The Ducat: A System for Europe

Room 27, showcase 10 Ducat of John II of Aragon. Zaragoza, 1458–1479. Gold. Pulse para ampliar Ducat of John II of Aragon. Zaragoza, 1458–1479. Gold.

The wealthy Republic of Venice began minting a gold coin called the ducat in the late 13th century, and by the second half of the 15th century it had replaced the florin as the preferred currency of international trade.

Although several states faithfully imitated the Venetian ducat, the key to its vast scope was the widespread adoption of its weight and gold standard, so that the currencies of different countries had, at least in theory, the same value and could easily be exchanged in international markets.

The standard was introduced in the Crown of Aragon by John II (1458–1479). Unlike the old florin, the designs and names of Aragonese ducats varied from the Venetian original and from one region to another, giving rise to the principat in Catalonia, the gold real in Mallorca and the trionfo or eagle in Sicily. However, they all had one thing in common: the exaltation of the king.

This goal was zealously pursued by John II, a monarch who overcame a civil war, rebellions and power struggles with the nobility, the church and urban burghers. His ducats minted at Zaragoza clearly illustrate the use of design to convey an idea, with royal authority represented by symbols of sovereignty: the crown, the sceptre, the royal titles and the allusion to divine grace.