Milan, the renown fashion center and cultural hub in northern Italy, saw the best figure skaters from around Europe descend on the city to compete in the 1949 European Figure Skating Championships. Prior to 1949, all member nations of the International Skating Union (ISU) were permitted to participate in the European Championships. After Dick Button of the U.S. and Barbara Ann Scott of Canada claimed the European titles in 1948 (Scott also having won the title in 1947), the competition was closed to non-European member nations.
The 1949 European Championships were commemorated with a pin that is decidedly Italian in style while being among the most curious—and perhaps most frightful—ever made. Although appealing in design, color, and craftsmanship, the pin depicts, as its central element, a serpent (or biscione) swallowing a child. The serpent form, in this case intertwined with a skate blade, is the coat of arms of the House of Visconti, a noble family that ruled Milan from 1277 to 1447. The Visconti family history has remained a part of Milan through the ages.
The 1949 European Championships were commemorated with a pin … that is among the most curious—and perhaps most frightful—ever made.
Shown in the gallery are two pins from the Milan event, the first on a gold-color base with orange cloisonné fill around the circumference and the second on a silver-color base with blue cloisonné fill. Each carries the event name, location, and year: “Campionati Europei Pattinaggio Sul Ghiaccio Milano I.S.U. 1949.” The jewelry-like appearance and fine finish of the gold and orange version suggests it was made for officials and high-ranking dignitaries.
In the definitive book on the sport’s pins, Figure Skating Pins, published in 1987, the silver and blue version from the 1949 European Championships is pictured. It was loaned by Carlo Fassi, the ten-time Italian and two-time European figure skating champion, from his collection to be photographed for the book. Fassi placed fourth at the 1949 Europeans, confirming that competitors received the silver and blue version.