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Cahn, Herbert

    Full Name: Cahn, Herbert

    Other Names:

    • Herbert Adolph Cahn

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1915

    Date Died: 2002

    Place Born: Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany

    Place Died: Basel, Basle-Town, Switzerland

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Classical, coins (money), and numismatics

    Career(s): art dealers


    Classical numismatist, professor of classical art and art and coin dealer. Cahn’s father was a numismatics dealer, Ludwig Cahn, and his mother Johanna Neuberger (Cahn). As a boy he assisted in compiling the sales catalogs for his father’s firm. He studied classical archaeology and philology at the Universität Frankfurt under Ernst Langlotz. With the Nazi rise to power in Germany, Cahn, who was a Jew, emigrated to Switzerland in 1933 and continued his studies at Basle. His brother, Erich B. Cahn (1913-1993), also emigrated, establishing a coin dealership there the same year; the brothers began a long association together. Herbert Cahn received his doctorate in 1940 under Ernst Pfuhl, writing on the coinage of Naxos. In 1942 the brother’s Basle firm became Münzen und Medaillen AG, (Coins and Medals, Inc.) growing into one of the most important dealerships in antique coins in the world. The firm also dealt in classical art. Cahn published his dissertation in 1944 as Die Münzen der sizilischen Stadt Naxos. In 1949 he became a Swiss citizen and married Mathilde Vögeli. Between1949 and 1964 he edited the first of two important numismatist journals, Schweizer Münzblätter. He, the University of Basel classical art historian Karl Schefold, and German archaeologist Otto Rubensohn (1867-1964) founded the Vereinigung der Freunde antiker Kunst or Societé des Amis de l’Art Antique and its journal Antike Kunst in 1956. In 1960 he helped curate the important exhibition, “Meisterwerke griechischer Kunst” which formed the basis for the creation of the Antikenmuseum in Basle in 1966. The previous year, 1965, he had been appointed to a lectureship at the university at Heidelberg. He published an important book on the coins of Knidos for the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in 1970. The following year he was appointed honorary professor at Heidelberg (through 1986). In 1981 he edited the second numismatics journal, Schweizerischen Numismatischen Rundschau (through 1987). In 1983 he moved to teach at the university at Freiburg. Cahn formed his own classical art and coin business, H. A. C. Kunst der Antike in 1988.Cahn’s work in the English-speaking world is best known through his exhibition catalogs co-published and co-sponsored through André Emmerich Gallery. Cahn most important publications are his two monographs on Greek coinage, of Naxos (his dissertation) and of Knidos (1970). His vision of numismatics was as part of the larger history of classical art.

    Selected Bibliography

    [published bibliographies:] Biucchi, Carmen. “Schriftenverzeichnis Herbert A. Cahn, 1929 – 1974.” Cahn, Herbert. Herbert A. Cahn: Kleine Schriften zur Münzkunde und Archäologie. Basel: 1975, pp. 8-14, and “Bibliographie Herbert A. Cahn, 1975-1984.” Antike Kunst 28 (1985): 5-6, and “Bibliographie Herbert A. Cahn, 1985 – 1995.” Antike Kunst 38 (1995): 66-67, Voegtli, Hans. “Bibliographie Herbert A. Cahn, 1995-2002.” Antike Kunst 46 (2003): 4; [published dissertation:] Die Münzen der sizilischen Stadt Naxos: ein Beitrag zur Kunstgeschichte des griechischen Westens. Basel: Birkhäuser, 1944; and Hoffmann, Herbert. Collecting Greek Antiquities. New York: C. N. Potter 1971; Knidos; die Münzen des sechsten und des fünften Jahrhunderts v. Chr. Berlin: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut/de Gruyter, 1970; Alföldi-Rosenbaum, Elisabeth, and Kaufmann-Heinimann, Annemarie. Der Spätrömische Silberschatz von Kaiseraugst. 2 vols. Derendingen: Habegger, 1984; Early Art in Greece: the Cycladic, Mionan, Mycenaean, and Geometric Periods, 3000-700 B.C.. New York: André Emmerich Gallery, 1965; [art collection:] Cambitoglou, Alexander, and Chamay, Jacques, Bottini, Brenno. Céramique de Grande Grèce : la collection de fragments Herbert A. Cahn. Zürich: Akanthus, [for the Geneva Musée d’art et d’histoire] 1997; Griechische Vasenfragmente der Sammlung Herbert A. Cahn, Basel Hannover: Kestner-Museum, 1993.


    “Herbert Cahn.” Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz,; Willers, Dietrich. Herbert A. Cahn achtzigjahrig, Karl Schefold neunzigjahrig. Antike Kunst 38 no. 2 (1995):. 63-64, [obituaries:] Wartenberg, Ute. “Herbert A. Cahn, 1915-2002.” American Numismatic Society Magazine 1, no. 2 (2002): 33; Wartenberg, Ute. “Herbert A. Cahn, 1915-2002.” The Celator 16, no. 9 (2002): 32; Lezzi-Hafter, Adrienne. “Zum Gedenken an Herbert Cahn, 1915-2002.” Antike Kunst 46 (2003): 3.


    "Cahn, Herbert." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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