Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich

Auction 114 - Part I

Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich, Auction 114 - Part I

Greek, Roman and Byzantine Coins

Tu, 07.05.2019, from 11:00 AM CEST
The auction is closed.


Syracuse. Tetradrachm, signed by Eukleidas circa 405-400, AR 17.27 g. Fast quadriga driven l. by female charioteer, holding reins in l. hand and raising flaming torch in r.; above, Nike flying r. to crown her. In exergue, barley ear to l. Rev. Σ[ΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΟ]Σ Head of Athena facing three-quarters l., wearing double-hook earring, necklace of pendant acorns with central gorgoneion-medallion and triple-crested Attic helmet on whose bowl signature ΕVΚ ? ΛΕΙΔ. On both sides, two dolphins swimming downwards. Rizzo pl. XLIII, 21 (these dies). Kraay-Hirmer pl. 112 (this reverse die). Alföldi, Florilegium Numismaticum p. 359, 6-7 (these dies). Jameson 1833 (this coin). AMB 465 (this coin). Tudeer 59. Coins, Artists, and Tyrants 59c (this coin).
Extremely rare and one of the greatest masterpieces of Classical numismatic
Sicilian art. A magnificent portrait of superb style struck in high relief and
with a lovely old cabinet tone. The usual die break on the
reverse, otherwise extremely fine

Ex NAC 13, 1998, formerly exhibited at the Antike Museum Basel, 465 and NAC 48, 2008, 48 sales. From the Jameson and A.D.M. collection.

Among the most famous and desirable coins of Syracuse are the two varieties of facing-head tetradrachms, both of which appear to have been struck in the same, brief period of achievement, c. 405-400 B.C. The more influential of the two, Kimon’s Arethusa Soteira, became a model throughout the Mediterranean world for die engravers and artists in different media. Eucleidas’ Athena did not win such widespread renown (though it may have inspired coins of the Lycian dynasts struck c. 400-380 B.C.), yet as a work of art it is no less accomplished. Kimon and Eucleidas both faced the challenge of producing a naturalistic portrait that would appeal to contemporary Greek sensibilities. Kimon framed his Arethusa within a mass of flowing hair, darting dolphins, and inscriptions that were cleverly integrated into the design elements. Eucleidas, did likewise, but had to include within that framework a decorative triple-crested Attic helmet. He represented the vastly different textures of skin, hair and metal in a convincing manner – a great achievement considering it was not at the expense of the composition and beauty. Jenkins, in his Coins of Greek Sicily, comments on Eucleidas’ ”splendid head of Athena”: ” we see the head of the goddess in semi-facing view. It is the first of such realizations in the range of Sicilian coins to achieve a solid and convincing feel of three-dimensional sculpture, and this is managed without carving the actual planes of the relief very high. Considerable animation is given to the composition not only by the turbulence of the hair but by the crests and other details of the helmet, among which is concealed the artist’s signature. The sculptural effect is aided by the way in which at least one of the dolphins on the right seems to appear as if from behind the head...” The use of Athena’s portrait on a tetradrachm of Syracuse was, in itself, an innovation. For two reasons we can reject the idea that the portrait is Arethusa donning an Attic-style helmet to commemorate the defeat of the Athenian invasion of 415-413 B.C.: first, she wears a gorgoneion pendant, which aids in her identification; second, though it would be acceptable to revel in a victory over the Athenians, it would be sacrilegious to mock the goddess Athena, and dressing the local water nymph in Athena’s helmet would tread dangerously close to that line. Furthermore, Athena’s cult was well-established at Syracuse, and was serviced by a then-ancient temple on Ortygia, an island near the mainland that had been the original site of colonization. It is also interesting to note that for products of the same mint and approximately the same time, Kimon’s two facing-Arethusa dies were prepared as obverses (forecasting a diagnostic change in Syracusan coinage), whereas Eucleidas’ two facing-Athena dies were reverses. This was a critical error in the latter case since the reverse die receives the full energy of the hammer blow. Eucleidas’ masterful die soon developed a crack beneath Athena’s chin that widened with each successive strike. With this in mind, it is at least possible that Kimon decided to use his facing-Arethusa as an obverse based upon having witnessed the fate of Eucleidas’ facing-Athena.

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Price realized 275'000 CHF
Starting price 100'000 CHF
Estimate 125'000 CHF
The auction is closed.
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