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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VII, Lot: 1129. Estimate $500. 
Closing Date: Monday, 12 January 2004. 
Sold For $1800. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

IRENE DOUKAINA, wife of ALEXIUS I. 1081-1118. Lead seal (34mm, 19.22 gm). IC XC, Christ, nimbate, seated facing, raising hand in benediction and holding Gospels / +EIRHNH AV [...], facing bust of Irene, wearing crown with projections and double pendants, draped in ornate cloak and loros, holding sceptre with trefoil tip and globus cruciger. Zacos & Veglery 105. VF, reverse portrait obscure. ($500)

The iconography of the imperial portrait suggests a 12th century date for this seal, although Z&V hesitate to give a definitive attribution, as there are three potential imperial wives who could be the subject: the wives of Alexius I, John II, and Manuel I were all named Irene. Irene Doukaina is the most historically prominent of the three, more likely to have had an imperial seal made for her, and the sceptre she carries bears some similarity to the sceptre carried by Alexius on his tetartera. Thus, the tentative attribution offered here.

The marriage of Alexius I and Irene was arranged to seal an alliance between the powerful Comnene and Doukas families. Alexius, though, seems to have been more attracted to Maria, a German princess. The emperor insisted his wife accompany him on his travels and campaigns, but apparently less from any feelings of attraction than from a desire to prevent her from intriguing behind his back in the capital. After the death of Alexius, and the accession of their son, John II, in 1118, Irene retired to a convent, where she continued to enjoy a reputation as a patron of the arts and letters.