Skip to main content

"Found in a river": Tarentine coins for sale

Nomos AG of Zurich is offering a set of 4 silver diobols of Tarentum and a bronze lidded box in a Zurich sale (May 6, 2009; details). The sale is highlighted in a press release (July 25, 2008):
Nomos AG announces its first public auction of Fine Ancient and Early European Coins and Medals to be held on the afternoon of May 6th, 2009, in Zürich. The auction will take place at the Widder Hotel, a five star luxury facility in the center of town. Many major coins of great beauty and importance have already been consigned to the sale. The sale will be fully and expertly catalogued by Dr. Alan Walker, Director of Nomos AG, and will feature an elegant catalogue layout and design.
These Tarentine coins appears to be part of a group:
When found the box contained four diobols of Tarentum, all dating circa 280-228 (though probably in the earlier part of that period), and all with a helmeted head of Athena on their obverses and a standing figure of Herakles grappling with the Nemean Lion on their reverses.
The pieces formed part of the collection of Dr. Leo Mildenberg ("in 2000"). The catalogue entry suggests that the box surfaced in recent years:
According to the information that was supplied by Dr. Mildenberg, this box was found in a river and when the deposits that filled it were cleaned out, these four silver coins were found within it. This is by no means improbable: the box itself is probably slightly earlier than the coins, but idea that it contained them seems perfectly reasonable. Its small size implies it was meant to be used to hold relatively precious items. Given the kind of people who still brought things to Dr. Mildenberg in his later years, and this was brought to him a year or two before he died, it is very unlikely that anyone would have thought it worth while to create a fictitious history for the object (especially since the coins themselves were then of relatively minor value). It was undoubtedly shown to him because it was the kind of curiosity everyone knew he enjoyed seeing. In any event, being able to have the actual container in which the present coins were found is both exciting and romantic.
Mildenberg died in 2001 and this piece appears to have been acquired by him "in 2000" ("a year or two before he died"). Curiosity would prompt questions about the finders and previous owners of this box and its contents. What sort of people "still brought things" to Mildenberg "in his later years"?

A Lucanian nestoris sold by Mildenberg (see earlier discussion) was among the objects returned to Italy by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston [abstract].

The box is also worthy of comment. The cataloguer (presumably Dr Alan S. Walker [for his views on cultural property see his revealing and frank review available from the web pages of the Committee on Ways and Means]) draws a parallel with a bronze "Box with relief-decorated lid" that once formed part of the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman collection (A Passion for Antiquities no. 29) and now in the J. Paul Getty Museum (inv. 96.AC.87). (No previous publication, history or find-spot were noted for the Fleischman box.)

The coin cataloguer adds:
The box is so close in form to the Fleischman example, now Getty 96.AC 87 (dated to 350-310 BC), that one wonders whether it could have been made in the same atelier. While its cataloguers pointed out its resemblance to the cinerary urns used in Macedonian tombs (especially that of Philip II), the fact that this one surely came from Magna Graecia makes one wonder whether the Fleischman piece came from there as well.
Magna Graecia is another way of saying that this box with four silver coins minted at Tarentum came from southern Italy.

And if it was found in Italy, what was the date of its discovery? How and when did it leave the country?

(The cataloguer should, perhaps, note that the gold larnax from Tomb II at Vergina is unlikely to have belonged to Philip II given the implications of the weight inscriptions on the silver plate. [Abstract])

I am grateful to Nathan Elkins for drawing my attention to this lot.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.