An Artist's Journeys in Nature

Sculpture and The World of Greek Coins

Alexander Coin - Patricia HowittThe brilliant artists who decorated pottery throughout the Hellenistic world from 2000 to about 450 BC left a legacy that was unsurpassed in the civilizations of Greece and Rome, and probably unequalled worldwide in any era since.

They decorated huge wine-mixing bowls, plates, drinking bowls, flasks and funerary urns.  Their individual styles became known, and enough of their works have survived that even today, many of these artists are identified by the names of their most famous pieces and have listings kept of their works.

Quite some achievement,  2000 – 4000 years later!  How much art from today will survive that long?

Greek Black Figure Vase

Art and Ancient Greek Coinage

Equally to be marveled at were die-makers throughout the Ancient Greek world who created the designs for the coinage used by all the city states – of which there were many – all having their own traditions and ‘coats of arms’.

These artists carved in metal, in intaglio (in reverse) the dies from which the many city states’ coins were struck on a regular basis – coins that are works of art in their own right.

Greek Coinage

Can you imagine the skill required to carve perfect works of art of that size – in reverse? In metal? By hand? A study of the development of Greek coinage from about 700 to about 150 BC brings to light a whole new world of artistic triumph:  marvelous, almost unbelievable skill.

If you are interested, go HERE and click on  the Alphabetical Index of Issuing Authorities for Greek coins.  You will find at the top of each issuing authority page a link to pages with thumbnails, which saves a lot of blind delving.

To round out this post, here are one or two of my own sculptural tributes to the Greek die-makers, sculpted and cast in epoxy resin soon after we came to New Zealand.  Size – 9cm (3.5″) diam approx:

Alexander - Mint Alexandria c 300BC Pallas Athene - South Italy 445-410BC
Seilenos - Aetna Master  470BC Dionysos - Sybrita c 360BC
Gryphon - Panticapaeum c 380              BC Heracles & Lion - Syracuse c 395 BC
Eagle & Snake - Olympia c 480 BC Eagle's Head - Elis c 400 BC

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