More on the Tuscan hoard of 1778 and its afterlife

Early I’ve posted about the importance of what is likely to be the earliest hoard of Roman Currency Bars.

One of the big questions to my mind is where did these four nearly pristine bars end up and why were they not unearthed by Haeberlin vel sim.  My original thought was that perhaps they were not published and only the water colors circulated to potential buyers, but they were published and quite quickly:

Pierre François d’Hancarville, Recherches sur I’Origine, I’Espirit et les Progrès des Arts de la Grècè, Vol.I, (1785), pl. II-IV.

The relationship of the plates to the Townley watercolors now in the BM are unclear.  d’Hancarville says that the bars are in Rome and they were faithfully copied there and were the property of a “Mr. Bayers” (p. 424), BUT Townley wrote an introduction for this volume so he may have have also made the water colors available.

These illustrations a relatively good for the date, BUT the ones in the posthumously published in James Byres, Hypogaei, or, Sepulchral caverns of Tarquinia, the capital of antient Etruria, part five, pl.V are spectacular.  Plates drawn by Franciszek Smuglewicz and etched by the author’s brother-in-law, Christopher Norton.  Byres tried to sell enough subscriptions to have this work published in 1767; it was, however, published in London in 1842 with plates drawn by Franciszek Smuglewicz and etched by the author’s brother-in-law, edited by Frank Howard.Christopher Norton. Cf. Dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, 1760-1800, p. 170.  Shield and Cock/Rostra Plate; Bull Plate

Howard the editor and publisher says two exceptionally interesting things:


Could these bars really be lost in a drawer somewhere in the British Museum or the Aberdeen university collections?!

The other claim is this:Capture2.JPG

Did this octavo ever appear?!  Might it contain something anything about where Byres said these things were found?!

Next on the to-do list find the 1790 inventory of Byres’ property mentioned in this article. If the bars are included on the list we will know to continue the hunt for the trail in earnest in Scotland and Ireland:

Russell, Francis. “Batoni’s Mrs Sandilands and Other Portraits from the Collection of James Byres.” The Burlington Magazine 120, no. 899 (1978): 114-17. 


Keywords: aes signatumRRC 5/1, RRC 12/1, and RRC 7/1.

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