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Masterpiece from the Moretti Collection

439924.

SICILY, Syracuse. Second Democracy. 466-405 BC. AR Tetradrachm (26.5mm, 17.27 g, 12h). Unsigned dies in the style of Eukleidas. Struck circa 413-405 BC. Charioteer, wearing long chiton, holding torch in extended right hand and reins in left, driving fast quadriga left; above, Nike flying right, crowning charioteer with wreath held in her extended hands; in exergue, grain ear left / Head of Arethousa right, hair gathered behind in knot held with band, wearing triple-pendant earring and linear necklace with frontal pendant; ΣY-PA-KOΣIΩN and four dolphins swimming around. Tudeer 62 (V21/R40); HGC 2, 1338 (this coin illustrated); Basel 466 (this coin); BMC 224; Gulbenkian 284; McClean 2716; Rizzo pl. XLVII, 8 (all from the same dies). Choice EF, toned. Exceptional.


Ex Athos D. Moretti Collection (Numismatica Ars Classica 13, 8 October 1998), lot 466.

By the middle of the 5th century BC, the situation in Sicily prefigured much later developments in Renaissance Italy, when local princes engaged in continual warfare among themselves, while employing the services of the finest contemporary artists and craftsmen. Wars required significant amounts of coinage to hire mercenaries, and the increasing cultural sophistication of the courts encouraged artistic experimentation – the result was the patronizing of some of the most talented coin engravers in history. In Syracuse and surrounding cities, the anonymous “Demareteion Master” and the “Maestro della foglia” were followed by their students and successors – Choirion, Euainetos, Eumenos, Exakestidas, Herakleidas – all of whom proudly signed their works. These masters developed new ways of viewing the world through art, breaking the static forms developed in Archaic and early Classical art, thereby developing new methods of portraying motion and life in miniature. The silver tetradrachm was the preferred denomination for such expression, providing a sufficient canvas upon which these artists had free-range to create. At Syracuse, these artists infused the standard typology – the victorious charioteer and the head of Arethousa – with a vigorous lifelike quality that places these coins among the finest works of numismatic art. The chariot scene was transformed from a two-dimensional view to a dynamic three-dimensional perspective, with the horses arrayed in such a manner as to give the viewer the impression that the horses are emerging from the field. On the reverse, the previously stoic and sedate profile of Arethousa was now imbued with a certain individuality. Although her adornments varied in the way her hair was kept and the kind of earrings she wore, the vitality of her countenance now offered a radiant immortality.