Specialist auctioneers Morton & Eden will offer four classical Greek coins dating from the 5th century BC in a sale in London on Monday April 23. The coins come from a private collection and were struck in Sicily when it was a Greek colony.
Said specialist Tom Eden: "Each of these four iconic coins in its own individual way represents an artistic pinnacle of what Greek artists were able to achieve within the confines of a coin at that time.”
From the city of Naxos, the earliest Greek colony in Sicily, is an exceptionally fine silver tetradrachm of circa 460 BC by the Aitna Master (estimate £150-200,000). It depicts Dionysos and his drunken woodland companion Silenos, the latter nude and ithyphallic, squatting on the ground and raising a wine-cup to his lips.
This type of coin has long been recognised as a masterpiece of Greek art of the transitional period, classical in style, yet retaining elements of an earlier archaic artistry. The coin was formerly in the famous Lloyd Collection at the British Museum, disposed of as a duplicate. Before that it had been sold at Sotheby's in London in 1899.
The other three coins are silver dekadrachms of Syracuse, issued at the end of the 5th century BC when the city had prevailed over Carthaginian forces in 405 BC. In his definitive 1990 book “Ancient Greek Coins”, the numismatist G. K. Jenkins describes Syracusan dekadrachms of this period as "perhaps the most famous of all ancient coins". In a sense they are a victory coinage, depicting a four-horse chariot and the Syracusan water-nymph Arethusa surrounded by dolphins.
These coins are found signed by the artists who created them and two of the examples to be sold are by the master engraver Kimon. They comprise an exceptional example from his earliest set of dies (estimate £200-300,000) and another which bears the artist's signature three times (estimate £150-200,000).
Finally there is what has been described as the finest known dekadrachm by Euainetos, which is perfectly centred with a fully legible rendering of the artist's signature (estimate £150-200,000). The two latter coins were formerly on exhibition at the Antikenmuseum in Basel, sold in Zurich in 1998.
For further information, please contact Tom Eden of Morton & Eden Ltd, 45 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PE on 0207 493 5344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.