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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 3 & 4, Lot: 20. Estimate CHF80000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 May 2011. 
Sold For CHF105000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SICILY, Naxos. Circa 461-430 BC. Drachm (Silver, 4.30 g 5), circa 460. 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. Ν Α ΧΙ ΟΝ Nude and bearded Silenos squatting, facing but turning his head and upper body to the left towards the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, and resting his left hand on his left knee, turned forward, his animal tail curled out on the ground behind him. Cahn 55.3 (this coin). Kraay Hirmer 7. Rizzo pl. XXVIII, 13. Very rare. A splendid piece, of the finest early classical style, and very nicely toned . Extremely fine.

From the Spina collection, ex Bank Leu 2, 25 April 1972, 94 and from the collection of Sir E. Bunbury, SWH 15 June 1896, 365 (sold for £23/15 to Whelan), and from the collection of Lord Northwick.

The difference between this head of Dionysos and that found on the archaic issues of Naxos is enormous. Here we have the head of a humanized god, very similar to what we can expect a wealthy noble of the period would have looked like, rather than an elegant but hieratic figure. The squatting figure of Silenos on the reverse is also masterfully done; stylistically,with its use of foreshortening and anatomical detail, is is paralleled by the finest contemporary Attic Red Figure vase painting. The quality of this coin, and of the tetradrachm that goes with it, is so astonishingly high that we have to assume it was made for a special issue, and was designed to impress all those who used it with the city’s good taste and wealth.