The J. Paul Getty Museum

Tetradrachm

Object Details

Title:

Tetradrachm

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

Modern

Place:

Athens, Greece (Place Created)

Date:

20th century

Medium:

Silver

Object Number:

81.NK.4

Dimensions:

0.017 kg (0.0375 lb.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Arthur Silver

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Object Description

This forgery of an Athenian coin is decorated with the helmeted head of the Greek goddess Athena on the front and an owl on the back. It replicates one of the best‑known coins from Athens, the four‑drachma coin or tetradrachm known today as an "owl." Athena was the patron goddess of the city of Athens, and the owl was her symbolic bird. The olive wreath on Athena's helmet and the small crescent moon behind the owl identify this forged "owl" as a type minted from about 480 to 196/195 B.C. Athena's wreath and the sprig of olive behind the owl are emblems of the main agricultural products of Athens, olives and olive oil. On the back, the abbreviation in Greek, "Athe," stands for Athens. 

The forgery is a cast made from a genuine coin from about 450 B.C. Although its weight is normal, the uneven patterns of wear are suspicious: the owl's eyes and wings are especially worn, while the head of Athena is relatively untouched. This betrays the work of a forger who wanted to make their product look old, but not so worn that it would be unattractive to a potential buyer.

Provenance
Provenance
by 1980 - 1981

Arthur W. Silver (Los Angeles, California), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1981.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen (November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 3, 2002