delta (Δ) upside down, could have either simply been an iconic reduction of the face or featured an interpretation of the Christ Emmanuel as a hypostasis of the Holy Trinity or both.

    The Greek capital letter delta (Δ) motive in conjunction with three roundels and a portrait of Christ can also be observed in the Sakli/Hidden Church fresco of the Holy Face of the Holy Mandylion (see SakliChurchImageofEdessaWilsonTheShroud.jpg).

  9. Max Patrick Hamon
    August 1, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Addendum: symbolically speaking, as an upside down triangle (▽), the Greek capital letter delta motive could refer to Christ incarnation on earth as Byzantines believed that their emperor should represented Christ on Earth.

    • August 1, 2013 at 9:39 am

      So this could be a portrait of the young emperor Manuel, but with symbolic allusion to Christ. A visual mash-up if you will.

      • Max Patrick Hamon
        August 2, 2013 at 3:33 am

        Quite possibly.

  10. Max Patrick Hamon
    August 1, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Addendum bis: the three beaded pendant (on the left side) of the imperial crown echoes the three roundels two and one of eyes and chin.

  11. Max Patrick Hamon
    August 1, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Typo: the three beaded ear ring echoes the three roundels two and one of eyes and chin.

  12. August 1, 2013 at 8:15 am

    That’s not a very good face image compared to the other two usually discussed in relation to the Shroud. I wonder if it is related to the image on the Shroud at all.

    • Max Patrick Hamon
      August 2, 2013 at 3:44 am

      See my reply #11 to David Goulet.

  13. Max Patrick Hamon
    August 5, 2013 at 2:44 am

    The same symbolic mash-up (Young Emperor featured as Christ Emmanuel) is quite obvious on solidi minted after Justinian II return to the throne.

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