Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 106 Part I   |   9 - 10 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 200

Estimate: 15'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 12'000 CHF Price realized: 13'000 CHF
Syracuse. Tetradrachm unsigned work of Parmenides circa 405, AR 16.01 g. Fast quadriga driven l. by charioteer pulling back the reins with both hands and holding kentron in his r.; above, Nike flying r. to crown him. Below the hooves of the horses, a wheel set on double exergual line, beneath which barley grain (off flan). Rev. [ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ] Head of Arethusa facing l., wearing saccos adorned with stars and zigzag rims, triple ear pendant and a pearl necklace. Beneath neck truncation, Silenos head r. Around, four dolphins. Rizzo pl. XLVII, 16 (reverse only illustrated, this die). SNG Lloyd 1388 (this coin). SNG München 1064 (these dies). Tudeer 70. Coins, Artists and Tyrants 70f (this coin).
Of the highest rarity, only six specimens known of this important and intriguing issue.
Old cabinet tone, several marks on obverse field, otherwise very fine

Ex Naville VI, Bement, 1924, 519; Triton I, 1997, 341 and Gemini VII, 2011, 165 sales. From the duplicates of the British Museum, the Lloyd and A.D.M. collections.

This tetradrachm belongs to the most celebrated period of Syracusan numismatic art — the period of the signing artists (ca. 413-400 B.C.). During this period, a large new series of tetradrachms was struck from silver captured from the Athenians following their unsuccessful siege of Syracuse and especially from ransom payments made to repatriate about 2,300 Athenian hoplites who had survived the debacle. These had been captured by the Syracusans and imprisoned under awful circumstances in the city’s stone quarry. All of this Athenian money was melted down and re-struck as a new, celebratory tetradrachm series featuring a racing quadriga on the obverse and the head of Arethusa, the patron nymph of Syracuse, on the reverse. Some of the best artists in Sicily produced dies for this new coinage. Filled with pride in their work, which often pushed the boundaries of Classical Greek numismatic representations and involved artistic experimentation, many of the artists signed their dies. This particular coin is a rarity for the period in that the Arethusa die is not signed with the artist’s name, but instead features the small head of a satyr beneath the neck truncation. This may have been the personal emblem of the artist or perhaps a pun on his name. The obverse type is the usual racing chariot that was a traditional type for Syracusan coinage going back to the second quarter of the fifth century B.C., but now it is infused with a dynamism not seen before. Whereas the horses of earlier chariots were arranged one on top of each other in cookie-cutter fashion, here each horse is an individual, each with its own distinct leg and head positions. The potential monotony of four horse heads in a row is skillfully alleviated by turning back the head of the third horse from the right. The turning head is also associated with a broken rein that trails below. That horse is going to be a serious problem for the charioteer, who is already driving at breakneck speed. Through these small but important details, the die engraver draws us into the exciting story of the race, although the Nike flying above assures us that whatever dangers are posed by the third horse the charioteer will still manage to finish as the victor.

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