Syracuse. Tetradrachm circa 405-400, AR 17.26 g. Prancing quadriga driven l. by charioteer holding kentron and reins; above, Nike flying r. to crown him. The second horse from l. has a loose bridle; in exergue, ear of barley l., with stalk and leaf. Rev. ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩ – N Large head of Arethusa l., wearing double hook earring and necklace with four pearl-shaped pendants; hair bound by ampyx and sphendone whose lower border bears a zig-zag pattern. Rizzo pl. 47, 17 (this obverse die). Boston 415 (these dies). Gulbenkian 288 (these dies). AMB 471 (these dies). Tudeer 69.
Estimate: 25'000 CHF
Starting price: 20'000 CHF
Price realized: 27'500 CHF
Very rare. A portrait of exquisite style, the work of a talented master engraver. Light
iridescent tone, struck on a narrow flan, otherwise extremely fine
Ex Tkalec 24 October 2003, 39 (illustrated on the front cover page); Gemini VII, 2011, 164 sales. From the Dr. Patrick Tan collection.
This superb tetradrachm of Syracuse offers us an absolutely sublime reverse which is, surely the work of a master-engraver who, even if he did not sign his works, was in no way inferior wont to put their signatures on theirs dies, namely Tudeer nos. 41, 42, 43, 46, 47 and 52. Among these, in our opinion the masterpieces are nos. 42, 43 and 47, for their enchanting beauty which stand out from the others and represent the highest achievement in the coinage of classical times.
We believe that some of the best made Arethusa heads can be ascribed to him, the obverse equally to us demanding our attention, for it is perhaps the most daring and inventive of all chariot scenes produced at Syracuse. Only about a decade before these dies were cut, the chariot scene on Syracusan tetradrachms had evolved from a sombre, canonical depiction inspired by an Attic vase painting into an explosive scene in which the horses were shown in high action. This innovation was shown at a slight angle so the artist could dwell on the physiognomies of the horses and show the chariot with a new perspective. The style of the chariot scene in the century prior to these innovations was formulaic; though the position of the Nike varied, the chariot was shown in profile, with only the slight overlapping of the horses and the separation of their heads to indicate that more than one was present. Very few dies from that initial century diverged even slightly from the standard formula (see Boehringer dies V45, V107, V286, V291, V326), with the work of a single artist in about 440 B.C. (Boehringer dies Boeh. V295 and V296) being noteworthy, if not especially accomplished. Once we enter this dynamic period of about 415 to 385 B.C. some extraordinarily talented artists energized Syracusan coins with a level of innovation that had never before been seen. Not surprisingly, several of these artists signed their dies and produced works that were influential far beyond the shores of Sicily. Leading the way was Euainetos, who seems to have been the first to express complete freedom in the way he depicted the chariot at an angle, as if it was turning the bend (Tudeer die 10). This particular die, Tudeer die 25, takes Euainetos' inventiveness to a new level by adding unexpected elements to the scene. Here we have a snapshot of a calamity: one of the reins has been pulled from the driver's hand and the horses trample upon a wheel that has broken away from a competing chariot. The fact that our charioteer is being crowned by Nike is all the confirmation we need that he and his team emerged victorious at the expense of a competitor whose chariot had overturned in close proximity.