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Research Coins: Printed Auction


Haunting Portrait
Ex Prospero and the Podalia Hoard

Triton XXII, Lot: 276. Estimate $3000.
Sold for $6500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

DYNASTS of LYCIA. Perikles. Circa 380-360 BC. AR Stater (22mm, 9.84 g, 5h). Phellos mint. Struck circa 380-375 BC. Head of Perikles facing slightly left, wearing laurel wreath, drapery around neck; to right, dolphin downward / Warrior, nude but for crested Corinthian helmet, in fighting attitude right, holding sword aloft in right hand, shield on left arm; VEHNTEZ ([= Phellos] in Lycian) to left; triskeles, PERIKLE (in Lycian), and shell to right; all within shallow incuse square. Mildenberg, Mithrapata 21 (A14/R16); Podalia 398 (A1/P3) = SNG von Aulock 4250 = Prospero 580 (this coin); Müseler VIII 35 (same dies); Falghera –; SNG Copenhagen –; Leu 65, lot 225 (same dies); Leu 30, lot 194 (same dies). Good VF, toned, usual die wear, slight die shift on reverse. Haunting portrait.

Ex Prospero Collection (New York Sale XXVII, 4 January 2012), lot 580, purchased from Spink, 31 March 1988; Glendining (20 November 1975), lot 914; Hans von Aulock Collection; 1957 Buçak [Podalia] hoard (IGCH 1262).

The portraits on coins in the later Lycian series are among the finest of the Classical period. Among the earliest to attempt depictions of their rulers on coinage, the Lycians' first portraits in the later 5th century BC were innovative, but static, idealized forms lacking individual characterization. Over the next half-century, however, the style progressed significantly toward realism, culminating in the issues of the dynasts Mithrapata and Perikles in the early-mid 4th century BC. The coins of Mithrapata came first, depicting on their reverse the profile portrait of a man with distinctive elderly features. Through the relative chronology established in L. Mildenberg's die study, one can even see the portrait become more aged as time progressed, reflecting the realism that had been captured in these issues. The coins of Perikles, Mithrapata's successor, continue this trend, but also have two innovations that set them at the pinnacle of classical portraiture. First, the portrait is moved to the obverse of the coin, emphasizing the importance of the individual. Second, and most prominently, the portrait is not in the traditional profile, but in a dramatic facing state. Obviously influenced by Kimon's facing Arethusa-head coinage at Syracuse, these depict Perikles looking out from the surface of the coin with a serene countenance and his hair flowing around him as if blown by the wind. This depiction captures the essence of the earlier idealized portraits, conveying to the viewer a sense that Perikles was more than a mere man, but retaining the realism in its individualized features. Interestingly, both Mithrapata and Perikles are depicted without any sort of satrapal headgear, which was always included in earlier Lycian portraits, perhaps indicating that they had declared their independence from the Persian king. These astonishing developments in portraiture came to an abrupt end in Lycia when Maussollos of Caria invaded the region circa 360 BC.