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Roma Numismatics Ltd > Auction XXAuction date: 29 October 2020
Lot number: 463

Lot description:

Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus. Military mint travelling with Brutus in the East, late summer-autumn, 42 BC. L. Plaetorius Cestianus, moneyer. Bare head of Brutus to right; BRVT above, IMP before, L • PLAET • CEST behind / Pileus between two daggers of differing design, their points downwards; below, EID•MAR. A. Campana, Eidibus Martiis (forthcoming), 13 (O1/R6) and pl. 1, 13 (this coin); Crawford -; Sydenham -; BMCRR -; Bahrfeldt -; Babelon -; H. A. Cahn, Eidibus Martiis, QT XVII (1989), pp. 211-32, 4a = CRI 215 = NFA XXV, 1990, 306 = Sotheby's Zurich, 1993, 87 (same obverse die) = R. Walburg, Zeitzeugen. Münzen aus der Sammlung der Deutschen Bundesbank. Hirmer Verlag, München 2018, pp. 48-9 (Kat. 65, 66); Cahn, L'aureus de Brutus avec EID MAR, Actes du Congrés Internationale de Numismatique 1953, obverse die 'A'; Calicó 58 = Biaggi 39 = Cahn, Actes, Actes du Congrés Internationale de Numismatique 1953, p. 213 = Cahn, Eidibus Martiis, 24a; for this type in silver see: - A. Campana, Eidibus Martiis, 14-18 (same dies); Crawford 508/3; Sydenham 1301; BMCRE East 68; Cahn, Eidibus Martiis, 6 (same dies); S. Nodelman, Brutus the Tyrannicide in Ancient Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum: Volume 1, p. 51, fig. 8 (same dies); Vagi, vol. II, p. 198, 95 = Feirstein Collection, NAC 39, 2007, 89 (same dies); John Work Garrett Collection, part I, Leu-NFA, 1984, 685 (same obverse die); Loscombe Collection, Sotheby, 1855, 683 = BMC II 480, 69 (same obverse die); Lanz 158, 2014, 373 (same obverse die); Künker 124, 2007, 8483 = Leu 71, 1997, 265 = Münzen & Medaillen 19, 1959, 150 (same obverse die). 8.06g, 19mm, 12h.

Near mint state and highly lustrous; the usual die breaks, minor surface marks, light red-brown calcite deposits on obverse and reverse.
Authenticated and encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and graded MS★ 5/5 - 3/5, Fine Style (#5770688-001).
Excessively Rare; the third known example: one on long-term loan to the British Museum, the other in the Deutsche Bundesbank collection.

From the collection of the Baron Dominique de Chambrier, original attestation of provenance included;
Ex collection of Bernard de Chambrier (1878-1963) and Marie Alvine Irma von Bonstetten (1893-1968);
Ex collection of the Baron Gustave Charles Ferdinand von Bonstetten, Chamberlain to Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria.

Marie Alvine Irma von Bonstetten was daughter of Gustave August Arthur Albert von Bonstetten (1864-1935), the founder of the 'Automobile Club Suisse' in 1898, and great-niece of Gustave Charles Ferdinand von Bonstetten (1816-1892), who was a distinguished antiquarian and collector who published many articles in the Recueil d'antiquités suisses (1855, 1860 and 1867) and L'Essai sur les dolmens (Geneva, 1865), an authoritative study on European dolmens erected between the 5th millennium BC and the end of the 3rd millennium BC. Later, Gustave Charles Ferdinand von Bonstetten worked as an independent researcher and carried out archaeological excavations in both Switzerland and France. In 1873 he donated a part of his important collection to the 'Antiquarium of Bern' and his collection formed the basis of the Bernisches Historisches Museum. The Musée Romain of Avenches also owns pieces from his collection.

Nothing resonates so deeply with those knowledgeable in ancient Roman coinage as the dramatic EID MAR type struck by Brutus in 42 BC, nor indeed is any type more sought after by connoisseurs. Herbert A. Cahn's 1989 study entitled Eidibus Martiis noted 56 examples in silver and 2 in gold. Anecdotal comments have long suggested the extent of the surviving population of EID MAR denarii could approximate as many as a hundred specimens - a reasonably high figure for what is considered to be an extreme rarity – and Campana's as yet unpublished Die Study indeed identifies 88 examples (at last count) in silver (of which at least 34 are now in institutional collections) and 3 in gold. On account of its enormous historical importance and enhanced by its virtual unobtainability to all but the most fortunate of collectors, this coin type like no other has inspired great admiration, fascination, disbelief and desire in the hearts of historians, numismatists and collectors.

Foremost of the reasons for the exalted position of the type in the collective consciousness is its naked and shameless celebration of the murder of Julius Caesar two years earlier in 44 BC. This brutal and bloody assassination had been prompted by the well-founded belief among the Senate that Caesar indented to make himself king, which in truth he was already in all but name. By special decree of the Senate Caesar had been made dictator perpetuo - dictator in perpetuity - and granted the extraordinary and unprecedented honour of striking coins bearing his own likeness, thus breaking the ancient taboo of placing the image of a living Roman upon a coin. By these and other affronts to the traditional values and institutions of the Republic did Caesar seal his fate. On 15 March, 44 BC, in a room adjoining the east portico of the Theatre of Pompey, Caesar was stabbed twenty three times by the gang of Senators numbering over thirty and perhaps as many as sixty, men that Caesar called his friends, and of whom many had been pardoned by him on the battlefield and now owed their ranks and offices to him. The simple but bold reverse design employed by Brutus for this aureus contains the three principal elements of this 'patriotic' act of regicide committed to liberate the Republic from monarchical tyranny. Most striking are the two daggers of differing design, the one symbolising that wielded by Brutus himself, the other that of Cassius his co-consipirator. These flank the pileus, the cap of Liberty as worn by the divine twins and patrons of Roman armies Castor and Pollux, and which was conferred upon all freed slaves as a mark of their emancipation. The legend EID MAR is the abbreviation of EIDIBVS MARTIIS – the Ides of March. Thus, in an act of unparalleled braggadocio, we are at once presented with the murder weapons used to slay Caesar, the precise date of the deed, and the motive.

While the leaders of the Second Triumvirate Antony, Octavian and Lepidus embraced the practice of striking coins bearing their own images, the hypocrisy of Brutus placing his own portrait on the obverse of the EID MAR type cannot not have been lost on the Liberator. Both a betrayal of his personal devotion to the ancient traditions of the Republic, and an emulation of the tyrant he had slain, it may well be that he was convinced into allowing his image to be co-opted by the Republican party as a rallying symbol for the swiftly approaching engagement between their legions and those Antony and Octavian. As a descendant of Lucius Junius Brutus, the founder and first consul of the Roman Republic, who in 509 BC had sworn on a bloody dagger to overthrow the unjust rule of the Tarquin kings, the clearly drawn parallels must have been heady propaganda to the Republican cause.

Notes on die state:
The present coin exhibits the characteristic die breaks common (to greater or lesser degree) to all of the known examples of Cahn die 'A' (Campana O1). The most prominent of these are a sickle-shaped feature located behind the nape of Brutus' neck, a further break emanating from the peak of Brutus' forehead where it meets his hairline, and an area of roughness directly before Brutus' brow that can be seen to evolve into a pronounced pellet-like break on late die-state examples. Additional die breaks are located above the tip of the nose, between the back of the head and 'A' of PLAET, between and above the letters 'P' and 'L' of PLAET, and extending vertically downwards from below the chin.

The evolution of the die breaks can be seen to exist in at least six distinct stages, as noted by Cahn in Eidibus Martiis, and exemplified by the below listed coins, in order by earliest die-state to latest. The comparison of these die-states permits us to determine the progression of said breaks.
Denarius: Jameson 7 = Hess 1954, 214 = Hess-Leu 41, 54 (hereafter referred to as the Jameson example).
Denarius: Sotheby, 1855, 683 (BM example).
Aureus: NFA XXV, 1990, 306 = Sotheby's Zurich, 1993, 87 (Deutsche Bank example).
Denarius: NFA-Leu 1984 (Garrett example).
Aureus: Present coin; cf. also NAC 39, 2007, 89 (Feirstein example).
Denarius: Künker 124, 2007, 8483 = Leu 71, 1997, 265 = Münzen & Medaillen 19, 1959, 150 (M&M example).

Stage 1:
Cahn 1, 2. The obverse die used to strike of the five examples examined by Cahn is intact - the coins are sharply struck and detailed. This is confirmed by inspection of the available image of the Jameson example.

Stage 2:
Cahn 3. A linear die break has appeared above the 'C' of CEST, behind the nape of the neck. Although not discernible on Cahn's plate, this is visible in the BM example's published image of the coin.

Stage 3:
Cahn 4. The Deutsche Bank example shows the linear die break having evolved into the distinctive sickle-shape it retains for the remainder of its use. Also present now is the very beginning of the forehead break, and the area of roughness before the brow. Also present is the break above the letters 'PL' of PLAET. The breaks above the tip of the nose, between the letters 'PL' of the legend, and between the head and the 'A' are as yet absent.

Stage 4:
Cahn 5, 6. The Garrett Collection example now shows the vertical break below the chin, as well as the presence of the break between the back of the head and the 'A'of the legend.

Stage 5:
The present aureus exhibits an enlargement of the forehead break, in both the vertical and horizontal axes, and strengthening of the 'dot' above the tip of the nose – a distinct advance from Cahn 6a, 6b, and the Garrett example. The other principal change is that the break between 'PL' is now present. The forked break before the brow exhibits little to no progression. The Feirstein example may be another example of this obverse die state, however it is so weakly struck that prior to the clarification provided by of the present aureus and Campana's Die Study, its place in the die state progression was uncertain.

Stage 6:
Cahn 7, 8, 9. The latest known die-state may be observed on the M&M example, which in addition to the breaks clearly visible on the present aureus, also possesses a break just inside the beaded border at 2 o'clock. Furthermore, the break before the brow has now become a very prominent pellet-like protrusion.

The present aureus occupies a logical but previously unrepresented gap in the die break progression as laid out by Cahn, since the Feirstein example lacked sufficient detail to be of useful comparison, and other specimens are either too worn or otherwise poorly conserved. While the forehead break on this aureus is much advanced from Cahn 6a, 6b, and the Garrett example, the break before the brow has not yet progressed to being a fully-formed pellet as it already is by Cahn 7a-d and the M&M example, among others (see also Lanz 158, 373), nor is the additional 'dot' break at 2 o'clock inside the beaded border present yet. Campana's forthcoming die study confirms the die state progression laid out above, and furnishes a great many additional examples for comparison.

Considerations on the EID MAR type:
In 'The EID MAR type of Brutus, an overview of current research and portfolio of related papers' (private publication, available on request from Roma Numismatics Ltd.), Andrew McCabe provides a comprehensive summary of all numismatic texts devoted to the EID MAR type in both gold and silver. Gathering together ancient sources, antiquarian studies and archaeological evidence, the Overview traces the known references to the type from the second century AD, through the renaissance and into modern times. It furthermore aggregates the available information concerning the dispersal and rediscovery of known examples, bringing to light hoard evidence that establishes a clear archaeological context for a number of these. Moreover, the Overview draws on and expands upon the works of Mattingly, Cahn, Woytek and others to provide important insights into the series, particularly as concerns their place in the 'Liberator' coinage series, their method of manufacture, and the likely timing and location of minting. The Overview has clear implications for cultural property considerations (confirming that the type is pan-European in dispersal, rather than provenant from the soil of any one modern nation) while providing hard evidence for the reaffirmation of the now prevalent acceptance of both the Biaggi-Winckless and Deutsche Bank EID MAR aurei.

Our own conclusions drawn from a study of the die-state progression of Cahn die 'A' clearly have important bearing on considerations concerning the present coin. That the EID MAR type was indeed struck in gold by Brutus as well as in silver must be considered to be beyond all reasonable doubt, as represented by the 'Biaggi-Winckless' coin now in the British Museum, and the NFA-Sotheby's coin now in the collection of the Deutsche Bundesbank, which until recently were believed to be the only two surviving examples of the issue. The fact that the present aureus occupies a previously unrepresented stage in the die-state progression, combined with the fact that it is die-paired (O1/46) in accordance with the die progression prescribed by Cahn and confirmed by McCabe and Campana, and obvious physical properties of the coin (fabric, die axis, and strike properties) which are entirely consistent with the Deutsche Bank example (being closer in state of preservation than the Biaggi-Winckless coin) and other contemporary 'Liberator' aurei in general, provides an unassailable argument in favour of the piece, which further augments our understanding of both the Biaggi-Winckless and Deutsche Bank examples, and the series as a whole.

Estimate: 500000 GBP