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Novel Artistic Interpretation

Triton XV, Lot: 1183. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $42500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ARKADIA, Stymphalos. Circa 350 BC. AR Stater (24mm, 11.67 g, 3h). Head of Artemis right, wearing laurel wreath, earring with rosette, crescent, and five pendants, and pearl necklace / Nude Herakles standing left, lion skin around left arm, holding bow in left hand, preparing to strike with club held aloft in his right hand; ΣΤYMΦAΛIΩN to left, ΣΟ between legs. BCD Peloponnesos 1204–5; SNG Copenhagen 287 (same obv. die); BMC 6 = PCGS III.B.50; Boston MFA 1269; Gulbenkian 560 = Jameson 1267; Kraay & Hirmer 514 (same obv. die); ACGC 320. Good VF, toned, a hint of porosity, obverse die breaks and flan flaw, slight die shift on reverse. Very rare, the 24th known of this issue, of which 15 are in museums.

The reverse design of this stater suggests that the artist had in mind a different approach to the myth of the Sixth Labor of Herakles when he engraved the die. According to the traditional rendering of the myth, Herakles, with the assistance of the gods Athena and Hephaistos, destroyed the Stymphalian Birds by shooting them down with his arrows once they took flight. Generally, this is the rendering of the event depicted on the coins – Herakles drawing his bow to take aim at the birds in flight. Such an active scene, however, when depicted on the coinage, results in a compact and often dense image (see CNG 85, 221). The engraver of this coin, however, chose to employ a more novel and somewhat subtler design. Rather than adopting a literal interpretation, he chose to depict the hero in a more vigorous pose. Here, Herakles strides forth to do battle, lion skin flowing over his left arm behind him, while he holds his bow in his left hand (the only overt reference to the myth). His club, held in his raised right hand, is poised to strike. What he is about to strike, however, is the ethnic which curves upward in flight before him and serves as surrogate birds.