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The double face of Sovereignity

Giuseppe Cascione
Professore di Filosofia Politica 
Facoltà di Scienze Politiche
Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro


« indietro


The figure number 10 (1537) introduces the two brothers with respective wives and seems to be produced in the style of German medals, just like figures 07 and 05, but it recalls me also the typically roman use to represent in the medals the emperors with their own wives.


8. Ferdinando I e Carlo V ai piedi della croce


9. Doppio ritratto di Carlo V e Ferdinando I 


10. Carlo V e Ferdinando I con le mogli

In the figures 11, 12, 13 (1531, 1550, 1543), there is a complete symbolic equivalence between the two brothers, and also in figure 14 (1527), there is substantial parity, even if in this case it is emphasized by the brotherhood character of cavalry. In all these cases trait-d'union is the common belonging to the order of the Golden Fleece, belonging emphasized from the presence of the collar with the hung ram's fur.


11. Carlo V e Ferdinando I. Affresco di Girolamo Romanino (1531)


12. Carlo V e Ferdinando I (f/f). Bassorielievo di Hans Daucher (1527 ca.)


13. Carlo V e Ferdinando I (f/f) Xilografia di CB (metà del XVI sec.)


14. Cippo stradale Ferdinando I, Carlo V (f/f). Bassorilievo di Vit Arnperger (1543) 

With respect to these representations, the figures number 15 (1532) and number 16 (1536) are quite different. In these cases the two figures are "neck-to-neck", with an evident iconographical prevalence in favour of Charles the Fifth, emphasized in the second medal by the titles of Emperor and Rex.


15. Doppio ritratto di Carlo V e Ferdinando I (n/n). Medaglia di Pter Floetner 1532


16. Ferdinando I e Carlo V (n/n). Medaglia di veit Kels o Hans Kels (1536)

5. In the fifth type I grouped some representations of Charles the Fifth and of his son Philip the Second. The two monarchs are always represented "neck-to-neck". The meaning of this symbolic representation is in the fact that the abdication of Charles the Fifth, happened in 1556, in favour of his son Philip the Second sanctions in a definitive way the passage from a monocentric imperial power that involved all Christian world, and was based on the spiritual investiture, to a polycentric power, based on the power of the monarch on a determined territory founded on the dynastic succession from father to son.

Both in the cameo and in the medal (both of Leone Leoni) the two monarchs are represented by this element of dynastic continuity, that inaugurates the nationalization and therefore the crushing of the Christian empire, but also of the territories of the Habsburg house.


17. Carlo V e il Principe Filippo II (n/n)Cammeo di Leone Leoni


18. Carlo V e Filippo II di Spagna, Medaglia in bronzo (1550) di Leone Leoni

6. In the sixth type I grouped also the other element useful to complete the self-reference of the secular power from the point of view of the spiritual legitimation too. This element is completed under the reign of Philip the Second.

The first image that we see is a medal, that shows on the right the same group of Charles the Fifth and Philip the Second that we have seen in the previous medal. But reverse reproduces the face of Jesus Christ.


19. Carlo V e Filippo II di Spagna (dritto) e Gesù Cristo (rovescio) Medaglia in bronzo argentato e dorato (seconda metà XVI sec. ?) copia in fusione di medaglia di Leone Leoni

In the XVIth century the portrait of Christ had often appeared in some medals with religious purpose, generally coupled to a reverse with crucifixion scenes. These portraits, both in a physiognomic and a stylized way, were very diffused in Venice and in Rome.

This means that the dynastic transmission of sovereignty was "blessed" from Jesus Christ himself, but the continuity of the relationship between figure of the Christ and figure of the secular kings sinks its roots in an ancient tradition, that still Kantorowicz emphasizes in the assimilation process between the Biblical theory of the homo imago Dei and the secularized figure of the rex imago Dei in the modern age, substantially of Hellenistic derivation (theEmperor Federico II and the Hellenistic image of the king). The tradition of the defensa was recovered also from Federico II, reinterpreted like the possibility to show a monarch portrait to save people's life and goods. Very often in fact, above all under Friedrich the Second Hoenstaufen, people carried in pocket a coin with the imperial portrait just to show it in dangerous moments. This portrait was just like a talisman, like if showing the figure of God himself, was useful to save its owner.

Although in some catalogues this medal is attributed to the age of Charles the Fifth, there is some reason to think that it belongs to a later age, perhaps second half of the Sixteenth century, and that has been promoted, or strongly stimulated from Philip the Second himself. In effect even if it was the product of an arbitrary private fusion of the official medal on the right and with the reference to Christ on the reverse, this fact shows however the new feeling towards the monarch that has been created in Milan. With Charles the Fifth the classical clichè was particularly useful to the imperial rhetorics, those that historically belongs to the imperial potestas. During Philip the Second, only twenty years after, the symbolic of the sovereignty is based on the deification of the king.

The second image is an engraving with a double square in which the face of Jesus Christ appears on the left and the face of Philip the Second on the right, surmounted by a triangular space indicating God. The monarch is assimilated in the legenda to Jesus Christ himself (Deus sive Regi) and is just because of this fusion between secular power and direct divine inspiration that all human creatures have to be subject to him (subiecti igitur estote omni humanae creaturae).


20. Gesù Cristo e Filippo II (f/f) incisione di Hans Liefrinck presso la bottega di H. Wierix (1568)

In this way, finally, the rhetorics of the modern state power definitively states the self referential modern State character, which becomes an all-inclusive institution, and cannot hold any external foundation but the direct divine investiture.

Transition is over and the modern state is born.

In questo numero