Ancient coins from the collection of the American Numismatic
Society feature prominently in two recent museum shows.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Pergamon and the
Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World is enhanced with loans
from the ANS. Included in the exhibit is a Poros silver decadrachm
struck in Babylon in relation to Alexander the Great’s Indian
campaign. The large silver coin, dating from 323 to 322 B.C., depicts
Alexander on horseback, attacking Porus and mahout (riders) on
elephant while the reverse shows Alexander holding fulmen (lightning)
and spear and about to be crowned by Nike.
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Also included is a silver tetradrachm of Alexander III, struck in
Babylon around the same time, depicting an archer standing with his
bow drawn, while the reverse has an expressive depiction of an elephant.
The ANS coins are exhibited in the first gallery, in a case with
other small objects from the Louvre and the Harvard University Museum
that speak to Alexander’s prominence as a military leader and royal
patron of the arts.
The exhibition opened on April 11 and will continue through July 17.
It represents a historic collaboration between the Metropolitan and
the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and brings together 264 artworks that
were created through the patronage of the royal courts of the
Hellenistic kingdoms, with an emphasis on the ancient city of Pergamon.
Other museums contributed coins to the exhibit, including the
Epigraphic and Numismatic Museum in Athens, Greece, which lent a gold
stater of Mithridates VI Eupator Dionysus, dating from the late
Hellenistic period, 86 to 85 B.C.
The Pergamon Museum houses one of the world’s greatest collection of
antiquities and the museum is currently undergoing renovations. It is
set to reopen in 2019, and Carlos A. Picón, the curator in charge of
the Greek and Roman Art department at the Metropolitan told the Wall
Street Journal, “This [exhibit] won’t happen again,” adding, “Once the
museum reopens, they won’t send one-third of its collection here.”
As the Metropolitan notes: “The conquests of Alexander the Great
transformed the ancient world, making trade and cultural exchange
possible across great distances. Alexander’s retinue of court artists
and extensive artistic patronage provided a model for his successors,
the Hellenistic kings, who came to rule over much of his empire. For
the first time in the United States, a major international loan
exhibition will focus on the astonishing wealth, outstanding artistry,
and technical achievements of the Hellenistic period — the three
centuries between Alexander’s death, in 323 B.C., and the
establishment of the Roman Empire, in the first century B.C.”
Ancients in Chicago
ANS coins also feature in the Art Institute of Chicago’s new
exhibit A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts, which includes
four bronze coins from the ANS.
As the Chicago museum explains: “An exceptionally beautiful Greek
youth, Antinous was a favorite of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Following the
young man’s mysterious death by drowning in the Nile River, Antinous
was proclaimed a god, and portraits of him appeared across the Roman Empire.”
The exhibit reunites two pieces of marble sculpture depicting
Antinous, that were long thought to have been from different artworks
but that were recently identified as being from the same work. The Art
Institute of Chicago’s fragment was originally identified as the face
of another bust, one in the collection of the Palazzo Altemps Museum
The ANS contributions include two drachms, both minted in
Alexandria, a coin minted in Mantineia, and a coin from a mint in
Ancyra as well as a book from the Society’s Rare Book Collection. The
exhibit continues through August 28.