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Lot 24

Estimate: 100'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 100'000 CHF Price realized: 160'000 CHF
SICILY. SYRACUSE. Dekadrachm, signed by the master engraver Kimon, 410-400 BC. AR 42.78 g. Fast quadriga l., the charioteer, wearing sleeveless chiton, holds the reins with his l. hand, the kentron in his r. hand, he is crowned by Nike flying r.; in the exergue panoply of armour: cuirass, greaves, shield and helmet on two steps, below AΘΛA; on exergual line: signature [KIMΩN] Rev. ΣYPAKOΣIΩN Head of Arethusa l., hair in ampyx and in a sphendone of network; she wears a pendant earring and a necklace; around, four dolphins; double artist's signature: K on ampyx and KIMΩN on the dolphin below neck truncation. Boston 432 (these dies); Jongkees 12, 3 (these dies A/g).

Extremely rare in this quality. Masterwork of Greek die engraving and of the best classical style.

Obv. Extremely fine. Rev. Almost uncirculated

Provenance: Privately acquired from NGSA, Geneva in 1999.

Scholars have long attempted to ascribe Kimon's decadrachms to an historical event as they seem in every way to be commemorative medallions. The Syracusan defeat of the Athenian navy in 413 at first seems an ideal choice, though current thought on the dating of this issue favours the victorious actions of Syracuse in the otherwise devastating invasion of Sicily by the Carthaginians from 406 to 405 B.C.

The most compelling reason to associate the Kimonian decadrachms with a military victory is the display of armour and weaponry that appears in the exergue along with the inscription that indicates 'prizes', or at least 'agonistic contests'. Since it was a common practice of Greek soldiers to engrave dedicatory inscriptions on captured armour, a connection might be drawn between that practice and what we observe here.

The obverse scene of a charioteer guiding his team through a bend is devoted entirely to victory. Despite their inherent dissimilarities, the four elements of the scene exist in harmony: the driver is calm and composed, the horses toss their heads wildly as they charge forward, Nike floats above as if undisturbed by the great contest below, and the display of arms and armour is fixed, as if monumental. If possible, the head of Artemis-Arethusa on the reverse is even more impressive. This die is especially important, as it is signed three times by Kimon: his initial K on the ampyx near her forehead and his full name on the body of the dolphin below her neck. Considering his signature also occurs in miniature letters on the exergual line on the obverse, we have a coin that the artist must have considered to be among his best creations.

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