The Art Institute of Chicago
Dates: September 1, 2007 – continuing
Depictions of animals pervaded the imagery on the gold, silver and bronze coinage of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Although they often appear in their natural state, animals sometimes share the features of humans or other beasts, taking the form of mythical creatures like centaurs and sphinxes. Ancient Greek and Roman coins also featured heroes, divinities and rulers depicted with animal attributes to emphasize their special powers or to promote a specific political identity. Minted in third-century B.C. Naples, the coin pictured depicts the nymph Parthenope on the obverse side; on the reverse a man-headed bull is crowned by Nike.
This exhibit examines ancient notions of mixed identity—the idea of being neither man nor beast, neither fully mortal nor fully divine but somehow both. The ancient concept of a hybrid self was a significant element in the development of both political and religious thought, which imagined God as a being of multiple identities and faces and, in some cases, of mixed lineage.
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