National personification

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Britannia arm-in-arm with Uncle Sam symbolizes the British-American alliance in World War I.

A national personification is an anthropomorphism of a nation or its people; it may appear in editorial cartoons and propaganda.

Some early personifications in the Western world tended to be national manifestations of the majestic wisdom and war goddess Minerva/Athena, and often took the Latin name of the ancient Roman province. Examples of this type include Britannia, Germania, Hibernia, Helvetia and Polonia. Examples of personifications of the Goddess of Liberty include Marianne, the Statue of Liberty, and many examples of United States coinage. Examples of representations of the everyman or citizenry—rather than of the nation itself—are Deutscher Michel and John Bull.[1]

A national personification is not the same as a national animal, although in some cartoons the national animal rather than the human personification is used to represent a country.

Personifications by country or territory[edit]

Country Image Personification
 Albania Mother Albania Tirana 2.JPG Mother Albania (Nëna Shqipëria)
 Angola Stavenn Hippotragus niger variani 00.jpg Giant sable antelope (palanca-negra)
 Argentina 20060128 - Mausoleo del General San Martín en la Catedral de Buenos Aires.jpg Effigy of the Republic/Liberty/Progress/Fatherland, Gaucho, Martín Fierro
 Armenia Arm-3897-65 amyak end K 2.jpg Mother Armenia (Mayr Hayastan; lit. "Mother Hayastan")
 Australia LBM-Lindsay.jpg Little Boy from Manly
 Austria Austria (personification) and the federal eagle
 Bangladesh Mother Bengal (also known as Bangla Maa); Bengal tiger.[2]

Joy Bangla (Bengali: জয় বাংলা; meaning "Victory to Bengal") was the slogan and war cry of the Mukti Bahini that fought for the independence of Bangladesh during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.[3]

 Belgium La-Belgique-couronnant-ses-enfants-illustres-Jamar-1854.tif La Belgique or Belgica. The country is also commonly represented by a lion, historically known as Leo Belgicus.
 Brazil Rodrigues-republica-mab.jpg Efígie da República; the Bandeirante (only in São Paulo State); the Candango (in Brasília); the Gaúcho (in Rio Grande do Sul)
 Belarus Rus
 Bulgaria Georgi-Danchov-Svobodna-Bulgaria.jpg Mother Bulgaria
 Cambodia Preah Thong and Neang Neak
 Canada Statue Dollard des Ormeaux, parc Lafontaine, Montréal 2005-08-29.jpg Mountie, Johnny Canuck, Le Vieux de '37 (French Canada), Adam Dollard des Ormeaux (used during the two World Wars as a military example), Mother Canada (at the Vimy Memorial)
 Chile Roto chileno.jpg El Roto, El Huaso, La Carmela, Doña Juanita (an average Chilean woman from the countryside), Moya (a common surname used as N.N.)
 China DatongJiulongBi.jpg Chinese dragon, Chinese phoenix, panda, etc.
 Czech Republic Vaclav Maly -The National Museum in Prague 048 Čechie, Czech Vašek, double-tailed Czech lion, Svejk.
 Denmark Holger danske.jpg Holger Danske
 Dominican Republic Yania Tierra
 Egypt Nahdet Misr.jpg Mother of the World (Om El Donia)
 El Salvador SalvadorDelMundo.jpg Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo
 Europe Enlèvement d'Europe by Nöel-Nicolas Coypel (detail).jpg Europa or Europa regina
 Finland SuomiNeito.png Finnish Maiden (Suomi-neito)
 France Marianne Symbol of french republic 3.jpg Marianne, Gallic rooster
 Georgia Saint George - Carlo Crivelli.jpg Georgia: Saint George, "Mother of a Georgian" (Kartvlis Deda)
 Germany Image Germania (painting).jpg Germany: Germania, Arminius (Hermann der Cherusker), Deutscher Michel

Bavaria: Bavaria, Berlin: Berolina, Brunswick: Brunonia, Franconia: Franconia, Hamburg: Hammonia, Prussia: Borussia, Palatinate: Palatia, Saxony: Saxonia

 Greece Athena Parthenos Altemps Inv8622.jpg Athena, "Greece" by Delacroix
 Haiti Czestochowska.jpg Ezili Dantor
 Iceland Arnason-front.jpg The Lady of the Mountains (Fjallkonan)
 India Bharat matha.jpg Bharat Mata ("Mother India"), earlier the goddess Durga. Also the tiger or the Indian elephant is used to personify the nation. But strictly speaking of national personification, the figure of Bharat Mata as a goddess, wearing a white or saffron sari, holding the national flag, and having a lion as her vahana is the most widely popular personification. The battle cry, "Bharat Mata ki Jai" (Victory for Mother India) is used by the Indian Army and is one of the most popular patriotic slogans used in India.
 Indonesia Statue of Goddess or Queen at Monas.JPG Ibu Pertiwi
 Iran Illustrerad Verldshistoria band I Ill 058.jpg Cyrus the Great
 Ireland Edmund Dwyer Gray UnitedIrelandCartoon April1888.png Ériu, Banba, Fódla, Kathleen Ni Houlihan, Hibernia, Scotia,[4] Granuaile, The Old Woman of Beare [5]
 Israel David SM Maggiore.jpg King David, Srulik
 Italy Reggio calabria monumento all'italia.jpg Italia Turrita
 Japan Amaterasu cave edit2.jpg Amaterasu Omikami[citation needed]
 Korea Dangun
 Macedonia Mother Macedonia[6][7]
 Malaysia TuahNatlHistoryMuseumKL.jpg Hang Tuah,Harimau Malaya
 Malta Malta 1922 One Pound.jpg Melita
 Mexico Alegoría de la Patria Mexicana 1.jpg Alegoría de la Patria Mexicana (es), Our Lady of Guadalupe, La China Poblana
 Mongolia YuanEmperorAlbumGenghisPortrait.jpg Genghis Khan
 Netherlands Wapen Bataafse Republiek.svg de Nederlandse Maagd` ("The Dutch Maiden"), De Leeuw van Oranje, Hans Brinker (outside the Netherlands), (Zeeland: Zeeuws Meisje)
 New England Brother jonathan.jpg Brother Jonathan, Puritan, pine tree.
 New Zealand 1901 Universal Postage 1 penny red.JPG Kiwi, Zealandia, southern man (for the South Island)
 Norway Norges Grundlov 1814 Frihed Lighed Broderskab, 1914.jpg Mother Norway, Ola Nordmann, Kari Nordmann, hist. Nór
 Pakistan Mumlikat-e-Khudadad ('God-given State')
 Palestine Handala
 Peru The chalán, La Madre Patria
 Philippines Juan dela Cruz, Ináng Bayan/Filipinas, Luzviminda
 Poland Quincunx Polonia.jpg Polonia, Lech,
 Portugal Zepovinho.jpg Zé Povinho, Eu nacional (National Self), Lusitania (Ancient Roman Province consisting of what is mainly Portugal now), Republic effigy, Rooster of Barcelos, Guardian Angel of Portugal
 Romania Gheorghe Tattarescu - 11 februarie 1866 Romania Moderna.jpg România
 Russia RossiiaLaveretsky.jpg Mother Russia/Mother Motherland, Rus, Russian Bear
 Scotland Caledonia by Wm Hole.JPG Caledonia, Jock Tamson, Scotia, Cailleach
 Serbia Kosovo Maiden, Uroš Predić, 1919.jpg Mother Serbia, Kosovo Maiden,
 Singapore Singapore Merlion BCT.jpg The Merlion
 Slovakia Wladyslaw Skoczylas - Janosik.jpg Jánošík
 Slovenia Kranjski Janez ("John from Carniola", an average man from Slovenia's central region), Peter Klepec
 Spain Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid) 02b.jpg Hispania
 Sweden Moder svea berga.JPG Mother Svea
  Switzerland Zweifranken (cropped).jpg Helvetia
 Ukraine Cossack Mamay 1890.jpg Cossack Mamay, Rus
 United Kingdom Britannia-Statue.jpg Britannia, John Bull, lion, Bulldog
 United States Unclesamwantyou.jpg Uncle Sam (government personification), Statue of Liberty as Lady Liberty, Columbia, Johnny Rebel (The South, obsolete), Billy Yank (The North, obsolete), Brother Jonathan, bald eagle
 Wales Dame Wales.jpg Dame Wales, Deffroad Cymru, the Awakening of Wales, Welsh Dragon


1914 poster showing Marianne, Mother Russia and Britannia, the "Triple Entente" allies in the first World War (1914).. 
Columbia, personification of the United States (World War I patriotic poster) 
French Marianne « Freedom for France, freedom for the French » (1940). 
A print from the 1940's, During the Independence Movement, showing Mahatma Gandhi in the lap of Bharat Mata
Germania representing Germany, in a painting by Phillip Veit from 1848. 
Allegory of the Second Spanish Republic, Hispania embracing French Marianne (1931). 
Bharat Mata, the personification of India as a mother goddess. Painting by Abanindranath Tagore, 1905 
Eugène Delacroix, Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1827) 
Theodoros Vryzakis' depiction of Hellas as a woman surrounded by rebels of the Greek War of Independence 
España y Filipinas, 1886 painting by Juan Luna. Depicts the reformist view of the relationship between the Philippines and "Mother Spain
Italia and Germania by Friedrich Overbeck, symbolising the friendship between Germany and Italy 
Norway, Denmark and Sweden joining hands in a 19th Century poster 
Statue of Mother Svea representing Sweden on a building in Stockholm
World War I recruiting poster featuring John Bull
Gold Coated Statue of Bharat Mata
Brazilian Constitutionalist Revolution recruiting poster, showing a Bandeirante with the dictator of Brazil, Getúlio Vargas, in his hand. 
Allegory drawing depicting the friendship between the Argentine Republic and the newly formed Brazilian Republic
Zé Povinho, caricature of a Portuguese working class man of the 19th century 
In this 1806 French print, the woman with the Menorah represents the Jews being emancipated by Napoleon Bonaparte 
James Gillray's cartoon on the 1803 Peace of Amiens, features a fat and non-martial Britannia kissing "Citizen François", a personifiaction of Revolutionary France 
Revolutionary Romania. Painting by C. D. Rosenthal, made in Paris exile in the early 1850s 
Romania Breaking off Her Chains on the Field of Liberty, also by C. D. Rosenthal 
A later depiction of Romania as a helpless woman threatened by the brutal Germany in a World War I French caricature 
Uncle Sam in a U.S. Army recruitment poster used in both World War I and World War II 
The figures in this late 18th century painting by Shiba Kōkan represent Japan, China, and the West. 
Columbia, America personified as a young woman holding up a Phrygian cap on a clipper ship card of the Young America Movement 
Polonia (Poland), by Jan Matejko, painted after the failure of the 1863 January Uprising
Lady of the mountain in Iceland. 
Cossack Mamay, personification of Ukraine and Ukrainians
Peru (left), Argentina (centre) and Chile (right), personified at the Mausoleum of General San Martín, Buenos Aires
Free Bulgaria; lithography by Georgi Danchov 
17th century map by Frederik de Wit showing mythological Europa as the continent's personification 
"Mrs. Britannia" and her daughter "Miss Canada" discussing "Cousin Jonathan"(the US) in an 1886 political cartoon. 
John Bull, a national personification of the United Kingdom holds the head of Napoleon I of France in an 1803 caricature by James Gillray
Albanian caricature from 1913 shows Albania as a woman defending herself from beasts representing neighboring countries seeking at the time to divide Albania's territory between them: Montenegro (monkey), Greece (leopard) and Serbia (snake), saying: "Get away from me! Bloodsucking beasts!" 
The woman on the right, holding out a letter of thanks to the enthroned Jonathan Swift, represents Ireland (from the 1735 edition of Swift's works). 
Bavaria, an early 19th-century statue made when Bavaria was a fully sovereign Kingdom with a considerable national pride 
Political cartoon depicting the tangled web of European alliances in the 1870's, with France being conspicuously isolated. 
In this Belarusian caricature commenting on the 1921 Peace of Riga, Russian Bolsheviks (right) and Nationalist Poles (left) are dividing the territory of Belarus. 
In a 1897 political cartoon, Uncle Sam lays claim to Hawaii and warns off the figures representing Japan, Britain and France. 
The goddess Roma was perceived as a personification of the city of Rome and more broadly, the Roman Empire
In this cartoon of "Canada's debut at the Council of Nations", the young Canada is under the tutelage of the motherly Britania, Columbia extends welcoming hands, surrounded by figures representing other major nations. 
A 1904 French postcard showing Britannia and Marianne dancing together, symbolizing the newborn Entente Cordiale between the two countries. Britannia appears here younger than in most British depictions - a girl rather than a mother. 
Statue of "Mother Canada", mourning the fallen Canadian soldiers of World War I, in the Vimy Memorial

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Lionel Gossman. "Making of a Romantic Icon: The Religious Context of Friedrich Overbeck's 'Italia und Germania.'" American Philosophical Society, 2007. ISBN 0-87169-975-3. [1]


  1. ^ Eric Hobsbawm, "Mass-Producing Traditions: Europe, 1870-1914," in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983), 263-307.
  2. ^ "NATIONAL SYMBOLS". Bangladesh Tourism Board. Bangladesh: Ministry of Civil Aviation & Tourism. 
  3. ^ Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004). Bangladesh: Past and Present. APH Publishing. p. 310. ISBN 8176484695. Retrieved July 11, 2012. 
  4. ^ O'Clery, M. (2003) Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters as translated into English
  5. ^ O'Rourke Murphy, M. & MacKillop, J. (2006). An Irish Literature Reader: Poetry, Prose, Drama.
  6. ^ "A Manifesto from the Provisional Government of Macedonia". 1881. Our mother Macedonia became now as a widow, lonely and deserted by her sons. She does not fly the banner of the victorious Macedonian army 
  7. ^ Bulgarian graphic representation of Bulgaria, East Rumelia and Macedonia

External links[edit]