|Perception is the key to epistemology. Seeing these coins face-on is the wrong point of view. The intention of the artist was to view these coins obliquely. When you turn them toward an edge-on aspect, the distortions become lifelike three-dimensional representations. |
Consider the bottom coin. When the coin is rotated and viewed more edge-on, the floating lines in the field to the right of the face will shift to demarcate the cheeks.
The topmost ancient coin, the first of three below the medieval, now has a grimace. Rotated, that will become a smile. The eyes will reorient to a natural presenation and the indentations will become proportional nostrils to fill out the nose.
These perceptions were re-discovered only recently by Geralidine Chimirri-Russell of the Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary. While this hidden three-dimensionality is easiest to find on ancient Celtic coins from the Danube to England c.200 BCE to 200 CE,, these techniques do appear in the monetary artifacts of other cultures. Here are some links to her theories.
The highly stylized images on Celtic coins feature human profiles with dissociated features. The coins have been viewed as two-dimensional works, however, if the coins are perceived as three-dimensional objects that can be freely rotated in space, their properties can be interpreted equally freely. When viewed from an oblique angle, the dissociated facial features can be seen to realign producing a three-dimensional, realistic face seen from a three-quarter, rather than profile view. This optical illusion is found on the majority of examples of extant coins, thus indicating intent on the part of the Celtic artists.
SEEING THE PAST OBLIQUELY Geraldine Chimirri-Russell
Curator of Numismatics, The Nickle Arts Museum, University of Calgary
"Since the Renaissance, in an effort to provide the most realistic representation of the world around them, artists have used the technique of perspective to give the illusion of depth to an image produced on a flat surface. Viewers have been trained, whether knowingly or not, to accept this representation and to mentally translate a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional form. The viewer is bombarded with these illusions in the form of books, magazines, photographs, paintings, drawings, and movie, television and computer screens. As part of this training the viewer has become increasingly passive before artistic creations. In their two-dimensional representation the viewer is powerless to select an alternate viewpoint..."
Taking an Oblique Point of View: The Challenges of Interpretation and Display in Museums
By Geraldine E. Chimirri-Russell.
Published by The International Journal of the Humanities