AUGUSTUS GOLD AUREUS – SPECTACULAR AND RARE CAPRICORN TYPE EX ENRICO CARUSO AND VICTOR ADDA COLLECTIONS – AU NGC GRADED ROMAN IMPERIAL COIN (Inv. 13634)
ROMAN EMPIRE. AUGUSTUS, 27 BC- AD 14.
Gold Aureus, 7.84 g., 20 mm., minted at a Spanish mint, ca. 18-17 BC.
Obv. Bare head of Augustus right.
Rev. AVGVSTVS, capricorn right, holding globe, rudder and cornucopiae.
Cohen 20; Bahrfeldt 114; BMC 62 note *; RIC 125;. CBN 1264;.Calicó 164 (this coin).
Ex Canessa sale 28 June 1923, Caruso, 149; Christie’s 9 October 1984, Property of a Lady, 2 and Sotheby’s 7 March 1996, 148 sales. Previous owners include the famed Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso and Victor Adda, a businessman and noted collector who donated part of his collection to the Israel Museum.
Published: Haim Gitler et al, Faces of Power. Roman Gold Coins from the Victor A. Adda Collection (Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2017), pp. 198-199, no. 7 (this coin listed) and also illustrated later in the volume on the reproduction of the Christie’s catalogue where the Adda collection was sold); Xavier Calicó, The Roman Avrei (Barcelona), 164 (this coin).
NGC graded AU, Strike 5/5, Surface 3/5, “marks”, the remarkable provenance indicated on the holder.
The Capricorn is among the most interesting of all images employed on Augustus’ coinage since it was promoted as the emperor’s astrological sign guaranteeing a beneficent rule and the prosperity that would accompany it. Even the Roman biographer, Suetonius, the man who wrote about the Twelve Caesars, mentions the Capricorn: “From this moment (when an astrologer acknowledged Augustus’ greatness after reading his horoscope) he had such great faith in his own destiny that he made public his horoscope and later minted a silver coin with the Zodiac sign Capricorn, under which he was born” (Suetonius, Augustus, 94, as cited in Zanker’s The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, p. 48). On this coin the Capricorn holds the globe and rudder, symbolic of Augustus’ power over land and sea, while the cornucopiae perched on its back references the prosperity coming to the Roman world.