Sicily, Naxos - A Less Intoxicated Silenos

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The parallel issue to the famous tetradrachm, this coin presents us with dies engraved by the same hand, yet subtly different in execution. The bold overlapping of the obverse design across the dotted border by the head of Dionysos is the same as that on the tetradrachm - it is the clear statement of a unique ability that delights in breaking the constraints that bind lesser artists, an attitude that is equally reflected on the reverse with its remarkable avant-garde use of the principle of foreshortening, which assists in the creation of a sense of depth and perspective. Yet this Silenos is visibly less intoxicated than he appears on the tetradrachm - here he remains upright without the use of his left hand to steady him, and instead rests it upon his knee.

Possessing a more muscular build and a seemingly younger face, it may be that we are expected to see in this scene a more youthful version of the companion of Dionysos, one better able to hold his wine. The execution of Silenos' musculature and his posture both on this coin and on the tetradrachm demonstrate a clear tendency in this artist towards naturalism and observational realism that was greatly ahead of his time.

Sicily, Naxos AR Drachm. Circa 460 BC. Bearded head of Dionysos right, wearing ivy wreath, his hair tied in a krobylos behind; beard, krobylos and wreath tips traversing the dotted border / Nude and bearded Silenos squatting facing, head left, holding kantharos in right hand, resting left hand on knee; ΝΑΧΙΟΝ around, all within shallow incuse circle. Cahn 55 (V40/R46); Rizzo pl. XXVIII, 13; SNG Lloyd 1151 = Weber 1467; Basel 385; SNG Lockett 841 = Pozzi 508; Jameson 674; de Luynes 1063; McClean 2467 (all from the same dies). 4.27g, 18mm, 3h.

Good Extremely Fine. Very Rare.

From the Ambrose collection.