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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 1, Lot: 25. Estimate CHF400000. 
Closing Date: Tuesday, 5 May 2009. 
Sold For CHF775000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SICILY, Naxos. Circa 460. Tetradrachm (Silver, 17.33 g 1). Bearded head of Dionysos to right, wearing ivy wreath, and with his hair tied in a krobylos at the back; border of dots cut through by the beard, the krobylos and the wreath tips Rev. ΝΑΧΙΟΝ Nude, bearded and ithyphallic Silenos squatting, facing, turning his head to the left toward the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, supporting himself with his left hand propped on the ground. Basel 384. Cahn 54. Franke/Marathaki 102/129. Gulbenkian 230-231. Kraay/Hirmer 6. Randazzo 231 (this coin). Rizzo pl. XXIX, 1. SNG ANS 515 (all same dies). A spectacular example of this famous coin, one of the very best specimens in existence. Good extremely fine.

From the Spina collection and from the collection of Orme Lewis, Triton II, 1 December 1998, 201, ex Bowers & Ruddy, Masterpieces of Ancient Coinage, 4, and from the Randazzo Hoard of 1980.

This is one of the greatest and best known of all 5th century Greek coins. It was produced as a special issue, from a single pair of dies, to commemorate the refoundation of the city of Naxos by its original inhabitants in 461, after their return from exile in Leontinoi. The die-engraver, often known as the Master of the Brussels Aitna Tetradrachm after the unique piece in Brussels that is surely by the same hand, was the finest die cutter then working anywhere in the Greek world. This head of Dionysos is unsurpassed in its power and beauty, but the kneeling Silenos on the reverse is even more impressive in its technical mastery, with the successful use of foreshortening of the right leg a triumph for the time. Silenos is managing to balance himself, but the way he is peering at his cup, as if to see if there is anything still in it, indicates that he is probably very drunk, indeed.