Syracuse. Tetradrachm circa 480-475, AR 17.28 g. Slow quadriga driven r. by charioteer, holding reins and kentron; above, Nike alighting r. to crown the horses. Rev. Diademed head of Arethusa r., wearing necklace. Around, four dolphins swimming clockwise. Boehringer 116. SNG ANS 29 (this obverse die).
Estimate: 3'000 CHF
Starting price: 2'400 CHF
Price realized: 3'400 CHF
A splendid and remarkably fresh example, with a wonderful late archaic head
of Arethusa. About extremely fine/extremely fine
Ex Sternberg & Apparuti 17, 1986, 63 and Naville 1, 2013, 30 sales.
Sold with an export licence issued by the Republic of Italy.
The goddess who graces the reverse of Syracusan tetradrachms, usually identified as Arethusa or Artemis-Arethusa, underwent a remarkable transformation from c. 490 to c. 385 BC. The first striking is known by just four portrait dies attributed to the ‘Master of the large Arethusa head’ (Boehringer R018-R021) which are thought to have been issued c.490-485 BC. As the name given to this anonymous artist suggests, they bear large and grandiose heads of the goddess engraved in a wonderful style that virtually defines Archaic Greek art. Over the next twenty years a large number of portrait dies were cut in a variety of styles. Some of the earliest types were inspired works of art, being virtual copies of the first dies though engraved in more compact versions (Boehringer R024, R025 and R030). Others – like the present coin - were also engraved by very talented artists with somewhat different visions of beauty. The majority, nevertheless, were workaday efforts that one might expect for what turned out to be a very large coinage during these two decades. On most portraits of this era the hair of the goddess hangs low with the ends drawn upward and fastened beneath the pearl diadem, resulting in a curvature of her hair at the nape of her neck. Though on this notable reverse die (Boehringer R081) this feature is maintained, it shows no parallel in the entire series. As such, it represents a fresh and highly individualized effort within a coinage that, by this stage of its development, had come to favor bland and somewhat crude workmanship.