1949 European Figure Skating Championships Pins: The Biscione.

Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by Netropolitan Museum

Serpent on the 1949 European Championships pins is steeped in Milan’s history

Many decades before Milan became a fashion center of Italy, the cultural hub welcomed Europe’s most fashionable figure skaters to the 1949 European Figure Skating Championships. The event was one of firsts and lasts: it was the first European Championships to be held on Italian soil, and it was the last in which non-European skaters were allowed to compete. After Dick Button of the U.S. and Barbara Ann Scott of Canada won the European titles in 1948 (Scott also taking the title in 1947), the competition was closed to non-European member nations. But there was another, more macabre, first: the 1949 European Figure Skating Championships were commemorated with perhaps the most frightful pins ever produced.

Although highly appealing in design, color, and craftsmanship, the 1949 European Championships pins feature a dark side: a serpent (or biscione), done in relief, swallowing a child. Intertwined with a skate blade, the serpent is, at best, unusual; and, at worst, frightening. Throughout history, what other pin from a major figure skating championship has ever featured such a grim depiction?

The serpent, it turns out, is steeped in Milan’s history. It appears on the coat of arms of the House of Visconti, a noble family who ruled Milan from 1277 to 1447. The Visconti family history has remained a part of Milan through the ages, with the serpent often used as a symbol of the city. A similar symbol can also be seen in the badge of the Italian automaker Alfa-Romeo.

Pins Gallery: 1949 European Figure Skating Championships

Shown in the gallery are two pins from the Milan event. The first, referred to here as the logo pin, is on a silver-color base metal with blue cloisonné fill around the circumference while the second, an official’s pin, is on a gold-color base metal with orange 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 likely was made for and given only to event officials and dignitaries. Note that the inclusion of “I.S.U.” (for International Skating Union) was unusual for the era.

  • Copyright-protected image. Do not download or use without express written consent of the copyright holder.
  • Copyright-protected image. Do not download or use without express written consent of the copyright holder.

Logo Pin (Blue)

Size
Approximately 1-1/2″ diameter (3.8 cm diameter)

Value
$30 to $45, depending on condition

Official’s Pin (Orange)

Size
Approximately 1-1/2″ diameter (3.8 cm diameter)

Value
$40 to $55, depending on condition

In the definitive book on the sport’s pins, Figure Skating Pins, published in 1987, the silver and blue version from the 1949 European Figure Skating Championships is shown. The pin was loaned for publication in the book by Carlo Fassi, the ten-time Italian and two-time European figure skating champion. Fassi placed fourth at the 1949 European Championships, confirming that competitors received the silver and blue version.

Decidedly Italian in style, the 1949 European Championships pins are outstanding souvenirs of the golden era of figure skating when many of the sport’s enduring greats came to prominence. Enjoy this week’s figure skating pins blog: 1949 European Figure Skating Championships Pins: The Biscione.

This blog was originally published at The Netropolitan Museum of Figure Skating Pins on June 13, 2020, and has been updated with new and expanded information.

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