By Hadrien Rambach
Dr. Moretti was the general manager of the pharmaceutical company Maestretti. Founded in Milan in the 1920s by Dr. Domenico Maestretti, the firm became Roussel Maestretti, and later merged with other major companies to form Sanofi Aventis. Moretti valued discretion, which explains why so little was ever published about him.
Moretti started collecting in about 1940, and it was known at that time that Moretti was a great collector of paintings. In the 1950s, while he was walking with his wife along the Via Manzoni in Milan, she complained that they no longer had any space on their walls, then stopped in front of Ratto’s window in which a decadrachm of Syracuse was displayed and she exclaimed “now this would be a perfect collection for you!”. Moretti immediately fell in love with coins, with his main collection emphasizing Magna Graecia and Sicily: at the end of life, it was the largest and most important ever assembled, and a very small selection of his coins was exhibited in the Antikenmuseum Basel for a decade, before being sold in the auction Numismatica Ars Classica 13 (October 1998).
The only auction-catalogues in which his ownership was mentioned were the sales Numismatica Ars Classica O (May 2004) and P (May 2005), that offered the “ADM collection”, but Moretti’s Roman gold coins were bought by Numismatic Fine Arts, and sold anonymously in their auction XXII of 1989. The silver and bronze component of the collection was purchased by a consortium and sold both privately and through auctions (by both NAC and Bank Leu). It has also been said that the auctions NFA XXV (November 1990) and NFA XXVII (December 1991) contained coins from the Moretti collection, but this could not be confirmed.
Moretti was a generous donor to public institutions, and always made his collection of Greek coins available to scholars: his coins are cited in every major reference work. He financed the publication of several numismatic books, including La monetazione incusa della Magna Grecia (by Giovanni Gorini), Uomo e cavallo sulla moneta greca (by Giorgio Giacosa), Velia e le sue monete (by Giuseppe Libero Mangieri) and Terina (by R. Ross Holloway and Kenneth Jenkins).
Despite being a Swiss citizen, his love for Milan, where he lived when not in Bellinzona, also led him to form an important collection of coins of the city through the ages, which was sold in its entirety to the Banca Commerciale Italiana, where it was merged with the celebrated eighteenth-century collection of the Verri brothers.
- A. Cahn, L. Mildenberg, R. Russo and H. Voegtli, Griechische Münzen aus Grossgriechenland und Sizilien, Basel 1988; obituary in Quaderni Ticinesi di Numismatica e Antichità Classiche, vol. 23 (1994), pp. 9 sqq.; Novella Vismara, La donazione Athos Moretti di monete dell’Italia Antica, della Magna Grecia e della Sicilia Antica del Gabinetto Numismatico di Locarno, Milano 1996.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 91: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part I, Zurich, 23 May 2016, pp. -.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 99: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part II, Zurich, 29 May 2017, pp. 47-63.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 105: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part III, Zurich, 9 May 2018, pp. 82-105.
This article was first published in a catalogue of auction house Numismatica Ars Classica.