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Coin Detail
Click here to see enlarged image.
ID:     41-37
Type:     Roman Imperial
Issuer:     Augustus
Date Ruled:     27 B.C. - A.D. 14
Metal:     Gold
Denomination:     Aureus
Struck / Cast:     struck
Date Struck:     BC after 27
Diameter:     22 mm
Weight:     7.88 g
Obverse Legend:     CAESAR
Obverse Description:     Bare head right
Reverse Legend:     AVGVSTVS
Reverse Description:     Heifer standing right
Mint:     Uncertain Mint
Primary Reference:     RIC -, cf. 538 (for obverse)
Reference2:     BMC –, cf. 660 (for obverse)
Reference3:     C –, cf. 26-27
Reference4:     CBN –, cf. 101; Bahrfeldt –, cf. 137; Calicó 172 (this coin); Biaggi 88 (this coin)
Photograph Credit:     Numismatic Ars Classica NAC AG
Price Sold For:     320000 Swiss Franc
Date Sold:     11/20/07
Notes:     NAC Auction 41, Lot 37 An apparently unique variety of this extremely rare and prestigious issue. A superb portrait of realistic style. Minor marks, otherwise extremely fine Ex M&M XIII, 1954, 614; Leu 22, 1979, 188; NFA 22, 1989, Moretti collection, 29 and Sothebys 8.7. 1996, 84 sales. The portrait of Augustus on this aureus continues to excite comment, and its fine artistry has led scholars to conclude that it was produced in the East. Of the five portrait dies illustrated for these aurei in Bahrtfeldt and Calicó, the one used to strike this aureus is arguably the most engaging: we see sharp, clearly modeled features, suggesting the engraver came close to the mark. We should presume that at least two artists worked on the portrait dies of this coinage, for there is a clear division in style – a voluminous head characterized by two dies of great artistic affinity, and three dies with a thin portrait, which also might have been produced by a single artist. In terms of style, the reverses are quite uniform, and it would come as no surprise if all had been cut by one artist. We observe different postures and viewing angles for the heifer on the reverse. Usually it walks slowly to the left or to the right with its head lowered, but in this case it stands at a full stop with its head raised. Since the heifers posture resembles that found on the aurei and the relatively plentiful denarii of this type often attributed to Samos or Pergamum (see RIC 475), some catalogers have linked the two issues. However, the stylistic treatment is vastly different, and it is best to include this coin in the finest-style group of RIC 536-538, attributed to an uncertain mint in the East. The heifer is generally believed to represent a group of bronze statues cast in the fifth century B.C. After his victory at Actium, Augustus requisitioned from Athens four massive statues of cattle that had been created by the sculptor Myron. They were monumental prizes of great antiquity, but the Greeks could do little to object, and Augustus used them to adorn an altar in his Temple of Apollo on the Palatine. Interestingly, a cow that must also represent these sculptures appears on coins of Vespasian struck in 74 and 76, and since that emperor used Myrons cows to decorate his new Temple of Pax, completed in 74, we find a good explanation for the recycling of this attractive Augustan type