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    Spectacular First Coin Portrait of Christ

    Justinian II, first reign (AD 685-695). AV solidus (20mm, 4.43 gm, 6h). Constantinople, 5th officina, AD 692-695.IhS CRISΤDS RЄX RЄΣNANΤIЧM, facing half-length bust of Christ Pantocrator, raising right hand in gesture of benediction, book of Gospels cradled in left arm, cross behind / D IЧSTINI-AN-ЧS SERЧ CHRISΤI, full-length figure of Justinian standing facing, dressed in loros, holding cross potent on steps in right hand and akakia in left; Є//CONO-P in exergue. Sear 1248. DOC 7e. MIB 8. A simply stunning example, with a beautifully modeled, iconic image of Christ Pantocrator in the finest style. Perfect strike, lustrous surfaces, and full legends. NGC Gem MS 5/5 - 5/5.

    From The Lexington Collection of Jonathan K. Kern.

    The portrait of Christ on the obverse of this solidus is the first numismatic representation of Jesus, and immediately followed the ruling of the Trullan Synod of  AD 692 that Christ could be depicted in human form. Justinian II was ostentatiously devout and placing the divine image on his coinage was a reflection of this. The appearance of Christ  on the Byzantine coinage also may have spurred the Caliph 'Abd al-Malik to decree that no images offensive to the Muslim faith should appear on coins struck or used by the Arabs, an edict of AH 74 / AD 693. This first numismatic portrait of Christ is remarkably naturalistic and lifelike, and was likely based on the mosaic image of Christ in the apse of the Great Palace of Constantinople, which was itself influenced by Hellenistic depictions of Zeus. The divine image later became an archetype as Christ Pantocrator, or "ruler of the universe." The obverse die of this solidus, in particular, shows a delicacy and refinement not seen on the other known dies. Of particular note is Christ's forked beard and wavy hair, both masterfully rendered. 




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    Auction Dates
    August, 2014
    8th Friday
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