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Busts left, right, front and back


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I did one of these way back on FORVM, but here's a new and improved version that includes left facing busts.

For beginning collectors it can often be confusing to know when is a bust seen from the front, or when is it seen from behind. The seen-from-behind busts are usually (but not always) draped & cuirassed ones, often abbreviated as LDCR or LDCB (laureate, draped & cuirassed, seen from Rear/Back), as opposed to LDC seen from front.

The key to understanding these is to know what a draped bust looks like in the first place, which is a cloak joined at the shoulder with a fibula (brooch). The fibula can be on either the right or left shoulder, as modeled here by Caracalla.



Now, to illustrate the difference in depiction between "seen from front" and "seen from behind" (aka rear/back), here's Imperator Olga (my wife's Belarussian doll). The piece of paper on her shoulder represents the two sides of the cloak coming together and joined by the fibula (orange circle).


Above we have Olga with the fibula on her right shoulder, first seen in profile (rarely seen on coins), then seen from front (LDC), and finally seen from behind (LDCR). When Olga is in profile, the fibula (orange circle), since it is centered on her shoulder, lines up exactly with her neck. The key to differentiating between the seen from front and seen from behind versions is noting what happens to the position of the fibula relative to the vertical neck line (green line) in either pose. With the seen from front perspective (LDC) the fibula moves behind the vertical neck line, but when seen from behind the fibula moves in front of the vertical neck line. In both seen from front and seen from behind views, Olga twists her head one way or the other so that it remains in profile as we see on coins.

So, here are examples of what these bust variants actually look like on coins.



By comparing the position of the fibula (where the cloak comes together into a little dot/circle) relative to the vertical center of Constantine's fat neck, you should be able to recognize that the top coin is seen from front (LDC), while the bottom one is seen from behind (LDCR).

Now, here's where it gets a little harder, with left facing busts. With right facing bust, as above, the fibula is almost always on the right shoulder, which is all that I've shown. However, with left facing busts we do see both left and right shoulder fibulas, so here is Olga again modeling the variants: fibula on right shoulder seen from front or behind, and fibula on left shoulder seen from front or behind.


The key here is again to pay attention to the position of the fibula relative to the vertical neckline, but now you also need to use some judgement since fibula to left of neckline can either be fibula on right shoulder seen from front, or fibula on left shoulder seen from behind. Similarly, fibula to right of neckline can either be fibula on right shoulder seen from behind, or fibula on left shoulder seen from the front.

Here's examples of what these actually look like on coins.


I'd be curious if anyone has examples of any of the variants I haven't illustrated. There's really eight potential variants (2 x 2 x 2): bust right/left facing X seen from front/behind X fibula on right/left shoulder. Of course there are also non-draped left/right seen from front/behind busts too, where fibulas aren't going to help you.


Edited by Heliodromus
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I remember the previous version and thought the method of drawing the vertical line down from the ear is very useful. Ever since, I apply it every time I look at one of these busts to decide if it's from behind or front.

As an enthusiast of the "fallen horseman" AE2 coinage (among other Late Roman Bronze Coins), examining the intricacies of the brooches is one of the many small pleasures of collecting.

Unfortunately, I'm not quite a good enough macro-photographer to capture all the minute details, but there's a lot more variation there (and elsewhere) than one would realize just from reading the catalog descriptions.


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