The Representation of the Body in Western Mediterranean Numismatic Iconography: the Coins of the Kingdom of Italy in the 20th Century (1900-1943)

Fabrizio Finetti

Original Language



The human body is an infinite object of study and a complex subject that Western thought has thoroughly investigated with all the tools of its disciplines throughout history. This doctoral thesis seeks to make an original contribution to the history of the body in Western Mediterranean culture and especially in Italy between 1900 and 1943 by studying the representation of the body in the world of numismatics. It is a systematic study of the numismatic iconography of the representations of the body in ancient, Renaissance and modern Mediterranean culture and contributes a specific study of the Kingdom of Italy in the first half of the 20th century.
Body and money are two elements traditionally considered antithetical and which have often had a negative and sometimes even demonic connotation in Western history prescribed by philosophical and religious thought. The advent of coins with their universe of symbolic representations is an important event for our society that significantly testifies to and justifies the transformation of its political and social institutions from archaic entities to contemporary ones, legitimises the power established in the territories of use, conveys messages and values and is closely related to the spread of abstract and rational thinking.
The paper is divided into four parts. The first defines the theoretical framework of the research, introducing the concepts of body, coins and numismatics in the “Western” world. The second outlines a history of the representation of the body on coins from their origins to modernity. The third analyses the representation of the body in a distinct numismatic context: the Kingdom of Italy in the 20th century (1900-1943) but in two distinct and well-defined periods corresponding to the parliamentary monarchy of King Victor Emmanuel III (1900-1922) and Fascism with Benito Mussolini (1922-1943). In each period the political, economic and social situation of the country is related to the contemporary idea of a body, and how these ideas have been reflected and represented on coins by the political authorities is analysed. In the fourth part, a catalogue of coin issues by the Kingdom of Italy representing the human figure in their iconography has been drawn up and comparative analysis is conducted between the immense Italian numismatic iconography of the period involving themes relating to the human body with two other European Mediterranean countries in the same period, France and Spain.

Keywords: 20th Century, Body, iconography, Italy, Numismatics.

ISSN: 2014-0983

Published: October 01, 2017

Date read: February 6, 2015