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Brilliant portrait on this Domitian denarius

Domitian as Caesar AR Denarius. Rome 77-78 CE

Obv: Laureate head right; CAESAR AVG F DOMITIANVS

Rev: Horseman galloping right; COS V in exergue

RIC 957 (Vespasian); BMC 234 (Vespasian); RSC 49

Purchased from Soler y Llach. Subasta Numismatica, Collecion Scipio, Primera Parte June 30, 2021 Lot 518.

As a general rule I have been trying to grab the rare Domitian denarii before getting the easier and more common issues. However, as soon as I saw this one I thought it was very special. While it also has a great reverse image, it is the portrait that shines on this coin. So many of the portraits for Domitian as Caesar are strange, non-artistic, or just plain ugly. This one is exceptional. Many denarii of Domitian appear to be beardless because of normal wear. On this coin, the beard can be seen under the chin.

While I am used to seeing amazing portraiture of Domitian between the years 84-88 CE, so many of these earlier denarii are are best unattractive, and at worst are extremely ugly. The expressive portrait on my coin shows the hand of a very talented engraver. I would very much like to pick up more pieces by this artist. Even the reverse shows evidence of true artistic talent. This image is so often pedestrian on this type. However, here, the figure and horse show much energy and vitality.

I have many excellent portraits of Domitian, but I believe that this one will be a favourite for many years to come.While the denarii of 85-88 are beautiful they also show a sanitized image of the emperor. However, on this coin looks like a real human character. Even the typical Flavian nose is rendered here as an asset and not a detriment. Now that takes a very skilled engraver indeed.


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