The coins of ancient Greece became a lifelong fascination when my parents bought me a small Penguin volume entitled ‘A Book Of Greek Coins’ by Charles Seltman.
We were in Central Africa, and I had been hooked on the classical world for some years. I was by this time at university, with dreams of becoming an archaeologist in the Mediterranean – not such a long shot from where we lived, after all.
But all that was to change. My father, with his army training, could see the tensions writ large in Africa and he decided he needed to move his wife and daughter out of it.
I was devastated – but the passage of time has proved his premonitions correct.
So the move to New Zealand went ahead: not an easy change. It cost me a year’s study, plus a Booker scholarship (cf The Booker Prize). Once here in NZ I completed my BA, majoring in Latin and Ancient Greek. All of this fed into existing interests, but I came to realize archaeology was no longer an option. So I launched into Law, which finally became my ‘official’ career.
Meanwhile on the sidelines, art continued on – supporting me as always through the dark days.
Charles Seltman’s book (aided and abetted now by Google) has become a huge source of inspiration for a series of sculpture tributes to the coins I admire most.
Created in modeling clay, taken through a plaster waste mold process to produce a master (this was in the days before cold-pouring rubber), then a flexible hot-poured mold – finally cast in epoxy, 3.5″ diameter. I have once more picked up this skill (which I owe to my dad) since moving up here – only now with the huge advantage of cold-pour molding materials.
This series honors the brilliant artists who carved in intaglio, in miniature, in metal, the dies from which the Greek city state coins were struck for many centuries. Considering the size (mostly 1″ and under), the issues of carving in metal, and the challenges of producing an intaglio image, these works are true masterpieces.
Original coin (1.1″ diameter) was struck in Asia Minor by Lysimachus after Alexander’s death, c 300 BC.
I see some parts of Wikipedia have problems with the word ‘intaglio’ – which does have various meanings. There is some clarity here –
“Sunk relief technique is not to be confused with counter-relief or intaglio as seen on engraved gem seals—where an image is fully modeled in a “negative” manner. The image goes into the surface, so that when impressed on wax it gives an impression in normal relief.” (Wikipedia)
In creating coinage however, the metal carved into had to be hard enough to impress the image on metal – not merely wax.
For more details about the work, click on the image. For more details about the Series, CLICK HERE.