A stater of Kelenderis: my last coin of 2018.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Theodosius, Dec 23, 2018.

  1. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    WARNING: A long, rambling, artistic treatise on a couple of old coins follows.

    My last coin purchase of 2018 was this stater of Kelenderis. There have been a number of these on the market over the last year and I like the type, so I have been looking for the right one. Many of these have very ragged flans that lose part of the design. Many are poorly struck with flat spots in the high points. They vary between an archaic style and a more classical style. I picked this one because of its good classical style. Even though it is somewhat corroded, it is still very attractive in hand. In person you don’t notice the rough surfaces as much that the photo highlights. I am very pleased with this as my last coin of 2018.

    Kelendris Stater 1a.jpg
    Cilicia, Kelenderis.
    Circa 420-410 BC, Stater (Silver, 21 mm, 10.34 g, 9 h).
    Obverse: Youthful nude rider seated sideways on horse prancing to right, preparing to jump off and run alongside the horse.
    Reverse: ΚΕΛEN Goat kneeling right, its head turned back to left.
    References: SNG Levante 24. SNG Paris -.
    An attractive and very well centered example.

    The major reason I bought this particular Kelenderis specimen is because of the uncanny resemblance of its obverse to another coin I have. Compare the obverse on this stater (or nomos) of Tarentum, from the Stevex6 collection.
    tarentum stater 4a.jpg
    Calabria, Tarentum
    315-302 BC, AR Nomos, 20.5mm, 8.00gm
    Obverse: Warrior, preparing to cast spear, holding two others and shield, on horse rearing.
    Reverse: Phalanthos, holding kantharos and trident, astride dolphin left; AP monogram to left; small dolphin below.
    References : Fischer-Bossert Group 70, 846 (V336/R657); Vlasto 600 (same obv. die); HN Italy 937; Gulbenkian 35 (same dies); Jameson 156 (same dies)
    EF, toned, excellent metal, exceptional style obverse from fresh dies.
    Ex JMG Collection (CNG 94, 18 September 2013), lot 15

    Look at the two obverses side by side and note how similar the overall artistic compositions are and how many artistic details are so similar:
    Kelendris Stater 1a Compare.jpg
    The overall artistic compositions are remarkably similar. Fitting a horse and rider that are inherently a pyramid shaped grouping onto a round coin poses some challenges. Having the rider bending forward at the waist and again at the neck helps fit him into the flan. The downward bend of the horse's tail at the edge of the flan performs the same service. The bent hocks of the rear legs shorten them and add a spring-loaded feeling of action. The staggered, raised, and bent front legs also make the composition more circular. Both coins use the same devices.

    The details are remarkably similar as well. The horse and rider motif are very common on ancient coins but the number of similar details on these two is what makes them interesting to me. Look at the relaxed attitude of the rider's feet on both coins. If I were about to spring off my horse I think I would pull my toes up more and try to land on the balls of my feet. The flowing but spiky hair of the rider’s are very similar as is the shape, angle, and expression on their faces. The horse’s heads are in similar positions, with similarly open mouths, flowing mains, and tufty forelocks. There are other small details that are very similar. Of course, one rider is about to spring from his horse while the other is about to casually spear something on the ground.

    The aim of the classical artist (as I understand it) was to portray the perfect example of the human, animal or plant form. This means perfect health, symmetry, size and proportion (particularly debated by different artists). That is, the ideal example of a person or animal. A god or goddess was supposed to be so perfect as to be divine, in a way your average run of the mill, circulated condition human could never be, or only rare specimens could be briefly in the perfect health of early adulthood. I think the artist of the Kelenderis blew it a little in this regard by making the neck of his rider too long. The Tarentum artist over compensated for this in making his rider’s neck too short. This is the biggest artistic difference between them that I have noticed so far.

    The Kelenderis stater retains some archaic influence in the perfectly parallel groups of hair in the horse’s mane. Horse manes do not look like this in real life unless someone spent a lot of time braiding and tying them into parallel rows with ribbons, something I don’t know if the ancient Greeks did. The Tarentum horse being 100 years more modern shows more realistic if still somewhat stylized modeling of the mane, where the clumps of hair are more natural and random looking. The Kelenderis stater is a bit of a transition from archaic to classical in style.

    The Kelenderis stater was minted roughly 100 years earlier than the Tarentum, so the same artist certainly did not create both. I can only guess the Tarentum celator had acquired an example of the Kelenderis stater to study while engraving their dies. Just seeing the Kelenderis briefly would not be enough to mimic it so exactly. I think you would need to have it in hand while composing the new coin. The Tarentum celator has done a nice job of adapting the earlier design to his slightly different scene, and his rendering of the fine details is even better (although a mint state example of the Kelenderis might show us differently).

    mediterranean-sea-physical-map.jpg
    Tarentum (modern day Taranto, Italy) is 921 miles in a direct arc from Kelenderis (modern day Aydincik, Turkey). Despite this large distance, it is easy to image a stater of Kelenderis making its way across the Mediterranean to Tarentum as part of a series of trading expeditions. The prevailing winds and currents in the Mediterranean favor ships traveling west along the coast of Turkey to Italy. Traveling only during the day and making 30 miles per day it would take at least six or seven weeks for a non-stop trip going along Turkey and around Greece to Italy. It is more likely the coin travelled in a series of hops from city to city, and somehow ended up in Tarentum 100 or so years later. The current coin’s state of wear does not suggest it passed from hand to hand too often. The current coin in all probability was not the model used, but one of its mint brethren might have been. These are the mysteries we will never know.

    A stater from 100 years ago would be similar enough to a currently minted one to be acceptable in trade. The differences in weight between various coinages could be resolved by weighing groups of coins and comparing to a standard. Major trading ports like Tarentum must have been very experienced in converting between different weight standards and must have known many of the coins in circulation, even those from 100 years or more earlier.

    Living in a port city like Tarentum, a celator would have an opportunity to look at and acquire examples of coins from all over the ancient world. Think of all the interesting coins being traded up and down the Mediterranean in 300 BC! You wonder if individual celators and mints made a point of collecting interesting examples of coins from other cities to use in composing their own. There are several examples of coins imitating earlier ones that come to mind, particularly the Arethusa from the Dekadrachms of Syracuse were imitated by other cities.

    Being able to study, in hand, the work of these artists, who lived over 2300 years ago and trying figure out what they were attempting to achieve and how they approached it is one of the things that makes collecting ancient coins so uniquely appealing to me.
    I hope you have enjoyed this long and speculative essay, please post your coins showing similar artistic themes and styles from different times and places.

    John
     
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  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    That is a coin of great style and a fine way to end the year.
     
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  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Wonderful coins and interesting observations!

    "Circulated condition human" :D

    For purposes of judging an artist's skill in rendering human forms, the hands and feet are often a good place to look. The artist who engraved the Taras dies excelled at those appendages. The Kelenderis engraver seems more adept at the horse's appendages :).
     
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  5. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    Thanks, Doug!

    Good point TIF. The artist of the Tarentum carefully rendered the super casual riding my horse with relaxed feet on his coin. I say his but I wonder if women were ever employed as celators?

    John
     
  6. Theodosius

    Theodosius Unrepentant Fine Style Freak! Supporter

    It occurred to me the other day that there may be another reason for the striking similarity of these two horseman designs. I realized they may both be copying a famous statue, probably made by a famous artist that would be known throughout the Greek world. Not many original Greek statues have survived from antiquity, more are known only from later, Roman copies (or from coins) than from the originals. The statues of the Parthenon are one large set of original Greek sculptures. As soon as I looked at the horsemen from the Parthenon Frieze, west side, I realized this could be the model used by both celators. (Below, I flipped the picture horizontally to make it easier to compare to the coins.) Why the original is facing left and the coins face right is a mystery. Was there a stigma with left facing people and animals in ancient Greece at there was in Rome?
    Parthenon.jpg Here are the coins again for comparison:
    Kelendris Stater 1a Compare.jpg
    The similarities are numerous and striking in both the horse and the rider. Even the faces of the riders look similar. I find it a little odd that the horseman from the Parthenon does not show a left leg. Look how casual the rider’s right leg and foot are, just like the coin from Tarentum.

    The Parthenon frieze was sculpted between c. 443 and 437 BC, well before both coins were minted. The frieze is thought to have been made under the direction of Pheidias, the most famous sculptor of the ancient world. The Parthenon and its statues were famous throughout the Greek world. It is possible that paintings or clay models of the frieze were made and carried to many cities. If you wanted inspiration on how to model a horse and rider, you could hardly go wrong copying the most famous sculptor known. I liked my first idea of one coin being the model for the other, but it is also cool thinking that people traveled from Kelenderis and Tarentum to Athens and brought back copies of the famous sculptures to use on their coins.

    John
     
  7. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Wonderful!
     
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