An old FNI saddle, the Capatoline She-Wolf and the Estruscan Empire

This old FNI saddle came fitted on the 1946 Legnano Tipo Roma that is in the collection. It was a brand unfamiliar to me and I have always been a little sceptical of its history, particularly if it is original to this 1946 Legnano, as Bozzi SpA was partial to Brooks on the top road models. However the details of this FN saddle definitely speak to the era as well as being very similar to the Brooks saddles of this time.

Mr. Google hasn’t provided much in terms of FNI as a saddle maker aside from some loose references to the city of Bologna in Italy. What particularly intrigued me was the oval crest on the side flaps of the saddle.  Although well worn, you can still make out the letters “Marca Deposit.” across the center portion of the oval and the letters “FNI” across the base. The center of the oval also features some sort of animal.

With the help of a Bike Forums member, that animal turns out to be the legendary Capatoline the ‘She-Wolf’, suckling the two twins Romulus and Remus who were the sons of Rhea, a sacred vestal virgin who bore the twins from a supernatural procreation with either Mars or Hercules as the ancient legend goes. Amulius having killed Rhea’s husband Numitor was on a quest for power and hearing of the two twins cast them into the wilderness to die.

However the two infants were discovered by a she-wolf who then suckled them recognizing them to be half-immortal and from the bloodline of the gods. Later, a shepherd and his wife found the twins and raised them until they were men who became shepherds themselves. When the twins discovered the treachery of their past, they killed Amulius, restored Numitor to the throne and founded the city of Rome.

Until very recently, the bronze statue of Capatoline suckling Romulus and Remus was believed to be from the the 5th century B.C. and cast by an unknown Etruscan artisan. This brings us back to RNI and Bologna, a city that was the northern capital of the Etruscan Empire at the time and most likely the reason for RNI adopting the legendary statue as their marque. I have since come across a few other saddles from RNI but this is the only one to bear the marque of Capatoline.

Wings and wheels were common references for the early Italian component makers including Fratelli Brivio, Tulio Campagnolo and some others. And of course, Emilio Bozzi adopted the statuesque figure of the legendary Lombard warrior Alberto da Guissano, whose “Company of Dealth” is attributed in defeating the Holy Roman Empire in 1176 at the Battle of Legnano. Although there is now some debate as to whether it was Guissano or Guido da Landriano who lead the “Company of Death”.

By comparison to the relatively anonymous marques of today’s bicycle and component manufacturers, these early symbols may seem a little ornate and irrelevant to cycling, however they speak to the history of Italy and their people. I have still to learn what the letters ‘FN’ or ‘FNI’ designate.  I am speculating that the ‘F’ may have meant ‘Fratelli’ and perhaps a reader may know a little more of this early Etruscan saddle maker.


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