The Popular 1000 Lire

By Collezione Fondazione Cariparma

The Thousand Lire note represents the quintessential symbol of Italian paper money. This note was the best known, the most named and the largest, and it has accompanied the history of our country since 1896, telling the historical evolution of money and its iconography.

One thousand lire, big, M One thousand lire, big, MCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The Great M

The first Mille Lire banknote issued by the Bank of Italy was the one commonly called “Grande M”, designed by the Sienese artist Rinaldo Barbetti.

One thousand lire, big, M One thousand lire, big, MCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

It was issued in December 1897, by Ministerial Decree of the previous year, as it is reported in the red ink mark on the reverse of the banknote.

One thousand lire, big, M One thousand lire, big, MCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

This design, with small tonal variations on the front of the banknote, stood out on the Mille Lire until 1950, and it was recalled on June 30, 1953.

One thousand lire, big, M One thousand lire, big, MCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

From 1926 to 1943, on the reverse of the ticket in the lower center, the red ink mark is filled with the image of the fascist emblem, flanked by the inscription October 1922, month and year of the march on Rome.

In this way, the emblematic event of the rise to power of the National Fascist Party led by Mussolini was highlighted, while the Ministerial Decree was moved in full on the edge.

One thousand lire, Queens of the sea One thousand lire, Queens of the seaCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The Queens of the sea

From 1930 to 1943 another Mille Lire note was issued, which met with great consensus and it was also aesthetically more appreciated than that of the Great M, which was considered too severe.

This is the Mille Lire note «Queens of the sea», which portrays the grand personification of the Maritime Republics of Venice and Genoa, resting their elbows on their respective shields with the lion and St. George.

One thousand lire, Queens of the sea One thousand lire, Queens of the seaCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The banknote is remarkably made and technologically avant-garde, and it shows in the center of the reverse the reproduction of a marble work, which decorated Palazzo Koch in Rome, the headquarters of the Bank of Italy since 1893.

The allegorical sculptural group represents Agriculture in the center, bearing a thriving sheaf of wheat, on the left Industry supporting a toothed wheel, and on the right Commerce in the guise of Mercury.

For the entire period of its issue, the banknote bore the fascist emblem in the vermilion mark.

One thousand lire, big, M One thousand lire, big, MCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The new Great M

During the years of the Second World War, especially between 1939 and 1943, the Government kept asking for the banknotes, necessary to sustain the war effort.

The Mille Lire note was issued in a variant of the "modified Barbetti" type, with the same design as that of 1897, but using more shades of colors.

One thousand lire, big, M One thousand lire, big, MCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

With the dismissal of Mussolini, replaced by Badoglio in 1943, the fascist emblem on the reverse of the banknote were replaced by the initials of the Bank of Italy, made with a branch motif.

AM one thousand lire, first series AM one thousand lire, first seriesCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Liberation and money: the AM-Lire

After September 8, 1943, the Bank of Italy lost its monetary sovereignty. When the Allies invaded Italy, they issued occupation paper money in two series.

The new American banknotes on Italian soil were the Allied Military Currency, popularly called AM-Lire, given the difficulty of pronunciation. The thousand was the maximum cut.

AM one thousand lire, second series AM one thousand lire, second seriesCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

In the second issue of 1944, the indication of the value appears in numbers, but also in letters and in both languages, in an attempt to make it less easily falsifiable than the previous one.

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The beautiful face of Italy adorned with pearls

In March 1947, in the post-war ruins and in an Italy that had recently become a republic, the new banknote was issued; it was highly appreciated for its technical and iconographic qualities. It remained in circulation until 1961.

The young female bust, the Botticellian Grace, represents Italy with the head adorned with strings of pearls between flowing locks that descend intertwined on the neck together with the showy jewel.

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The Maestro's Mille Lire: the Verdi first type

After the economic boom of the 1960s, the social condition of the Italian population had changed, also opening up to international culture. The Thousand also changed their dress, always mindful of a great past.

In fact, the Lire brought attention back to our history, through the genius of illustrious men, such as the ticket called "Verdi first type", issued from 1962 to 1968.

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The Maestro's Mille Lire: the Verdi second type

The Mille Lire that accompanied the Italians, amidst protest, terrorism and new political balances, throughout the 1970s, are the "Verdi second type", issued from 1969 to 1981.

From an aesthetic and technical point of view, this note with the portrait of the Maestro was much appreciated. It was taken by Hayez, and it was more realistic and intense than the one printed on the previous version.

One thousand lire, Verdi, second type One thousand lire, Verdi, second typeCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The reverse of the note was linked to the relationship between the Busseto composer and the city of Milan, showing a glimpse of the great Teatro alla Scala, where he is still the most performed author today.

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Venice and the East: Marco Polo's Mille Lire

The 1980s are linked to the Mille Lire dedicated to Marco Polo, issued in 1982. The face of the great traveler, that takes inspiration from a painting in the Doria Pamphili Gallery in Rome, is framed by oriental motifs, taken from ancient Venetian fabrics.

One thousand lire, Marco Polo One thousand lire, Marco PoloCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The note, chromatically severe, shows the only example of vertical verse and it bears a glimpse of the Doge's Palace in Piazza San Marco, a tribute to Venice and to the exploratory spirit of the Italians.

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Maria Montessori's colorful Mille Lire

The last Mille Lire note of the Bank of Italy went into circulation on December 27, 1990. For the first time in the issues a real woman is depicted, and it’s neither an allegory nor a personification.

This is the mature face of the great educator Maria Montessori

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who revolutionized a stale and retrograde teaching method, contributing to the free cognitive development of children. On the back of the banknote two children are portrayed while they’re doing homework, and the scene takes inspiration from a painting by Armando Spadini.

Credits: Story

Text by Fondazione Cariparma and Artificio Società Cooperativa

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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