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Research Coins: Printed Auction

 

Exceptional Early Hellenistic Art

Sale: Triton XII, Lot: 215. Estimate $30000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 5 January 2009. 
Sold For $60000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of EPEIROS. Pyrrhos. 297-272 BC. AR Tetradrachm (16.56 g, 12h). Lokroi Epizephyrioi mint. Head of Zeus left, wearing oak wreath; Θ and monogram below / BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΠYPPOY, Dione seated left, holding staff in right hand and lifting her veil with her left; A in exergue. Babelon, Roi pl. VII, 1 = de Luynes 1898 (same obv. die [same rev. die as pl. VII, 2]); SNG Copenhagen -; BMC 6 = AGC 392 (same dies); Jameson 1127 (same dies); Gulbenkian 914 var. (same obv. die; no A on rev.); Hirsch 1186 var. (same obv. die; same). EF, attractively toned. Well struck on a broad flan. A masterpiece of Hellenistic engraving and one of the finest known.


This beautiful tetradrachm is a majestic example of early Hellenistic artwork, as noted by G.K. Jenkins: "It is at once apparent that in one important respect Pyrrhos' practice is closely akin to that of the Macedonian kings of this time, in that nowhere does his portrait appear. Much as we may regret this, the splendid and exuberant types of Pyrrhos' Lokrian coins go far to compensate for it. The tetradrachm has for the obverse the head of Dodonean Zeus, whose sanctuary lay in Pyrrhos' homeland; this head, crowned with oak leaves and with restless flowing hair and beard, makes a strong contrast with the restrained and classical head of the same god minted for Alexander of Epeiros at Tarentum, and even with the more concentrated style of Antigonos Doson's Poseidon, but the Pyrrhos coin is masterly in its different way. Its exciting and dynamic quality is well matched by the calm majesty of the reverse type, Dione seated on a high-backed throne and swathed in the complex drapery so typical of Hellenistic sculpture.... The impressive style of these coins is quite different from anything we might have expected at an Italian mint at this time, and it may well be that the artist responsible was not a local one, but may have come from mainland Greece or Macedonia." (G.K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek Coins [New York: Putnam, 1972], pp. 247-8.)