Diva Faustina Junior, died 175/6. Sestertius (Orichalcum, 29 mm, 24.02 g, 6 h), Rome, circa 176-180. DIVA FAV-STINA PIA Draped bust of Faustina to right, her hair in a long braid bound up in a bun at the back. Rev. AETERNITAS The draped figure of the deified Faustina II seated left on a low-backed throne, holding a scepter in her upraised right hand, resting her left in her lap, and with her veil, one end held in her right hand and the other wrapped around her body, billowing out above her head; to left and right, draped female figure moving to left, each with a veil, held in her right hand and wrapped around her body, billowing over her head; each looks toward Faustina, the one on the left turning her head back to do so; below, S C. Banti 7. BMC (Marcus Aurelius) 1568 (variant - with S-C in field to left and right). Cohen 10. RIC (Marcus Aurelius) 1697 (variant - with S-C in field to left and right). Very rare. A remarkably beautiful example, perhaps the finest known, well-struck and well-centered with a lovely grey and olive-green patina. Minor flan crack. Extremely fine.
From a Swiss collection, ex Numismatica Ars Classica 68, 8 October 2015, 273 and from an Austrian collection.
This coin bears one of the most extraordinary reverse depictions ever to appear on a Roman coin made for general circulation: it is, in fact, completely medallic in nature. It also forms part of what can only be described as an astonishing series of coins that shows the deceased Faustina II’s progress to the heavens. The series begins with a representation of Faustina, draped but unveiled, who is apparently either sitting on the back of Victory, or is somehow supported by her (Banti 10, BMC 1567, Cohen 12). Exceptionally, Victory holds a torch, thus, showing that she is lighting the way forward. A most interesting fact is that on that piece, Faustina is unveiled: this probably indicates that she is being depicted at the time of her death (prior to putting on the veil symbolic of her passing); the figure of Victory alludes to her presence with her husband when he was on campaign in Asia.
She then appears veiled either riding on the traditional peacock (Banti 38, BMC 1570, Cohen 69) or on an eagle (Banti 37, BMC 1572, Cohen 68 - note that the legend given in Banti is incorrect). Another type, which is also extremely rare, bears the legend SIDERIBVS RECEPTA (received by the stars - all the others read AETERNITAS), and shows Faustina, veiled, borne to the stars in a biga (Banti 123, BMC 1591, Cohen 217). Finally we have the present coin, which shows the deceased empress after her arrival in the heavens, seated on a throne with two attendants. We can be sure that she is in her place among the stars, rather than anywhere else, because her veil, and those of her two companions, is billowing up over her head (just as it does when she is flying on the eagle or peacock, or in her chariot); additionally, there is no ground or exergual line, which would be most unexpected for any ‘normal’ scene. She is clearly to be visualized as being up in the heavens.