I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't design and register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. (You can find some of my books about heraldry and a list of my articles and presentations about heraldry at "Our Website" below.) And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to ask or let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
From the blog at shutterstock.com, a post entitled "Game of Brands : The Game of Thrones Houses as Modern Corporations."
As the blog notes, "With only days to go before the third-season premiere of Game of Thrones, we're having a hard time staying out of a medieval mindset."
"Based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice novels, the landscape is dominated by a struggle for power among the Great Houses of Westeros. We've re-envisioned six of the prime players, from the Targaryens to the Starks, as 21st-century companies more concerned with competing for market share than ultimate rule."
I found it interesting to see this use of the symbols of these fictional "great houses" in a modern corporate environment; and some of the logos reminded me very much of some actual modern-day corporate logos which are based on heraldry (e.g., the Barclays Bank eagle). Some designs, I think, work better than others, but they all help to demonstrate that heraldry is not an outdated or dying art best left to the realm of the antiquarian, but has relevance to us here in the 21st Century and into the future.
Still, apparently it is, since not even divisions of the federal government seem to be able to use a correct depiction of the arms of the United States in their own insignia. As examples, here are copies of the insignia of three of the seven Unified Combatant Commands of the U.S. Department of Defense. (The other four do not use the U.S. arms in their insignia.) I give you the insignia of:
the United States Northern Command;
the United States Central Command; and
the United States Space Command.
As you can see, the Northern Command uses the arms of the U.S. but with thirteen stars on the chief; the U.S. arms on the Central Command badge has but seven stripes (with the red and white stripes reversed; they should be white and red) and with four stars on the chief; and the Space Command is close to the actual U.S. arms, but the red stripes are far, far wider than the white ones. The white and red stripes should be of equal width, and they clearly are not here.
You'd think that, being a part of the Department of Defense, a major division of the federal government, which has the arms correctly illustrated in its own insignia ...
... that these three Unified Combatant Commands could accurately depict the arms of the government they represent and of which they are a part. You might think that, but, as you can see from the above examples, you'd be incorrect. Just as incorrect as their insignia.
Sometimes it almost makes me weep, the state of heraldry in my native land. I mean, really, it's a very simple coat of arms. Three tinctures (white, red, and blue), and one subordinary (the chief). The white and red of the field are evenly divided palewise; the chief goes across the top, and is otherwise unadorned. How hard can it be to get it correctly depicted? Apparently, very hard.
Okay, I'm going to get off my soap box now, and maybe go read some nice heraldic treatise. Or browse through a nice armorial. Something to get my mind off the many varied and varying depictions of the national arms of my country. Because it's frustrating, and my ranting about it here is probably to no real avail. (I am reminded of the cartoon about the man sitting in front of his computer while a voice from the other room is asking why he hasn't come to bed, and he replies that he can't go to bed yet, "because someone is wrong on the internet!"
Well, I can't fix that, so I'm going to toddle off to bed now, and next time I'll write about something else heraldic, something that isn't so "wrong."
Continuing my question from my last post, "It's Not That Hard; Why Is It So Often Wrong?", I present my favorite group of depictions of the arms of the United States. It's my favorite because these three examples all come from the same place -- the gateway at the entrance to the military cemetery at Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi -- and hence they are all in very close proximity.
How close? All three are seen in this single photograph.
So, three renditions of the same coat of arms, all different. From left to right from the above photo, they are:
Remember now, the depiction we are hoping to see would be blazoned Paly [or paleways] of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure.
But as you can see, the first one has eight red stripes and seven white ones (for a total of fifteen, rather than thirteen), with the red stripes to the outside. So, incorrect number of stripes, and the red and white stripes reversed.
The second has eleven stripes (instead of thirteen), also with the red and white stripes reversed, and has stars on the chief.
The third one comes the closest to being accurate, with thirteen stripes (and no stars on the chief), but again has the stripes red and white instead of white and red.
They are all beautiful pieces of artwork, and even appear to be hatched correctly (with vertical lines for gules, or red; and horizontal lines for azure, or blue, the sole exception being the one that has stars on the chief). But why are each of these three depictions, placed so near each other, not only different from each other, but different from the arms they are supposedly depicting?
I've been looking at some of the uses (and sometimes, misuses) of the arms of the United States of America for a potential upcoming presentation. (I'm still waiting to hear back from the Scientific Committee for this year's International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences about my proposal. I mean, it was conceived with the theme of the Congress in mind, but you never know for sure until you hear back whether it's been accepted to be included.)
It's a fairly simple coat of arms, Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure, as shown here with the bald eagle supporter, crest, and motto,
and yet it also seems to be one that many people don't get right. They put stars on the chief (probably under the influence of the national flag),
or reverse the white and red stripes (probably also under the influence of the flag), or get the number of stripes wrong. Common errors, seen often. But it's a simple coat of arms. Why does it seem so hard to depict it correctly?
Because this is a project that I'm working on right now, you may hear a little bit more about this from me - with examples! - but for now, I thought I'd share three depictions of the emblem (it's not really a seal; it's certainly not a coat of arms, though it contains the arms of the U.S. in it; and it's not exactly a logo, either, so "emblem" is the best description I can think of right now) of an agency of the federal government. The first is the real emblem; the other two are cartoon versions by people who think that this agency may have overreached what should be its constitutional limits in one way or another.
But I'm sharing them with you here because they illustrate my point above. All three depictions contain the arms of the United States on the breast of a bald eagle. And yet, all three have differing depictions of those arms, two of them reversing the colors of the white and red stripes, and one changing the number of the stripes. Take a look and compare the different renditions of the U.S. arms.
Late last week I ran across a new website for heraldic clipart which I have added to the On-Line Heraldic Clipart listing (in the left-hand column on this blog), but I also thought that it was worth mentioning in a separate post, as well.
The Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry is an on-going project begun back in 1986 - before the widespread use of the internet - and first published as a book in 1988 by Bruce Miller and Kevin Munday. Then titled A Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry as Used in the Society for Creative Anachronism, it was designed as a "mug-shot" book for "[c]onsulting heralds, scribes, and heraldic artists" in the S.C.A. A second, updated edition was published in 1992, and this third edition is now being placed on the internet.
Though designed primarily for use within the S.C.A., and therefore focused on charges which may be used in the heraldry of that organization, which would include charges used in heraldry before 1600 A.D. ("period charges") and charges unique to the heraldry of the S.C.A., it is especially the former category of heraldic charges (those used in heraldry before 1600) that I thought might be of more general interest and therefore worthy of inclusion in the listing of websites of on-line heraldic clipart.
All of the drawings in the Pictorial Dictionary are by Mr. Miller, but he notes in the preface to the printed editions that "[w]herever possible, we went to original sources" to find examples of the charges in period heraldic art to use as the basis for his renditions. And in this new, on-line edition, he has "tried to cite sources for every charge, either as a period charge or a period artifact." So, for example, his drawing of an apple (below) is taken from "the canting arms of Holtzapfel, 1605 [Siebmacher 196]." (I have included a scan from Siebmacher's Wappenbuch von 1605 so you can see for yourself how close he comes to the original here.)
And where usage in the S.C.A. is different from usage elsewhere or in earlier times, he specifically notes that, too. To go back to the apple example, "[t]he Society default is with slip to chief, which seems to be the opposite of medieval convention."
If you think that you might have a use for such heraldic clipart, or even just want to browse through what's been uploaded to date and learn what you can about some of these general heraldic charges (or even S.C.A.-specific charges not found outside the Society, like the "Bog Beast" or "Cross of Coldharbour"), please drop by http://mistholme.com/pictorial-dictionary-of-heraldry/
I've added another heraldic artist to the list of artists down the left-hand column of this blog, and added his blog to the list of blogs which is also in that column.
The artist's name is Tudor-Radu Tiron, an up and coming heraldic artist from Romania.
I was introduced to his work when I saw a recent bookplate that he had done for a client in Denmark who was born in Canada. I found the ex libris interesting because it was based on a late 15th Century equestrian seal, and I thought it was a wonderful piece of heraldic art.
Isn't that a great bookplate? And one certainly a step or several from the usual form of bookplates that we've all seen (and used) for so long. What an inventive way to mark the ownership a book.
If you think so, too, and want to learn more about this heraldic artist or see more of his other heraldic art, please feel free to click on the link to artist Tudor-Radu Tiron or to his blog, Heraldic Art, or just use this link: http://deseneheraldice.blogspot.com/
I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.
A nice review of a recent heraldry book appeared recently on the Catholic News Service under the headline: "Hark, the heraldry: cracking the coat of arms code." I think that the headline may be a little bit over the top; the "code" of heraldry really isn't really all that hard to "crack," or else we would all have taken up other, easier hobbies.
Still, it's a nice review of the Manuale di araldica ecclesiastica by Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo and Antonio Pompli, noting that the book (written in Italian) "gives an in-depth look at the history and 'grammar' of a properly designed coat of arms." The review also includes a number of pictures from the book, including the arms which the Cardinal devised for, and his proposed revised coat of arms for the retired, Pope Benedict XVI.
All in all, it looks like an interesting and )fortunately for those of us who don't normally read a lot of Italian, although my Spanish will carry me through a lot it) well-illustrated volume on ecclesiastical heraldry in the Catholic Church. It won't topple Archbishop Bruno Heim's Heraldry in the Catholic Church from its premier position in this subject, but certainly looks like it would make a good companion to it.
* The motto ribbon beneath the shield should remain white on top and end up red when it curls at the end.