A remarkable ageless sestertius of Agrippina the Elder, now given a new provenance
By Geoffrey Cope – Petitioncrown.com ……..
“It was, in my eyes, the perfect coin.”
This sestertius coin was a lone piece amongst 200 of the world’s finest Greek & Roman coins in an auction at Sotheby’s in 1995; time has made me forget the full story of who told me about the item. I do remember visiting London and meeting Tom Eden especially to see it; if one can ‘love’ a coin at first sight, then I was bewitched by the brass sestertius. I was to have it at any price, the ageless portrait smiled at me from the coin, she was beautiful and dignified and I had not realized that such a piece existed with such beauty.
The embarrassing story of a totally irresponsible action of any human being to mortgage to acquire a coin. Prior to the sale, I deposited the deeds of our house to get a loan. We acquired the coin of which I had large pictures on the wall in my study for many years, and she is as beautiful in hand as the day I met her. The donkeys with such minute details.
There are coins that I enjoy for the perfect quality and those that are a “work of art”; a few are ‘masterpieces’. I am asked what you mean by a ‘masterpiece’ – ask 10 people and get 11 answers; everybody has his own opinion of what is a ‘masterpiece’. I am spending a lot of time considering this point. Is it when the artist has detached himself to create a piece of art that will last for time immemorial?
Such items are the Mona Lisa. David these are ‘masterpieces’. I suppose any item can be deemed a ‘masterpiece’. This artist created for Caesar a piece that would be treasured throughout time, a portrait of his mother, a coin that would never age in its beauty, maybe for several thousand years more and be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Description and Details:
Sestertius 37-41, Æ AGRIPPINA M F MAT C CAESARIS AVGVSTI
Draped bust r., hair falling. This coin is the cover coin of the ‘Women of the Female Caesars’ by Giorgio Giacosa [See Below].
A coin of incredible detail & condition from the ring holding the reigns of the donkeys to a portrait that launched a “love” to acquire the coin. Very few coins of this period exist in such a natural condition. 28.82 g. die axis 6.00.
The rev. S P Q R / MEMORIAE / AGRIPPINAE Carpentum drawn l. by two mules; the cover supported by standing figures at the corners with ornamented side.
Athos Moretti (1907-1993)
Agrippina the Elder, one of the most tragically unfortunate women of Roman history. Agrippina was destined to achieve the highest possible status that did not happen. In 29AD she was deprived of her freedom, and in 33 CE of life itself. This sestertius dedicated to Agrippina was produced by her son Caligula, The inscription, SPQR MEMORIAE AGRIPPINAE, is itself dedicatory from the Senate and the Roman people to the memory of Agrippina.
Giorgio Giacosa wrote:-
This coin is the cover coin of the ‘Women of the Female Caesars’. You have the very best Agrippina the Elder I ever saw in my long numismatic life. The coin was – when I wrote my book – the property of Mr. Athos Moretti (1907-1993), as were most of the coins illustrated in the book. The beautiful Agrippina was already in his collection in these early years. That is why you wrote on the invoice “Moretti – Italy”.
Athos Moretti was a Swiss gentlemen, based in Milano (Italy) and Bellinzona (Switzerland). He collected mainly Greek and Roman coins.
How the coin came in the hands of LVH, Moretti used to sell coins – mainly but not exclusively to Cahn (MM), Mildenberg (Leu), and Russo (NAC).
At the sale in 1995 it was written ‘with a superb brown patina, extremely fine and virtually as struck, of a quality very seldom encountered on a Roman coin’
I chose the Agrippina as the front cover coin because I thought it to be the best sestertius of Moretti’s collection and because Agrippina Senior is, on this coin, a woman of great beauty and dignity, a sort of “out-of-time “beauty. She has an appeal also today. I also felt that the magnificent lettering around the head of Agrippina was so perfectly “roman“. It was, in my eyes, the perfect coin.