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Very Rare “Two Moors” Theriac Seal

335, Lot: 869. Estimate $200.
Sold for $280. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ITALY, Venezia (Venice). 16th-17th centuries. PB Theriac seal (23.5mm, 12.54 g). THERIACA TINA ALI DVE MORI VEN, confronted busts of two moors / Blank. U. Klein, “Theriak-Kapseln und kein Ende,” Festschrift Ilisch p. 288, 1. VF, beige patina. Very rare.

Theriaca (also known as ‘Venice triacle’) was an ancient medicinal compound – employed as a traditional medicine since the time of Mithridates VI of Pontus – used as an antidote against poisonous bites. Nero’s physician Andromachus, as well as the medical author Galen, discussed its medicinal value. Containing dozens of ingredients, including viper flesh, opium, cinnamon, agarics, and gum arabic, it was mixed with honey and wine to complete the compounding process. During the Middle Ages, theriac became a valuable article of commerce, with Venice, Padua, Milan, Genoa, Bologna, Constantinople, and Cairo all competing in its trade. Venice regulated the production and trade of theriac beginning in 1258, and by the 15th century controlled its distribution throughout Europe. About 40 pharmacy shops in Venice were officially allowed to produce and sell theriac.

Nearly all of the known “Two Moors” theriac caps have been found in Greece or Bulgaria (see Klein pp. 287-288).